Higher education is a significant investment for many families, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Financial aid can help you pay for college and graduate with less debt than expected. The key is knowing how to get the most out of your money—with scholarships, grants, and loans.
Apply for financial aid by following five simple steps:
- Start Early
The earlier you start exploring financial aid options, the easier it will be. Give yourself plenty of time to research and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are three deadlines to be mindful of—getting a head start prevents you from missing them.
Start looking around for scholarships to apply for and review each program’s requirements. The scholarship application process can be tedious, so you want to make sure to only focus on the ones you qualify for.
RELATED >> Tips for College Freshmen
- Submit Your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
The FAFSA is the form students fill out to apply for federal student aid programs. Prospective college students can file their financial aid applications as early as October 1st. It should take less than 30 minutes to answer the questions and calculate your eligibility for grants, loans, and work-study programs. Your college or university may also offer programs you can qualify for.
- Understand Your Financial Aid Offer
Once you have your financial aid offer, make sure you understand all the terms and conditions. This includes:
- How much money you’ll get
- What the amount covers
- When you’ll get the funds
Becoming familiar with these will help you plan how to use your money and identify steps you need to take before disbursement. If there’s anything unclear or confusing, don’t be afraid to ask your financial aid advisor at school.
- Apply for Grants and Scholarships
After determining how much money you need and what federal financial aid programs are available to you, it’s time to start applying. Scholarships and grants are often the best way to get financial help because they don’t require repayment. In other words, they’re essentially free money! These awards come in various forms and usually have requirements like GPA or coursework that applicants must meet. Search online databases to browse over a million scholarships.
- Find Work-Study Positions
Besides federal and state funding, schools often have loans and work-study programs available. Find them on your school’s website under “financial aid,” or by contacting the financial aid office. Many universities also offer scholarships for students with specific needs. Be sure to ask about them!
Make College Education More Affordable with Scholarships
Applying for financial aid takes some work, but it’s worth the effort. With the right steps and some patience, you can make your college education more affordable and accessible.