If you’re planning to go to college, then one of your biggest concerns is probably how you’re going to pay for it. As you know, debt is a huge problem for college students these days, especially for those attending private institutions where personal debt can easily climb to over $100,000. Because of the debt issue, college financial aid is of great concern to those involved, since over the course of four years a lot of money is spent with very little coming in. College financial aid offices, however, can sometimes help students along. However, if you’re already in college, then you are probably already some way behind.
Believe it or not, one of the best college financial aid strategies — especially if you’re attending private college — is to get as many scholarships as possible. The reason, of course, is because scholarships are more attractive than loans since it’s free money that never has to be paid back.
What is Need-Based Financial Aid?
Most colleges offer need-based and merit-based financial aid. Need-based aid is usually based on how much income your parents have, including the numbers siblings, since your parents are expected to help pay for your education and the education of your siblings. Even if your parents don’t help to pay for your education, the system assumes that they do.
What is Merit-Based Financial Aid?
Merit-based financial aid is based on your grades and your activities from high school. Private colleges are more likely to award large merit-based scholarships than public colleges, since private schools usually have donors who donate scholarships in their own name or contribute to a particular scholarship fund. These institutional scholarships can cover up to at least half of tuition fees each year.
Don’t be afraid to seek college financial aid in the form of scholarships from unexpected places. Search your hometown for various community organizations who offer scholarships, such as the Knights of Columbus or the Humane Society. Though community organizations may not be able to contribute the thousands needed for your scholarship, every little does help, especially when it doesn’t have to be repaid.
Is there Federal Help for College Financial Aid?
Finally, if scholarships and your savings aren’t enough to cover your college expenses, you’ll probably need to apply for a student loan. Firstly, complete the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) to check the federal loans for which you qualify. Someone at your college financial aid office will be able to advise which loans are best suited to your personal circumstances and when you should begin your repayments. Remember, although the prospect of paying for college can be a scary one, it’s still one of the best investments you’ll ever make.