Learn about What's Available: scholarships, grants, loans and more
Information provided by the US Department of Education
One of the best ways to learn about all the available federal loans, grants and work-study opportunities is in Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid.
Scholarships: Earn to Learn
Scholarships are gifts. They don't need to be repaid. There are thousands of them, offered by schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, religious groups, and professional and social organizations.
Some scholarships are merit based. You earn them by meeting or exceeding certain standards set by the scholarship-giver. They might be awarded based on academic achievement, or a combination of academics and a special talent, trait or interest. Other scholarships are based on financial need. Here are some tools to help find yours:
Grants: Need and Receive
Grants are also gifts, but they're usually based on financial need.
Most often, grant aid comes from federal and state governments and individual colleges. Available federal grants include:
Pell Grant. These are federal grants awarded to undergraduate students.
ACG. The Academic Competitiveness Grant is for college freshmen and sophomores who are eligible for Pell Grants and who took "rigorous" classes in high school.
FSEOG. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant is awarded to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need.
National SMART Grant. The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant is awarded to college juniors and seniors who are eligible for Pell Grants and are majoring in mathematics, technology, engineering, a foreign language critical to national security or physical, life or computer sciences. Students must also have grade point averages of at least 3.0 in their majors to be eligible.
TEACH Grant. The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant is for students who plan to teach in schools that serve low-income students.
Fast Fact: There's more grant money available now than 10 years ago.
Loans: Borrow for the Future
Loans are a contract to borrow money and repay it over time, with interest. In the case of most federal student loans, you do not need to begin repaying them until several months after you leave college or are no longer enrolled at least half-time.
Every year, more than $70 billion in federal student aid is given out in the form of low-interest loans. These are delivered through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (Direct Loan Program).
Some banks and financial institutions offer private student loans. These loans often have variable interest rates, require a credit check and may not provide the benefits of federal student loans.
If taking out loans makes you feel a little nervous, you are in good company. Many of the students interviewed for this Web site felt the same way. But looking at loans as an investment in their future helped them get past their fear.
To learn more about federal student loans, read Federal Aid First, an online brochure from the U.S. Department of Education.
Work-Study: Get a Job
The Federal Work-Study (FWS) program provides part-time jobs for students with financial need to help them pay for their education.
The program is administered by participating schools. It's designed to put you to work in the community, or in a job related to your studies, whenever possible.
Fast Fact: More than 3,400 schools participate in the Federal Work-Study program. In 2009, over 900,000 students received work-study aid.
Service Members and Veterans: Understand the Benefits
The U.S. Military offers several ways to help pay for your education. on todaysmilitary.com for more information.
If you are a veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers a variety of education benefits. Read about them online, or call 1-888-GI-BILL-1 (1-888-442-4551).
Other Sources of Aid: Find More Funding
Funding Education Beyond High School
: The Guide to Federal Student Aid from the U.S. Department of Education features a section called Other Financial Aid Sources. It includes many other ideas to pay for your education, such as the AmeriCorps community service organization.
Tools and Tips: Find and Save Money
A little homework can earn you a lot of cash for college. A little common sense can help you use your money wisely. Here are a few tips to get started:
Use the financial aid and scholarship wizards on the Federal Student Aid Web site. You can search for scholarships based on talents, interests, background and more.
- Check the colleges you're considering for merit- or non-need-based scholarships to academically talented students.
- Check with your state education agency to find out if you're eligible for state assistance based on merit.
- See if you are eligible for an athletic scholarship, if you are athletically inclined.
- Stick close to home. Most state colleges and universities offer lower tuition to in-state residents.
- Go to a lower-cost community college for one or two years, then transfer to a four-year school.
- Live at home. You could save thousands of dollars.
Get more ideas on finding and saving money on the Federal Student Aid Web site.