Does the high price of a college education make it seem like it is out of reach? Thankfully, multiple options for financing an education make it accessible to people of all backgrounds and economic situations. It just comes down to finding the right fit for you. In this article, we will be discussing the various loans, grants, and scholarships that are available to new and continuing students.
Loans vs Scholarships vs Grants
Many students stack a variety of funding sources together in order to cover the cost of tuition, housing, books, medical, transportation, and other educational costs. In addition to money from savings and work, options include a multitude of public and private loans, scholarships, work-study programs, and grants. Grants and scholarships should be considered first, since they do not need to be paid back. Loans are generally used to fill in funding gaps after all other options have been exhausted.
Whatever you do, do not forget to fill out the FAFSA and go through the financial aid application process at your school! There are early deadlines and you may need to start applying at least a semester in advance. If you haven’t been accepted by a college yet, don’t worry, they are set up to accommodate your situation. You can still fill out the FAFSA and simply select all possible colleges that you may be attending.
College Grant Information and Resources
Grants are not only an excellent option, but they also tend to be some of the easiest when it comes to applying. By filling out the FAFSA, you will automatically be assessed to see if you are eligible for a federal Pell grant. In addition, many universities offer their own smaller grants that only require filling out a few standard financial aid forms.
- Grants tend to be easy to apply for when compared to scholarships.
- They do not have to be paid back.
- Many are based on financial need or circumstances.
- Many grants are renewed annually so you can use them more than once.
- You still have to apply!
- Most grants are for small amounts and will not cover the full cost of tuition.
- Family income may disqualify you for grants that are based on financial need.
SallieMae offers a great way to start your search with their combined scholarship and grant search engine. Just follow their College Grants page to get started.
Grants.gov offers a massive database of over 500 grants in the Search Grants portion of their website. Don’t miss this chance to see what your options are.
GrantSmart has an informative Grants for College article that discusses the various types of grants and how they are allocated.
CollegeScholarships.org has over 100 links to various grant options. Their 101 College Grants You’ve Never Heard Of page is not to be missed.
Get Set to Apply
The US Department of Education has a Funding section that links to their internal resources for applying.
The College Board offers a guide on how to apply. Visit their The Basics of Grants and Scholarships page.
College Scholarship Information and Resources
Scholarships are an additional source of free money for college. Each individual scholarship comes with its own unique requirements. You will have to match up your own circumstances such as location, grades, and field of study in order to determine which ones are worthy of putting in an application.
- It is free money!
- There are so many unique scholarships that at least a few will probably fit your circumstances.
- Qualifying for a scholarship is an honor all on its own.
- Scholarships are competitive and usually have a limit to how many students they can assist.
- There tend to be extra forms to fill out.
- Recommendations (similar to a job reference) from teachers and/or employers are usually required.
- Many scholarships are based on merit and require active community involvement, a minimum grade point average, or other qualifications.
CareerOneStop has a Scholarship Finder that will help you easily sort through over 7,500 available scholarships to find the right ones for you.
FastWeb also offers a Search that includes scholarships, internships, and more. Signup is required to use the service.
Federal Student Aid, an office of the US Department of Education, has a Finding Scholarships page that should be on every future student’s must-read list.
MyCollegeGuide also offers more information on the subject. Just visit their Finding College Scholarships guide.
Get Set to Apply
The University of Oregon offers Scholarship Tips on how to go about applying for scholarships.
Indiana University South Bend offers additional advice on their Top Ten Scholarship Tips page.
College Loan Information and Resources
Public and private loans are available for a wide variety of circumstances. Some federal Direct Loans do not have financial requirements, while private loans tend to have more requirements and often require a parent or other responsible party to become a cosigner.
- The application for federal student loans is relatively easy.
- The annual caps on federal student loans are usually high enough to make an education at a state university affordable.
- Private loans are available if you do not meet the financial need requirements for other types.
- Unsubsidized direct federal loans do not require students to demonstrate financial need.
- Student loans must be repaid.
- Private loans usually require a cosigner.
- You may have to provide financial information to qualify.
- A good credit score is a requirement for many loans.
If you want to apply for private loans, check out the extensive Student Loans Search made available by Credible.com.
Simple Tuition also offers a Student Loans comparison and search engine.
The University of Connecticut financial aid office offers advice and information on federal and alternative loans on their Loans page.
The University of Washington also has a Loans page with links to several types of possible loans.
Get Set to Apply
Federal Student Aid will walk you through the application process starting on their Student Loan Process page.
US News has an excellent article on the process. Visit it at Know What to Expect the First Time You Borrow College Student Loans.
Resources for Special Groups of Students
There are scholarships, loans, and grants available based on a multitude of life circumstances. See if one of the resources below may help you to reach your academic goals.
EduPass offers some practical suggestions, advice, and links to help international students fund an education in the United States. Visit their Financial Aid for International Students section.
NAFSA Association of International Educators offers a guide to Financial Aid for Undergraduate International Students.
The University of the District of Columbia provides a directory of scholarship options (PDF) for students looking to study abroad.
Paying for Study Abroad – A guide from Carnegie Mellon University
Women and Minority Students
The SUNY Empire State College offers a list of additional resources and links on Financial Aid for Women and Minority Students page.
North Carolina State University offers an extensive list of scholarships on their Minority Scholarships page.
The NCAA offers information on what funding they provide to college athletes. Visit their Student-Athlete Benefits page to learn about it.
Northern Michigan University breaks down how college athletes are funded in their Athletic Aid Information section.
Military.com has a Federal Student Aid page that covers basic federal funding options as well as some military-specific ones.
GoArmy.com has an article on Army Reserve Financial Aid Benefits that explains the process and what is available.
Students with Disabilities
Disability.gov’s Guide to Student Financial Aid lists links and information for how students with disabilities can pay for college.
Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities (PDF) – A detailed guide from The George Washington University in Washington D.C.
Michigan State University Offers a list of sites offering grants for disabled individuals