Where should I start when figuring out how to pay for college?
What's the difference between a loan and a grant?
What kind of scholarships am I actually eligible for?
Do I really need to fill out the FAFSA?
These are just a few of the most common (and most important!) questions college students have when it comes to financial aid. With this article, we're going to outline some of the most traditional forms of financial aid and give you tips for how to best spend your time and energy as you figure out how you're going to pay for college.
Before you do anything, fill out the FAFSA!
FAFSA stands for the Free Application For Federal Student Aid. It's a program run by the U.S. Department of Education and is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation. The federal government annually provides $120 billion dollars in federal student aid. Aid is distributed based on financial need, as determined by the application. The FAFSA is a free gift of money and will not need to be repaid.
Anyone can complete the FAFSA, and everyone is encouraged to do so — regardless of household income. It is important to complete the FAFSA, as it is often used by colleges and universities to determine the amount of aid given to students. The FAFSA should also be completed during each year of college attendance, in order to be considered for aid.
Pro Tip: To be considered for financial aid in addition to your merit award, please file the FAFSA using Neumann University’s FAFSA code: 003988. The FAFSA can be accessed at https://fafsa.ed.gov.
Repeat after me: "There IS a scholarship out there for ME."
There are so many scholarship options out there, and finding the RIGHT scholarship for you is a matter of adequate research, knowing your interests, and making the time to apply. High school GPAs along with your college entrance exam score could lead to merit-based scholarships from your school. Contact the financial aid office at your institution to see what kind of scholarships they give, either merit or need-based.
Pro Tip: You can read all of our blogs about financial aid here!
Did you know that a grant is a gift of money that does not need to be repaid?
There are many different types of grant programs through either FAFSA or other governmental/organizational grant programs. For example, the Federal Pell Grant is one of the long-standing ways that the government helps students pay for college.
There are also program-specific grants, so be sure to search for grants that match your field of study. For instance, there are grants specifically for students planning to pursue a STEM education or for future teachers enrolled in an education program.
Just like scholarship research, grant research takes time! That said, set aside a few days this summer to really dive into what your options are.
Pro Tip: You should know that filling out the FAFSA is required to apply for grants.
Oh yeah, you need to fill out the FAFSA before applying for a private loan to.
If at all possible, minimize the number of private loans you take out for college. While it is an option and lenders will give you the money, be aware that you will need to pay these loans back with interest.
First, exhaust all options for merit-based and need-based financial aid awards. Then consider applying for a private loan, but be cognizant of your loan's interest rates. Do the math! See how much you will accrue by the time you graduate and take into consideration your timeline for paying the loan off.
Pro Tip: Utilize private loans with caution, do your research, and if you are able, consult a financial advisor!
5. Work-Study Programs
Federal Work Study (FWS) programs provide part-time jobs for undergraduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. This program requires a FAFSA application. If you're interested in getting a Federal Work-Study job while you're enrolled in college, make sure you apply for aid early. Funds are limited.
Pro Tip: With time management and discipline, working while in school is totally doable. One option is to take advantage of Neumann’s work study programs.
At Neumann, we understand that college can be costly.
Again, at Neumann University, we know that figuring out how to pay for college can be tough, but we want to make it easy for you to discover and qualify for the many financial aid opportunities that are available to you.
Pro Tip (Bonus!): Researching and applying for financial aid shouldn't stop your freshman year. During all four years of college, make sure you take advantage of every scholarship opportunity out there! Every dollar counts when preparing for your future.