Paying for College

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Paying for college is always a challenge for any family. Whether you need to apply for federal financial aid, scholarships, or need to take out student (or parent) loans, depends on your family’s finances and your high school achievements.

All sources of financial aid mandate that you complete and return the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The forms may seem a bit overwhelming, but there are so many free resources out there to help you, and all this information helps them determine just what help is available to you.

Financial aid may include federal and/or state grants, work-study programs, or loans. You can find these forms by going to the FAFSA website and following their directions. Applications can be completed and tracked online. Applying for federal aid has never been easier. Grants and scholarships are the same in that both are financial aid for college that does not need to be paid back. They differ in the ways they are given out. Grants are need based and given to those with lower incomes. Scholarships are merit based and rely on the student having certain abilities or qualities, either athletic or academic.

Scholarships and grants are available through the federal and state governments. The Pell Grant is the primary federal grant. Some states offer their own residents grants or scholarships to attend college in that state. Whether merit or need based, most colleges offer a variety of scholarships. However, colleges often have the strictest requirements to get (and keep) these awards.

Private organizations such as foundations, companies, clubs, or community organizations offer grants or scholarships to members or member’s family. It really is important to do a lot of research to see what kind of financial help is available to you before you decide to take out any loan. Whatever you can save with grants or scholarships will certainly help reduce your college costs.

Only after finding out what gifts you might receive should you think about taking out a loan. Before you rush into signing for that large loan, research, research, and research again. There are many types of loans, and all loans need to be paid back. Some can be deferred (or put off) until after you graduate, some can’t. You need to take into account everything about a loan before diving in. Loans can be need-based, or subsidized. States may offer student loans that are not based on need or subsidized. There is also the expensive option of a private loan. Private loans require a parent’s signature and commitment to repay if the student defaults on the loan.

Once you have researched the loans available, and what is available – specifically – to you, discuss these options with your parents and guidance counselor, enlisting their help to get you moving in the right direction. Once you pay for school there will be other expenses on a continuing basis. One basic financial output for any student is textbooks. Brand-new textbooks are very, very expensive. Buying used textbooks can save you hundreds of dollars, and you might get lucky and find someone else wrote excellent notes in the margins.