The Basics: Getting Started
- Start gathering information early.
- Free information is readily available from:
High school counselors
College and career school financial aid offices (where you plan to attend)
Local and college libraries
Student Aid on the Web (U.S. Department of Education)
Other Internet sites (search terms student financial aid OR assistance)
- Ask questions of counselors: you may have exceptional circumstances that affect your eligibility.
- Keep copies of all forms and correspondence: you must reapply for aid each year.
- Parents of students: save money long before your
child attends college.
- Good overviews:
- Beware of scholarship scams -- don't pay for free
Student Aid And Where It Comes From
Basic assistance categories:
- Financial need-based
Remember that students and their parents are responsible for paying what they can-- financial aid is a supplement, not a substitute, for family resources.
- Non need-based
Factors include academic excellence, ethnic background, or organization membership. Corporations may also offer assistance to employees and children.
- Provides nearly 70% of student aid under Loans, Grants and Work/study programs.
- Available to all need-based applicants; some loans and competitive scholarships for non need-based.
- Free information from the U.S. Department of Education:
- Student Aid on the Web
- Financial Aid Resource Publications
- Loans, the most common federal aid, must be repaid when you graduate or leave college.
- Stafford Loans
- Federal PLUS Loans parental loans, not need-based.
- Perkins Loans (Campus-based Aid) for the most needy undergraduates; through participating schools.
- Scholarships/grants are mostly need-based and require no repayment:
- Pell Grants
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
- Other grants, scholarships, and fellowships, mostly graduate level: search the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) by Beneficiary, such as "Student or Trainee" or "Graduate Student".
- "Congressional" scholarships:
- Named for Member of Congress or other prominent individual (such as Byrd Honors Scholarships, Fulbright fellowships)
- Merit-based and highly competitive
- Members of Congress do not play a role in selecting recipients
- Work study programs allow you to earn money while in school:
- Federal Work Study Program: college campus jobs
- Student Educational Employment: jobs with the federal government
- For questions not covered by the Department of Education website, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.
- Check with your State Higher Education Agency and State Guarantee Agency.
- Consider prepaid tuition and college savings ("Section 529") plans: College Savings Plans Network.
- Search your Internet browser under terms such as student financial aid or assistance AND your state.
Colleges and universities provide some 20% of aid,
most need-based. Check university websites and the institution's financial aid
office when you apply for admission.
Private foundations, corporations, and organizations offer scholarships or grants:
Grants for Individuals
Targeted Aid For Special Groups
- Grants for Minorities: Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Latinos, Native Americans, and Other Ethnic Groups
- African Americans: For Students: Scholarships
- Disabled students: Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities
- Foreign students: Financial Aid for International Students
- Hispanic Americans: Scholarships
- Law school students Financial Aid for Law School
- Medical students: Association of American Medical Colleges
- Native Americans: American Indian College Fund
- Study abroad (for U.S. and non-U.S. citizens): International Financial Aid
- Veterans: Education Benefits
Interested in public service?
Federal assistance programs seek to encourage people to work in geographic areas or professions where there's a particular need (such as doctors in underserved areas); encourage underrepresented groups to enter a particular profession; and provide aid in exchange for services provided (such as military service).
- AmeriCorps Education Award
Volunteers who complete one year of service receive an education award for current higher education expenses or to repay student loans.
Additional benefits for Army personnel.
- Bureau of Health
Scholarships and loans to needy health profession students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Student Educational Employment
Employments, internships, cooperative education, scholarships, grants, and fellowships with federal agencies.
- Indian Health Service
Scholarships for American Indian/Alaskan Native health profession students and loan repayment for persons working in IHS facilities.
- Military academies:
U.S. Air Force Academy
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
U.S. Military Academy
U.S. Naval Academy
- National Health
Scholarships and loan repayment for health profession students who agree to work in underserved areas.
- Nursing Scholarships
Offered in exchange for two years of service in areas with critical nursing shortages.
- Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC):
For students who want to be commissioned as officers after graduating from college.
U.S. Air Force ROTC
U.S. Army ROTC
U.S. Navy ROTC
Repaying Your Loans
After college, the federal government has ways to help you repay your loans.
- Eligibility depends upon the type of loan, when it was made, and whether it's in default. Check with your loan officer to find out if you qualify.
- Loan Consolidation: combine your federal loans into a single loan with one monthly payment.
- Sometimes loans may be canceled in exchange for public
Teachers: Cancellation/Deferment Options
Health professions: National Health Service Corps
Law school graduates: State Loan Repayment/Forgiveness Programs
Medical school graduates: Loan Repayment/Forgiveness Programs
- Federal employees: Federal Student Loan Repayment Program
- If you are having problems with your loan and all other approaches fail, contact the Department of Education's Office of the Ombudsman.