What is Financial Aid?
Financial aid is a critical resource for many students to afford post-secondary education such as college, university or trade school. It can come in the form of grants, scholarships, and low-interest loans and provides financial assistance that help individuals pursue an education leading to exciting careers and fulling lives. Understanding financial aid and its various forms is an important step in making post-secondary education attainable. This guide will cover various information on financial aid, including how to find it, different types of federal student aid options, application process and more.
How Does Financial Aid Work?
The process of obtaining financial aid for college can be broken down into a few basic steps: exploring options, determining financial need, assessing eligibility, choosing a school and program, applying for aid, and attending school. Before pursuing financial aid, it's important to have an idea about what type of post-secondary institution you'll be attending, as well as where it's located and what you will be studying. This will help you search for the appropriate student aid options. Once you have an idea of your options, you should get a general sense of how much each option will cost in terms of tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies, and other expenses.
Next, take a look at your income, savings, and what your family can contribute. This will give you a general idea of how much financial aid you may need to make up any shortfall. It's important to keep in mind that some schools may initially seem more expensive, but you may have more opportunities to get financial aid that would offset the higher cost. Each grant, scholarship, loan, or other form of student financial aid comes with its own set of eligibility criteria, such as financial need, GPA, residency, high school diploma, field of study, gender, ethnicity, or group membership.
It's always a good idea to apply for financial aid even if you think you might not qualify. Many grants and scholarships go unclaimed because people misunderstood the eligibility criteria or felt they couldn't compete. After choosing a school and program, you can apply for financial aid, starting with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You may also need to acquire separate applications for scholarships or other aid from private organizations. Once you're enrolled in school and have been approved for financial aid, the funds will be either directly applied to your schooling costs, paid directly to you, or both. It's common for students to be asked to sign over their financial aid checks to their school at the beginning of each new term. Financial aid from loans or grants is usually provided in a couple of equal payments during a school year, while scholarships may be awarded in a one-time lump sum.