Picking a college or university can be hard to do. If you are worried about paying once you get there, that can make the decision even harder. If you made it through economics, you understand there is no free lunch. In this case, there is no free money. However, you can find money that is freer than most for your college career.
Loans are often what come to mind first when thinking about paying for education. Loans can come with large pay off amounts, and can be confusing as to what loan is best for you. Grants, on the other hand can be a little simpler and more "free".
First, grant money does not need to be paid back. Grant money is awarded to whoever needs a grant the most, and whose application came in first. Generally grants are awarded to you, not applied for. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is used by higher education to judge monetary need. Plan to spend a fair amount of time completing the FAFSA. The form is available on the Internet and in hard copy. Complete one form in pencil first as practice for either mode of application you chose. You will also need to include a copy of the tax return from the year previous. Each school may have additional forms you need to fill out for financial information.
Four different grants are commonly awarded: Federal Pell, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity, State and Institutional. The Federal Pell grant program is the largest of the four. A college receives a set amount of this grant money to distribute among those students who most need financial aid. Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity grants are similar to the Pell grants, but have a set aid range of $100 to $4,000. The students who need the aid the most receive these awards.
State grants are dependent upon the state your college is in. In many state grants, you receive the grant with the agreement to work in your field for a certain amount of time after graduation. For example, a new teacher must teach at a low income school for two years or she must repay the grant.
Lastly, institutional grants are offered when no more federal or state assistance is available. These grants are provided directly from the college and can be used for encouragement with a highly desired student applicant.
If you are not chosen to receive a grant, or you do not think you are likely to be chosen for a grant, look into scholarships and loans. Though a very small percentage of financial aid comes from scholarships, thousands exist for all different amounts of money. Check consistently throughout the year, every year, for opportunities. Your college likely has a scholarship database, but you can also try online searches through specialized companies. A few good free resources exist, but many scholarship finders require a fee.
Talk with a financial aid representative from your school concerning loans. He will know which loans will work best for your situation.
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Gregg Hall is an author living in Navarre Beach, Florida. Find more about this as well as a government grants at www.getitnowplus.com
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