Financial aid is a process that must be completed and renewed each award year. It can be a very confusing and time consuming process, especially for those applying for financial aid for the first time. Here are some tips on understanding financial aid that may assist with making the process go a little smoother:
1. Apply to a School
The initial step is applying to a school and familiarizing yourself with the amount of finances needed to attend. Stay in contact with your schools financial aid office, they will assist you with any questions you may have and will guide you through their financial aid process. It is also important to make sure your contact information is up to date so that your school may provide you with information that may be needed to complete your financial aid process.
2. Use of Financial Aid
Financial aid provides funding to assist students looking to attend school. Based on your eligibility this may cover the full cost or a portion of your college expenses. College expenses include tuition, fees, books, materials, room and board, etc.
3. Type of Aid Available
- There are a variety of financial aid funds available to students through the Department of Education. This federal student aid consists of grants, low-interest loans, and scholarships.
- The four types of federal student grants are Federal Pell grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. There are also many scholarships offered to qualifying students. These funds also do not have to be paid back
- The two federal student loans include Federal Perkins Loans and William D. Ford Direct Loans. The Direct Stafford Loans consist of subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
4. Apply to Qualify for Aid
In order to determine the type of financial aid you are eligible for and the amount you are eligible to receive, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid at fafsa.ed.gov. The FAFSA is a free application used to determine the financial aid type and amount you are eligible to receive.
5. Understand Your Financial Aid
Grants and scholarships are funds that do not have to be paid back and loans must be paid back (with interest). Know your rights and responsibilities as a financial aid recipient.
For any further information regarding Federal Student Aid please go to studentaid.ed.gov. Provided below is information on additional aid that may also be available to students:
- State government aid– For more information, contact the state’s higher education agency.
- Aid from the college– Students should contact the financial aid offices at the colleges they are considering for more information.
- Scholarships– Some states, local governments, colleges, community organizations, private employers, and other organizations award scholarships based on academic ability or other factors.
By Shalena Gonzales
Financial Aid Specialist, American Public University