Financial aid for higher education includes grants and scholarships (free money that does not need to be repaid), work-study (a part-time job available to undergraduate and graduate students with financial need), and loans (borrowed funds to cover tuition and other college costs).
Many colleges provide scholarships based on merit or special circumstances such as coming from military families or being part of a minority student population. You may also find scholarship opportunities through national organizations, private businesses, foundations and charities.
Many families rely on scholarships as a source of aid to cover college costs. Scholarships are gifts that don’t need to be repaid and can reduce debt burdens significantly. Scholarships may be found from schools, private organizations, foundations and companies; merit-based awards may be available while others might focus more heavily on financial need considerations; there may even be national full-tuition scholarships that require extensive application work for eligibility consideration.
Grants differ from scholarships in that they focus more heavily on financial need. To qualify for one, students must fill out a FAFSA form; colleges then use several criteria – including grade point average and major choice – to decide how much of a grant to award; some grants have specific criteria such as maintaining a minimum GPA threshold, enrolling full time, or citizenship requirements that must be fulfilled for eligibility. In addition, some departments offer substantial departmental scholarships for those showing potential in certain disciplines of study.
Universities provide scholarships based on academic merit, such as Pell Grants and FSEOG grants. Financial aid offices determine the amount based on factors including cost of attendance and grades or test scores; students may also find grant opportunities from federal, state and private organizations.
Merit-based scholarships often have rigorous academic requirements such as high GPAs or test scores or special extracurricular interests like music, sports, art or community service that must be fulfilled to qualify. They’re an effective way to reduce college costs.
Search the Internet or consult with a counselor for college and private scholarship opportunities on the Internet or through any means possible – starting locally can reduce competition (national scholarships can attract thousands of applicants). Most scholarships require filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid; some do not. When students receive scholarships, financial aid offices subtract that amount from their cost of attendance when awarding it.
Loans are one of the most prevalent forms of financial aid. Unlike scholarships, however, loans must be paid back with interest; federal and private loans tend to be the preferred solutions.
Colleges often provide merit-based scholarship programs that reward students based on their grades, test scores, extracurricular activities and other achievements. Students and parents can apply for federal scholarships via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Merit-based scholarship applications typically require high GPAs, although each college may impose its own specific criteria and requirements. Some institutions even impose “bond” requirements that mandate that applicants work in certain fields or locations.
Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) is a state grant designed to assist low-income students pay tuition at New York State universities and colleges. Other state and local grants may also be available depending on eligibility criteria; private scholarships and foundation awards also provide more specific criteria than TAP or similar need-based financial aid programs.
Work-study offers eligible students an effective means of earning money to cover college costs without taking out loans, according to FitzGibbon. Work-study funds included on your financial aid award letter are distributed biweekly through paychecks that deposit directly into student accounts to cover tuition and other charges.
Work-study awards vary based on both your level of need and available funds, with awards typically distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. To receive this form of aid, it is necessary to apply for work-study jobs.
Your college career center will list available work-study jobs, while some departments hire students specifically for special projects – for instance, arts departments may need assistance in organizing concerts; students could be hired to handle ticket sales or assist with research projects. Off-campus job seekers may use Handshake as a job listing service that connects employers and students.