Need-based financial aid is available for those who qualify. A family may calculate its expected contribution using the financial aid calculator.
Loans: Most financial aid packages ask students and their families to take out loans in order to pay for college. Federal loans offer lower interest rates, fixed payment schedules, and some deferment options. Private loans, obtained through commercial banks, are also available but are typically the less desirable option.
Grants: This is money that the government and/or colleges give to qualified students. Grants do not need to be repaid.
Work Study: Colleges make many different jobs on campus available to students. A student may be asked to take one of these jobs as part of their financial aid package.
Both students who qualify for need-based financial aid, and those who don't, may be eligible for non-need-based scholarships.
Merit Scholarships: Many colleges award these scholarships to students with strong academic records and/or special talents. To determine what is available, check with individual schools.
National & Local Scholarships: A variety of institutions invite students to apply for scholarship money. Students should begin investigating and applying for scholarships in their junior year. Scholarship applications can be lengthy and complicated, so starting early is a good idea.
The decision about whether to apply for aid is complex. Some financial aid offices advise parents to apply because many families are more likely to qualify than they think. On the other hand, it is worth noting that not all colleges are need-blind; in other words, they may consider a family's financial needs before making an admissions decision.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form you need to fill out to get any financial aid from the federal government to help pay for college. Many states and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine which students get financial aid – and the amount awarded.
Submitting the FAFSA is the most important thing you can do if you want financial aid.
The FAFSA is free—you don’t need to pay anyone to prepare it for you.
You need to submit a new FAFSA before each academic year in which you want to get aid. If you plan to apply for aid throughout college, you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA each year. The FAFSA opens in December every year.
Be sure to use a permanent email address on the form, not your high school email, so that you can use your FAFSA account throughout college.