The financial aid process may seem daunting and you may not know where to begin. Financial aid helps you cover school-related expenses.
Grants, Scholarships and Loans
The first step in the financial aid process is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The type of aid you want are grants and scholarships as they are considered free financial aid (also called “gift aid”) and not required to be paid back.
The reality however is that you may not receive enough aid to cover the full cost of your college education so financial aid in the form of student loans fill in the gap. These loans are required to be paid back.
Are funds that do no need to be paid back as long as you meet all requirements. Grants are usually based on your family’s eligibility to pay, merit and cost of education.
Money to help pay for your college education that do not need to be paid back. Scholarships are primarily given for specific reasons not limited to major chosen, sports played, community service and other criteria. Search for available college grants and scholarships.
Note: Many employers offers scholarships so inquire with your parent’s employers. Additionally, many financial institutions offer scholarships. Check with your bank or credit union. Private corporations, associations and people may also offer various scholarships.
Federal Student Loans
A loan funded by the federal government to help pay for your education. A federal student loan is borrowed money you must repay with interest. This is usually based on your financial needs.
Private Student Loans
These loans are nonfederal loans, made by a lender such as a bank, credit union, state agency, or a school. Private student loans may or may not have the same benefits as federal student loans and are required to be paid back.
Note: Choose federal student loans before private student loans. Federal student loans offer lower interest rates, multiple repayment options with deferments and forbearance options.
Warning: Be wary of any person or organization that charges a fee. You can get the help you seek from your high school, US Department of Education and other state student aid agencies.
Your Award Letter
When you complete FAFSA, you indicated the schools you have applied for or plan to attend, these colleges will offer financial aid in the form of an award letter that will include a combination of aid from grants, scholarships to federal loans.
1. Analyze the financial aid award letter. Determine how much of the aid is free money. This can help you prioritize based on the affordability.
2. Calculate. Determine if there are any gaps in funding your college education. For each school subtract the amount of free aid to the cost of attending the school (tuition, room and board). The amount that remains is what you or your parents are responsible to cover.
3. Choose student loans. Look at the amount of federal student loans offered. Subsidized federal student loans are better than unsubsidized federal student loans. Ask parents about taking out a PLUS loan (a PLUS loan is a federal loan that your parents apply for in their name). Consider private student loans if all other sources of funding has been exhausted.
Note: Before agreeing to any award letter understand the requirements and obligations for each. Also, speak with your potential college financial aid office to determine how they handle outside aid (this might be in the form of additional money you source outside of the FAFSA financial aid process). Your total financial aid package won’t exceed the cost of attendance.
Federal Student Loans
The US Department of Education administers the Federal Direct Loan Program (FDLP).
There are several types of federal student loans available:
• Direct Stafford loans for students
• Direct PLUS loans for graduate students and for parents
• Perkins loans for students with extreme financial need (as defined by the school)
The federal government regulates these loans and controls the interest rates, which are generally lower than those for nonfederal loan programs. The government also sets guidelines surrounding the loan terms. Federal loans can be:
• Subsidized – The government pays the interest for the borrower while in school, in grace, or in deferment.
• Unsubsidized – The borrower is responsible for paying the interest on the loan. If the borrower chooses not to pay while in school, in grace, or in deferment, the interest may be added to the principal balance.
Alternative (Private) Loans
Financial Aid Basics
Understand the basic terms of financial aid so you have a better understanding.
• Eligibility – refers to the minimum requirements you must meet in order to qualify for a loan. The eligibility varies between federal student aid versus private student loans (which may consider your credit score).
• Interest Rates – is the amount that a lender charges for lending you money. The interest rate is important when considering which loan to take. Some loans are fixed while others are variable.
• Origination Fees – charged to the borrower as a processing fee.
• Repayment Terms – refer to the way in which you will pay back your loan. The promissory note states your repayment terms of your loan and varies according to the type of loan receive.
• Promissory Notes – is a “promise to pay” contract between you and the lender that is providing your loan money. You must sign a promissory note that legally binds you for paying back the loan.
• Loan Limits – refer to the maximum amount of money you are eligible to receive under a loan program. The loan limits are lower for freshmen than for upper class and graduate students. In the case of PLUS loans (for parents and graduate students), the loan limits are determined by the cost of attendance minus any other aid you are expected to receive (for example, in the form of grants or scholarships).
Saving for college should start sooner rather than later. While many parents plan paying for college expenses immediately after the birth of their child there are many more who only start the process when their child is a senior in high school.
Learn more on College Planning | College and Student Resources for more information.
Preparing for College
It’s never too early—or too late—to explore your options for college or career school. You’ll have to take the time to research and understand your options. We’re sure you have a ton of questions and the information is daunting but don’t fret we’re sorting out the massive amounts of info to help you get to the answers and solutions quicker.
Visit Preparing for College | College and Student Resources for more information.
Paying for College
College may be around the corner and the stress in trying to figure out how to pay for it can be quite overwhelming. There are a variety of options to pay for college such as financial aid, expected family contribution, private student loans, federal work-study, military tuition assistance and scholarships.
Visit Paying for College | College and Student Resources for more information.
We often think of college expenses related to college tuition and textbooks but the truth is there are other costs. College can be one of the most exciting times of your life but can also be financially stressful. There are many ways to enjoy the college life without the financial stress.
Visit College Living | College and Student Resources for more information.
There are various types of student loans from federal to private loan options.
Visit Student Loans | College and Student Resources for more information.
FAFSA – http://FAFSA.ed.gov
Information and application for the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid.
FAFSA Calculator – FAFSA4Caster
Estimate your eligibility for student financial aid.
Student Loans – www.StudentLoans.gov
Access to information on all topics of student loan financing and preparing for college.
Student Resources – http://StudentAid.ed.gov
Resources and tools to learn more about the federal student aid process and loan programs.
+ BigFuture | College Board – Information to find colleges, financing, explore careers and everything else in between.
+ KnowHow2Go – KnowHow2GO is a campaign designed to encourage students and veterans to prepare for college.
+ FinAid.org – Learn about the college financial aid process, discover resources and apply for grants and scholarships.
+ Paying for College – US News resource center on paying for college.
+ Fastweb.com – A site that matches the information you enter in your profile to scholarship, college, job and internship opportunities.