Financial Aid Options

A college education is one of the biggest investments you can make in your life. For many individuals, the availability of financial aid is a key determinant in their decision to pursue a college education. Understanding the options you have in financial aid and seeking aid early enough play a vital role in securing funds for your college expenses. The various sources and types of financial aid are outlined below, to give you a better understanding of options available to you.

Sources of Financial Aid

  • Federal - this is the largest source of financial aid for students pursuing post-secondary education in the US. Some of the federal student aid programs include grants, loans and work-study programs.
  • Institutional - most colleges offers financial aid to students in the form of grants, loans and scholarships. Students seeking financial aid should visit the financial aid office of their institution, to find out what types of support are available. You may want to consult with your career guide counselor in designing a financial aid plan for your education.
  • Private sources - various private organizations offer financial aid to students pursuing a college education. These include clubs, corporations, faith-based entities, foundations, private and professional associations. Internet and library research can give you vital information on private funding sources.
  • State - different aid programs are offered by states, to support students in acquiring education in various fields. Some of the criteria that states use in awarding financial aid to students include career choices, financial need, scholastic abilities and talents. Award recipients may be required to provide professional service in a specified sector after graduation.

Categories of Financial Aid

The main categories of financial aid are outlined below:

  • Employment - work-study programs require students to work, which helps them to raise money to meet their educational expenses.
  • Grants - these are extended to students who, in many cases, can demonstrate their financial need. Grants are regarded as gifts or "free money" as they do not have to be repaid.
  • Loans - recipients of loans are required to repay the money they receive, usually with interest, upon completion of studies.
  • Scholarships - students with high academic achievement, special skills or talents may apply for various scholarships that they qualify for.

It is best to apply for as many financial aid programs as you can, provided you meet eligibility requirements. A comprehensive financial aid package is one that includes various types of aid that can help you meet your educational goal. It is important that you select programs that offer you many benefits and are associated with minimal debt.

    Sources:

    Get Money for College. (2011) Federal Student AidOffice, US Department of Education.

    Preparing for College. Retrieved October 1, 2011. Maryland Higher Education Commission.

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