An educational grant is one of the most desirable forms of financial aid because it is essentially free money. Education grants are not borrowed; they are awarded, which means they do not have to be paid back. Grants are commonly awarded by local, federal and state governments, but may also be available through other types of organizations. The most common education grant is the Federal Pell Grant. Students can apply for education grants by filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which is used by all types of institutions.
Scholarships are academic awards that can be used to pay for college and other education programs. Like grants, scholarships do not need to be paid back. While many scholarships are awarded based on merit or financial need, you can also find scholarships for your specific major, a social interest or your career goals, among others. Some organizations award scholarships to winners of competitions or contests.
Scholarships are typically awarded by education institutions, corporations, professional associations, local organizations and charitable foundations. Students who are interested in finding and applying for scholarships can start by searching for scholarships online. High school guidance counselors and college financial aid officers can also help students find scholarship opportunities.
Work Study Programs
A work study program allows students to work part-time to earn money for college expenses. Most programs encourage students to work on campus, in a community service position or at a job that is somehow related to the students' major.
Federal work study programs are available to students who can demonstrate financial need. To be considered for a federal work study program, students must fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
If you choose not to use the federal work study program, you can also look for part-time employment opportunities while you attend school. Get started by checking with your school to see what employment opportunities they offer and don't forget to check with your department; you might find jobs that are related to your major. Of course, you can also seek employment off campus at local businesses or organizations.
ROTC programs can be an excellent form of financial aid if you want to pursue military training after college. In exchange for your agreement to serve in the military when you graduate, you'll get a scholarship that you can apply towards tuition, books and supplies or other expenses. Some of these scholarships will pay for your entire tuition and fees, while others pay your tuition up to a certain amount and a portion of fees or other expenses. ROTC programs include U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy programs.
This is an alternative form of financial aid, but it can help you avoid loans. Crowd funding lets you ask for money from family, friends and unknown investors using a formal webpage that you create. To get educational funding through this method, you'll sign up with an online crowd funding company, like GoFundMe or Kickstarter, where you'll create a page that you can use to describe your funding needs. You'll then share your page with friends and family through social networking sites who can then pass it along to their friends.
Student loans are not the ideal way to pay for college because loans eventually need to be paid back (with interest). However, this form of aid may be the only option for students who do not have enough grants and scholarships to cover the cost of tuition. Federal student loans are the most common form, but you can also find private loans available through banks and other institutions and peer-to-peer loans from unknown investors. Another option is to ask for a loan from your family.
Loan terms, including interest rates and repayment options, can vary from loan to loan. Students who want to learn more about each type of loan can explore this guide to student loans.