Last Updated: June 22, 2021
Financial Aid for College Students
Financial Aid is the money that is granted to students through various means in order to help them complete their education or enter a professional degree course. They come through different means and under different titles making the process of obtaining financial aid seem hard and unachievable. But the first step of obtaining financial aid is to educate oneself about the different means of financial aid that one can receive and the means of achieving it.
The basic forms of financial aid for students are grants, educational loans, federal student loans, direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, parent loans and even private loans. At the same time, candidates will also be eligible for scholarships and other work-study options which will help them pay college tuition while covering other expenses as well. The main sources for financial aid are federal, state, school, and private in general all of which can be approached by candidates in order to aid them pay for college.
Scholarships for Students
Contrary to common misconception, there are scholarships
for just about every student, regardless of background. The challenge, however, is finding those scholarship programs that suit the candidate. High school guidance counselors, local community organizations and businesses, and online searches are the best sources for finding the right scholarship. To increase the chances of receiving an award, candidates must submit applications to every scholarship they are eligible for.
The amount that scholarships cover vary from one to another and while some scholarships might cover the entire tuition fee of the candidate, most others are one-time awards or of a specific amount that can aid the student.
- Merit-Based Scholarships-Explore academic-based merit scholarships. Though it is true that merit-based scholarships are mostly focused on the top students of the class, there are also provisions for candidates who are first-generation learners or if the candidate plans to attend trade school.
- Non-Academic Scholarships-Research non-academic scholarships. Non-academic scholarships can be availed of by students who excel in extra-curricular activities like community service, religious affiliation, excellence in the fine arts, or membership in national youth organizations.
- Financial Need Scholarships- This scholarship is based on the difference between the cost of attendance in colleges and the expected contribution from the family of the candidate.
- Other Scholarships- There are scholarships that are provided to particular groups of people. This might be for women, for people from different minorities or from certain backgrounds like military backgrounds.
Grants for Students
Grants are financial aid offered to students with no expectation of refund unless the candidate drops out from the course for any given reason. Students can apply for grants from the federal government, state government, colleges or educational institutions they are studying in and even from non-profit organizations. Grants are generally provided to students with financial need and can be applied to by completing the FAFSA form. Each grant will have different eligibility requirements.
Some of the grants that are offered by the federal government
- Federal Pell Grants
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education - TEACH Grants
- Federal Supplement Educational Opportunity Grants-FSEOG
Apart from these, candidates will be able to avail of institutional grants that are provided based on academic merit and financial need. There are also state grants which vary state by state and even private and employer grants with differing eligibility criteria.
What is FAFSA?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the application college students are supposed to fill in order to avail any federal scholarship available. Submitting a FAFSA is the first step to receiving various types of financial assistance for undergraduate or graduate programs. Every year, the U.S. Department of Education awards over $120 billion in tuition assistance through federal tuition assistance programs.
After the FAFSA application is received by the office of Federal Student Aid, they will determine whether the candidate is eligible for financial aid taking their financial need into consideration. The financial aid package different candidates receive will be comprised of different funding courses like-
- Federal Work-Study (FWS): This federal program provides part-time work experience for students in need of financial assistance. Currently, over 3,400 institutions of higher education participate in FWS. Eligible students join the work-study program offered by their college or university and are placed in employment opportunities that match their course of study. This gives students the opportunity to earn money towards tuition and other living expenses while acquiring experience that will help them land a job after graduation.
Candidates will have to perform jobs related to community service or other jobs related to their course if they choose this mode of financial aid. There will be both on-campus and off-campus jobs and the payment the candidate receives will depend upon the time they apply for it, their level of financial need and their school’s funding policy.
- Pell Grants: Some students may be eligible to receive federal financial assistance in the form of a Pell Grant. Unlike traditional student loans, Federal Pell Grants do not need to be repaid. To be eligible, the student must be a U.S. citizen with a high school diploma or GED, must not have already earned a bachelor’s degree, and must demonstrate financial need. The amount of money a student could potentially receive is capped at $6,495 for the 2021-22 school year. The amount the candidate receives will be determined by the Expected Family Contribution, cost of attendance, whether the candidate is a full-time or part-time student, and the duration of the course. Pell Grants are administered by the candidate’s institution of higher education, and must be applied for every school year.
- Educational Loans: Money offered through a loan program must be repaid with interest after graduation. These loans are issued by banks and are guaranteed by the federal government. These loans are often issued to both the student and their parent(s) if the student is still considered a dependent. Funds from the loans are distributed on a regular basis directly to the candidate’s place of higher education. In many cases, these loans cover tuition, books, and fees, as well as living expenses. Because all loan money must be repaid, taking on student loan debt is a very personal decision. The pros and cons must be weighed against all other options for financing their education.
The educational loans that are available are-
- Federal Student Loan Programs- These loans are directly provided to the candidate and have low interest rates. They also do not require a collateral and offers deferment options along with extended repayment options.
- Direct Subsidized Loans- This loan is based on financial need and is based on the EFC and FAFSA. Candidates will not have to start repaying the loan as long as they are a student. They also offer candidates with a grace period of 6 months after they leave school.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans- For this loan, candidates are not required to demonstrate their financial need and is calculated based on the cost of attendance and other aids the student is currently receiving.
- Parent Loans- This is the loan taken by the parents of students because the student is still a dependent.
- Private Loans- They are offered by private lenders or financial institutions and are known for their high interest rates and fewer deferment options.
- Consolidation Loans- It consolidates two or more student loans with parent loans and is offered both by private lenders and federal associations.
Apart from these common methods of funding for education, candidates will be able to avail of aid from their state government, from their college or career school, or the aid available to them by being part of a military family or being an international student.
Joining the Military
Since 1916, the Reserve Officer Training Corps/ ROTC has been preparing young adults to become the next generation of military officers. Over 1,700 college and university campuses in the U.S. have an ROTC program on campus. ROTC students receive up to four-years of free college education in exchange for a guaranteed commission in one of the five branches of the U.S. military (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard).
At various times throughout the school year, ROTC students attend leadership classes and receive specialized military training. After graduation, ROTC students are committed to serve as an officer in the military for up to four years. Officers who choose to complete 20 years of service receive outstanding retirement benefits, and many benefits offered to service members may be transferred to their dependents. Additionally, there is a high demand in the civilian workforce for individuals with military experience and training. Any U.S. citizen eligible for military service may apply, and acceptance rates are strong.
Consider Studying Abroad
The U.S. government manages the largest international exchange student program in the world. In 1946, the Fulbright Program
was established to promote mutual understanding and respect among nations through the exchange of people, knowledge and skills. Every year, the U.S. sends Fulbright students and scholars to nearly 140 countries as unofficial cultural ambassadors.
Administered by the State Department, these highly competitive grants are open for individuals pursuing coursework in a variety of subjects including fine arts, humanities, social sciences, mathematics, and science. Successful recipients of Fulbright scholarships and grants have strong academic records, demonstrated leadership potential, and a passion for cross-cultural experiences. Candidates must submit a compelling project proposal or statement of purpose, as well as a personal statement and three to four letters of recommendation as part of their application.
For more information, visit the official pages of FSEOG
,Reserve Officer Training Corps
(ROTC), and FAFSA.