Various types of aid are available for students who need help financing their education. The majority of undergraduates cannot afford to complete their education without some form of assistance. Here are the most common helpful ways to secure educational funding:
This is financial aid that must be repaid with interest. There are four main categories:
- Student loans
- Parent loans
- Private student loans
- Consolidation loans
Maximum interest rates are regulated for all federally-guaranteed loans. Many lenders choose to lower the interest rates to attract borrowers, and federal education loans tend to offer lower interest rates and more flexible payback plans than regular consumer loans.
Since rates and payment plans differ, be sure to research the best possible plan for your specific budget and circumstances. A simple key word search for student loans will produce a number of helpful (official) sites to aid in the decision making process.
Unlike student loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid. Sums of money are usually awarded to students in financial need with special qualifications in academics, athletics, art, particular fields of study or underrepresented groups.
The best way to see how you may qualify is to use an online resource like FastWeb scholarship search (currently the largest and most accurate and frequently updated scholarship database). Personalized searches match your specific background with a database of awards. There are several online search engines, many of which allow you to join a mailing list and be notified when a new scholarship matches your profile.
There are also small, local scholarships not listed on the vast online databases that you can find on bulletin boards at the library, high school, college and university guidance offices. In addition, college alumni and other private sponsors occasionally create scholarships with extremely unique eligibility requirements. Just be sure to check your school’s policy on outside scholarships.
Many students believe that scholarships are “too hard to find” or that they are only available to those with the most exceptional record. However, there are other types of scholarships you may not be aware of, such as scholarships for average students, community service scholarships and college scholarships for children grades K-8. Always check your information carefully though, as there are also a number of scholarship scams.
OTHER FORMS OF AID
There is a vast array of options aside from typical student loans and scholarships. Here are some other resources to explore on your search:
Free Scholarship Lotteries
Some sites give away scholarship and award money to attract site traffic. You can find lists of these online, but be careful of scams!
- US Federal Government Aid
- US State Government Aid
- Section 529 Plans- Prepaid tuition and college savings plans
- Volunteer and Community Service Scholarships
- Military Aid
- Education Tax Benefits
College Controlled Aid
- School Financial Aid Office Websites- Policies, procedures and applications deadlines.
- Tuition Payment Plans- Installment plans that divide tuition into monthly payments.
- School-Specific Programs- Scholarships, Fellowships and Grants offered at particular schools.
- College Partnerships- This allows students to transfer easily between a two year community college and a four year college.
Student Profile Based Aid
Here are some of the more popular categories:
- International Students
- Canadian Students
- Students with Disabilities
- Older Students
- Jewish Students
- Minority Students
- Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Students
- Undocumented/Illegal Alien Students
- Cancer Scholarships
- Prestigious Scholarship and Fellowships
Once you find out what you may qualify for, there are plenty of online resources that offer calculators to help you better understand your borrowing options and cost of interest. If repayment becomes too difficult, there are also Loan Forgiveness programs that allow you to pay off debt through work or community service.
Financing an education can be quite a challenge, and many students are unaware of the resources available to them. But educational funding deserves careful consideration. The benefits are worth it!