For many, the biggest obstacle to getting a college education or completing a certificate program is the expense. However, there are some ways that you can get help paying for your education and in some instances even get a free ride.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid
The first step to finding money to pay for college is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (“FAFSA”). The FAFSA is an online form that all college students must complete every year by March 10, if they are planning to use any type of financial aid. Once you have complete your FAFSA form, the Office of Federal Student Aid, a division of the U.S. Department of Education (“DOE”), will provide you and your school with information about federal grants, loans, and work-study programs for which you qualify.
Scholarships and Grants
A scholarship or grant is money given to a student which does not have to be repaid. There are many government sponsored and private grants available to college students to help pay for tuition, books, fees, and even living expenses while attending college. There are also 1000’s of private grants and scholarships offered by corporations, universities, and various non-profit organizations.
Federally Sponsored Grants
Filling out the FAFSA each year will help ensure that you receive most federally sponsored grants that are available to you. Once your application has been processed, you will be able to view grant offers by logging in to your college or universities student website. There you will be able to see what grants you have qualified for and accept each one. The grant money will be paid directly to your school, who will deduct any tuition, books, or other fees you owe, and then send you the remaining balance.
Some federal grants may require that you apply directly and filling out a FAFSA will not suffice as an application for available funds. Federal TEACH grants, for example, are available to those taking certain courses intended to lead to a career in teaching. More information about the TEACH and other federal grants can be found by visiting the Department of Education’s Grants and Scholarships page.
State Sponsored Grants
Many states offer grants to college students who meet certain eligibility requirements. Grants may be offered to students majoring in education, children of Purple Heart recipients, those who are economically disadvantages, or any other group. To locate grants available in your state:
- Use the state grant search located at StudentAid.com
- Run a search for “YOUR STATE college grants” at your favorite search engine
- Check StudentGrants.org’s State Grants listings
- Contact your state’s Department of Education and/or Student Aid Commission
Private Grants & Scholarships
Private grants and scholarships are offered by employers, colleges and universities, and non-profit organizations. Many grant and scholarship programs require that certain criteria be met before a student many apply. This might include maintaining a minimum grade point average (“GPA”), having a specific major or career goal, or attending a certain college or university. Many private grants and scholarships also require applicants to submit a resume, essay, high school and/or college transcripts, recommendations, and other documents in order to qualify for funds. To locate private grants and scholarships for you qualify, try one or all of these website:
- College Board
- College Toolkit
- Foundation Center
- Mach 25
- Peterson’s Scholarship Search
- Scholarship Experts
- Scholarship Helper
What makes student loans different from every other type of loan is; you do not have to have credit, a job, or any type of income to qualify for a student loan. Student loans offered by the federal government allow almost everyone to qualify. Not only do you almost certainly qualify for a government loan to pay for tuition, books, and other fees, but you will likely be able to borrow money to pay your living expenses while attending college as well. Student loans are also offered by banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions, and may have lower interest rates than federal loans. Shop around and find the loans with the lowest interest rates and best payment plan.
Additional Sources of Funding
Filling out your FAFSA form should ensure that you know about any federal student loans for which you qualify, but for additional sources of funds, you may also want to check with:
- Your employer;
- Your bank or credit union;
- Your church;
- Your parents’ employers;
- Your high school;
- Your college;
- Professional organizations for your field of study; and
- Potential employers in your field of study.
Where to Find More Information
For more information about paying for college visit:
- The U.S. DEO’s Federal Student Aid website
- The U.S. DEO’s Direct Loans webpage