Get Financial Aid
Guide to FAFSA, Loans, and Scholarships
Unlike the 'olden-days', students can get financial aid to cover tuition, and in some cases living expenses as well. I envy the lucky few whose parents can pay for their college tuition, living, and other expenses without their children paying a dime....such is life.
The system is a bit unfair and broken for students seeking financial aid. If you are under 25, not married, and don't have any children, you are considered a 'dependent' student. This means that your parent's income counts as well as your own when figuring out your Federal aid package.
I'll go into that further in a bit, for now let's take a quick overview of ways to fund your college education:
Government Grants for College
State and Federal grants are figured in when you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The primary goal of the FAFSA is to calculate your income and assets from a variety of different sources, ie. your parent's jobs, savings account, your job, your savings account, investments, etc.
As I mentioned above, there are a large number of middle class students under 25 that get completely screwed. Either your parents refuse to pay for college, or you don't want to break them by having them pay thousands and thousands of dollars. Upper class will likely have the money for their kids to go to college, and lower class will receive full aid in grants and loans.
I myself fell into the middle class when I started attending at age 21. I had a full time job, which made 'o.k.' money, but my parent's income was also factored in, showing that we all had a combined income of over $100,000 a year. I got next to nothing in aid. At 22 I had a child which completely turned the table since I was then considered an 'independent' student; I was then able to get full financial aid....pretty sad, huh?
Learn more 'in-depth' information on Government grants for college
There are many students under 25 that fall right into this category, it's not fair and I hope they change this policy soon.
Even if you're just a perspective student, fill out the FAFSA and see if you can get financial aid. When you receive your results at the end, you want as low of an EFC (Expected Family Contribution) as possible...0 would be best. When it asks you which school you want to attend, just pick any college in your area...you will still be eligible to get financial aid in the future since you won't actually be using it, just evaluating your options.
Fill out the FAFSA here and find out
if you qualify to get financial aid for college
Thousands of scholarship possibilities exist for those willing to look for them. The most helpful ones are the merit or sports scholarships given by the school that you will be attending. If the school thinks that you will be an incredibly successful student based on high school performance, or you can give them positive publicity for being an exceptional athlete, they will be more than willing to 'pay' for your education.
Aside from high school merit and sports scholarships, there are a huge selection of scholarships to choose from outside of the school. Financially savvy students will supplement their financial aid with a number of smaller scholarships. Your school may be able to point you to scholarship applications outside of your school based on your degree path.
Colleges often give additional scholarships for students who receive academic achievements while attending, such as holding a 3.5+ GPA for a number of semesters. Look carefully at scholarships when picking the school of your choice.
For more much more in-depth information, visit scholarhips for college students. A little research can save you thousands!
Federal Student Loans
Ahh...Direct Federal student loans, so helpful, yet so dangerous. The amount of federal loans available to you is also calculated after completing your FAFSA. As always, independent students most often get WAY more loan availability than dependents. Dependent student can also look into PLUS loans for their parents, which are also Federally regulated, and an additional option to get financial aid.
Currently the maximum amount of loans a student with ANY EFC score can take out is $57,500 for an undergraduate degree, which should be more than enough money you need for college; assuming you're not attending Harvard or the like. This limit raises for graduate students as well.
-- Limits and qualifications for Government Student Loans --
I HIGHLY recommend taking precautions when receiving these loans--they can quickly get out of hand. I fell victim to this, and I can expect to pay about $400 a month for 20 years once I finally graduate.
Private Student Loans
Should be used as the very last resort when funding your college education. Students who fall into the category where they cannot get financial aid through Government funding may seek out private student loans.
Learn more about Private Student Loans
Private institutions are much less lenient when it comes to paying back loans, and they will also likely charge a higher interest rate than Direct Federal loans.
Double-check all other options before seeking private loans!
Check out other College Tips and Tricks
Return to the top of the Get Financial Aid page