Applying for Financial Aid: Things You Should Know
Applying for college often also means applying for financial aid. Financial aid is an important resource for helping students attend any college program. In order to receive financial aid, there are several things to know about the application process and what to look for in terms of the different types of financial aid and how they can help you.
First of all, there are many different types of financial aid. There are need-based and merit-based aid programs as well as scholarships, grants, and loans. The first thing you should do when applying for financial aid is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This application is available online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. This will require that you tell the government about your taxes, family income, college information, and personal information. The FAFSA will provide you with a number that estimates how much your family's estimated contributions will be and will be helpful in need-based aid applications.
Some financial aid programs are merit-based as well as need-based. These resources require students to demonstrate academic success in terms of grade point average (GPA), as well as scores on standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT. Sometimes, these applications will require an essay or some form of written proposal to show that you are dedicated to your education and to demonstrate that you have performed well in coursework thus far. It is important to carefully construct these applications, as review boards will use your provided materials as a basis for determining eligibility for funds.
Other forms of financial aid include loans and grants. There is a key difference in these two, and that is this: loans must be repaid, whereas grants are more like gifts. Loans also include interest rates, and these are often set by the loan provider. Always read the terms and conditions of any loans or grants before accepting them. Some grants require that you attend certain meetings or write a paper about your college experience. Others do not have such requirements. If you choose to take out a loan, be aware of the stipulations on that loan and only take out as much as you need to fund your education. Extra money may be received from working part-time during summers or throughout the year.