A college education can be a very important foundation for any career goal, so it is unfortunate when a potential student might miss out because he doesn’t think that he will be able to afford getting an advanced degree. There are many different forms of financial aid that college students can apply for which will allow them to pursue an education at a university.
How to Apply for Financial Aid
Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the most crucial step in seeking financial aid for college. The easiest and quickest way to do this is through the website http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. When filling out the FAFSA, a student will need certain financial documents of their own and of their parents if they are still dependents (the FAFSA has its own criteria on who qualifies as an independent student and these are listed when filling out the form). The most important documents to have when filling out the FAFSA are federal and state tax returns for the student and parents. A student should fill out the FAFSA before the beginning of the school year during which they wish to attend college. Waiting too long may mean that so much aid has already been distributed, making it difficult to obtain the maximum amount of aid needed. Even if a student is only going to attend in the Spring semester, they should apply for aid according to school year, which means they should apply before the Fall semester begins.
What Happens Next?
After filling out the FAFSA, the applicant is given a number called Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This number will determine how much financial aid a person can get. The applicant can also expect to have to fill out another form to determine how much financial aid they can get from the state they are living in. In New York state, this is called the TAP application.
All of the information on these forms and the results are then sent to whichever schools the student listed on the applications. Every school has a budget of what they believe is the maximum amount a student will be paying when attending that college. This also plays a factor in how much financial aid a student gets because it wouldn’t make too much sense for a student to receive a $20,000 aid package to go to a college that only costs $10,000 a year. A financial aid package will then be picked out for the student based upon the budget and the EFC.
Types of Financial Aid
There are several different types of financial aid available to college students. The Pell Grant is a federal grant which doesn’t have to be paid back by the recipient. The grant will be available for a college student, as long as they meet the requirements, until they have graduated with their first Bachelors degree. The maximum Pell grant for the 2010-2011 school year is $5,500. Also, a student must maintain full-time status while receiving this grant.
New York State also has another grant which students may received called the TAP Grant. TAP works a little differently than the Pell Grant in that it does not cover a student until they get their Bachelors’ degree. It uses a system of credits which typically will cover the amount of classes that a student has to take, but only if the student is able to finish within approximately four full-time semesters, or an equivalent amount of classes spread across part-time semesters. This makes TAP available to part-time students in the form of aid for part-time study. The maximum TAP award is $5,000. Another thing to keep in mind is that the student must maintain certain academic requirements to receive the Pell and TAP grant.
Student loans are another type of financial aid that a student can receive. If a student does not qualify for grants, loans will be the next best option. There are two types of Federal loans which are called Stafford loans. A subsidized Stafford loan is a loan that the government pays the interest on while the recipient is still attending school. An unsubsidized Stafford loan accumulates interest while the student is in college. The advantage of taking out a Stafford loan is that they have very low interest compared to private loans. The unsubsidized Stafford currently has an interest rate of 6.8% and the subsidized carries an interest rate of 4.5% (Staffordloan.com). Another advantage of student loans is that a student cannot be refused one based on credit scoring.
The Perkins loan is another frequent choice of student borrowers. This loan has a 5% interest rate and the maximum amount of money that can be borrowed is $5,500 a year. There are also PLUS loans which parents can take out to pay for their children’s college education.
The Federal Work-Study program is another financial aid choice which allows students to have an on-campus job. Usually the job isn’t difficult and most students spend their work hours reading their school books or studying for exams.
What about Scholarships?
Although there are very many scholarships out there which a student can apply for, most of the time they are very difficult to win. There are usually stiff requirements. It’s not impossible to win a scholarship, and every student should at least try to do so. It will lighten the financial burden of college greatly.
There are many different types of financial aid available to college students. A college education is affordable if a student considers all of the options open to them.