Getting Financial Aid for School
About two-thirds of the college students in America receive financial aid for school each year with some relying on the aid to fund the majority of their college tuition. Various types of financial aid exist for students at any income and academic level. Maximizing the amount of financial aid that a student can receive depends upon knowing where to find financial aid and on making oneself attractive to the people who award the funds.
Types of Financial Aid for School
Scholarships & Grants
Scholarships and grants are both provided freely to students and do not have to be repaid. The criteria for awarding them varies from one scholarship to another. They may be given based on a financial need or on outstanding academic or athletic achievement. Some scholarships are given to students from a specific community or who attend a particular church or temple.
Certain scholarships are awarded based on the completion of an essay or other project. Students’ work will be evaluated by a committee and the recipient will be chosen based on her performance. The essay or project topic is announced in advance, and students should allow plenty of time to prepare a final version for submission.
Grants are usually provided by federal and state governments and by colleges and universities. Less often, they will be given by a private business or organization. Grants are almost exclusively awarded based on financial need with far less focus being placed on a student’s academic achievement or community involvement.
Federal Family Education Loan Program
The Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL) provides low interest loans to both students and their parents to help pay for college tuition. In addition to having low interest rates, FFEL loans frequently have longer payback terms than traditional loans.
Student loans, termed Federal Stafford Loans, do not have to be repaid until after the student has completed his college studies. Repayment can be further deferred if the student returns at a later date for graduate studies. Subsidized Stafford Loans have their interest paid by the federal government while a student is enrolled in school, while Unsubsidized Stafford Loans require the student to pay the accumulating interest during his enrollment.
A Federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) is given to the parents of a college student in order to fund her tuition. The interest rate is very low, but the loan must be repaid beginning immediately even while the student pursues her education.
Stafford Loans are awarded based on financial need, not on a student’s financial history or credibility. PLUS loans, on the other hand, are given based on the parents’ credibility as seen in their credit reports. The family’s actual financial need is not considered for PLUS loans.
The Federal Work Study Program (FWS) allows students with a financial need to earn money for their tuition by working on campus. Students may work in virtually any capacity at the college or university, and the hours required each week will depend on the amount of money the student has been given.
FWS funds are provided by the federal government, often with matching funds being supplied by the college or university.
Who Gives Financial Aid for School?
Financial aid is provided to college students by many public and private organizations.
- Federal and State Governments
- Private and Public Colleges & Universities
- Local & National Businesses
- Civic Groups
- Community Organizations
- Individual Estates
- Churches & Other Religious Groups
Maximizing the Amount of Financial Aid You Get for School
In some cases, especially with scholarships awarded by private businesses or groups, a student will be looked upon more favorably if he has participated in a variety of extracurricular activities. No matter what grade in high school a student has reached, he can make his application more appealing by joining a school or community group.
- Debate Team
- Hobby Groups (i.e. Chess Team)
- Service and Civic Groups (i.e. Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club)
- Athletic Teams and Associations
- Music Clubs & Band
Participating in charitable or community service projects can also bolster a student’s financial aid application. Students who have volunteered at a hospital, animal shelter, or soup kitchen, for example, are viewed as more well-rounded by many scholarship-awarding committees.
Of course, it’s important for a student to do her best work throughout high school in order to present the strongest academic record possible. Some scholarships require a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) just to apply. In some cases, taking higher courses or Advanced Placement courses during high school will help a student gain more financial aid.
Some financial aid uses SAT and ACT results as a partial basis for choosing the recipient. Ample preparation for taking these exams should be allowed, and students should be certain to get plenty of rest and be clear-headed on the day of examination. It can be a good idea for a student to take each exam late in the junior year or very early in the senior year. In this way, he will have time to retake an exam if a better score is desired.
Apply for as Many Scholarships as Possible
The more scholarships and other financial aid that a student applies for, the greater total amount she can receive. Beginning early in her high school years, a student should research scholarships offered by businesses and private groups. Organizing the possible scholarships will allow the student to know well in advance which ones she would like to apply for.
Essays and other objective portions of the applications should be given plenty of consideration and attention. Better results can usually be achieved if objective questions are answered on separate paper, proofread, and revised.
Careful organization will also help a student to meet all application deadlines. A late application, after all, guarantees that the student will not receive that scholarship.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid
In addition to applying for private scholarships individually, all students should file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This single application will determine a student’s eligibility for federal, state, and college financial aid packages in the form of scholarships, grants, loans, and FWS funds. A student may enter each school that he plans to apply to, and each school will receive a copy of the FAFSA in order to determine the student’s eligibility for their own financial aid packages.
Some time after filing the FAFSA, a student will receive a letter from each school he entered on the application. The letters will detail the types and amount of financial aid for school that the student has been awarded. Information on receiving the funds will be explained clearly. In the case of loans, students may need to fill out additional forms and send them on to the lending institutions.