Getting Financial Aid: An Overview

Written by Michael Bennet

Sometimes getting a Pell Grant just isn’t enough to cover all of your education related expenses when you’re attending an expensive four-year university, and when this is the case you must take into consideration your other options when it comes to financial aid.

The good news is that there is an abundance of aid available besides just the Pell Grant, and by utilizing some of these forms of aid in conjunction with the funding you receive by way of the Pell Grant you should be able to get the money you need to pay for college.

The major forms of aid that you should be aware of include:

  • Scholarships
  • Grants
  • Student Loans
  • Various Work-Study Programs.

Scholarships

While these are not the easiest types of financial aid to get your hands on, they are perhaps the best type of aid to receive due to the fact that you never have to payback the money you receive, and because of the high likelihood that you’ll be able to get a scholarship that can pay for a high percentage of your tuition, and other education-related expenses.

Most scholarships are either need-based, or merit-based, and are either provided by your college, the federal or state government, or by other private organizations.

Because there are so many different kinds of scholarships, the application process is going to vary greatly depending on the particular award you are applying for. That being said, you should perform independent research in regard to the type of scholarship you may be able to qualify for, as this will give you the chance to get an idea of when, and how you should apply for each one.

If you submitted a FAFSA by the appropriate deadlines you should have automatically been put in the running for a variety of scholarships that are provided by the federal government and maybe even ones that are available via your school.

Here is a brief review of how scholarships can provide you with the money you need to pay for college:

Grants

The Pell Grant is just one of a multitude of education grants that you may be able to secure for the upcoming school year, and as you probably already know, grants are similar to scholarships in that they don’t ever have to be paid back.

The major federal grants that you may be able to qualify for include:

  • The Pell Grant
  • The Federal Supplementary Education Opportunity Grant
  • The Academic Competitiveness Grant, the SMART Grant
  • The TEACH Grant

You’ll put yourself into contention for these federal grants by submitting your FAFSA before the appropriate deadlines, and the way you’ll be notified if you qualify for these grants is via an award letter from the school that you are attending for the upcoming year.

You aren’t just limited to getting federal education grants though, as there still should be a variety of state grants that you may be eligible for if you can exhibit the appropriate credentials. You may have to apply for these independently depending on the state you live in, although you will be considered for some state grants simply by completing a FAFSA.

Provided below are two articles about the Pell Grant program, and other federal education grants.

Student Loans

Next up we have student loans, and while these forms of aid can provide you with an enormous of funding for your college education, they do have to be paid back at some point, and in that regard they are different than scholarships or grants.

The vast majority of student loans are classified as either federal student loans, or private student loans, and by filling out a FAFSA you will automatically be putting yourself in the running for the best federal student loans that are available.

Private student loans are a bit different in that you will most likely have to apply for these on an independent basis, and due to their higher interest rates when compared to federal student loans, you should always apply for these after you have been notified of the aid you’ll be receiving by way of any scholarships, grants, and federal student loans.

You can typically borrow up to the cost of attendance of going to your particular institution in private education loans as long as you can get approved, and if you are not unlike most students, you will need to get a cosigner due to your relatively short credit history.

Go over these articles if you are confused about student loan financial aid:

Work-Study Programs

Another major form of financial aid that may be available to you is what is known as work-study. Work-study can either be federally funded, or not, and by filling out a FAFSA you will be put into contention for federal work-study as long you answered the appropriate questions correctly on your application.

Non-federal work-study is typically provided through your school, and to be considered for one of these programs you should contact you particular institution’s financial aid office.

Overall work-study programs are great if you don’t mind working a part-time job while taking classes, and depending on the amount of hours you put in there is a good chance that you’ll be able to receive a large amount of aid by way of these unique sorts of employment opportunities.

Financial Aid Review

Ultimately it is always best to consider all of your options when it comes to getting the money you need to pay for college. These aforementioned options have been the major ones that most students look into when they need financial aid to pay for school.

The alternative to getting financial aid is of course paying for your education-related expenses yourself straight out-of-pocket.

While this may be a feasible option for some students, most students end up paying for college with the help of financial aid in one form or another, and because a large amount of the aid that is available each year never has to be paid back and is free to apply for, it is never a bad idea to at least consider some of your options when it comes to getting financial aid for the upcoming school year.