Options: Finding Financial Aid

By The FoolProof Team

Begin your search by filling out the scholarship and financial aid applications for any school you apply to. Financial Aid offices are very knowledgeable, and a major purpose of most is to work with prospective students to put together a financial aid package that will enable an academically qualified student to attend their institution.

FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid ...and more
The next step is to fill out the FAFSA—Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The U.S. government provides a number of grant and loan programs to help finance higher education. To apply for any federal aid program, you and your family must submit the FAFSA. The information provided in this form is used to determine what federal aid you may be eligible for. Most colleges and universities also use the federal FAFSA form as part of their financial aid process to qualify students not just for federal grants and loans, but also for their own scholarship and financial aid programs.

There is no fee to file the FAFSA. It must be filed only once and preferably should be submitted online. The FAFSA website also provides information for completing the form. If you prefer using paper forms (a much slower process), such forms are available from the Financial Aid Offices of individual schools and from the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 1-319-337-5665.

A wide variety of scholarships are available beyond those offered by colleges and universities. Scholarships are offered by corporations, community organizations, national organizations, religious organizations, government organizations, and foundations. You don't need to be an athlete or the smartest in your class to receive a scholarship. Numerous scholarships exist to award excellence in particular fields or for special student populations.

For example, some scholarship programs recognize excellence in music, visual arts, theater arts, science, or entrepreneurship, just to name a few. Other scholarships may be designated for women, minorities, or other groups. Individual companies may offer scholarships for employees or employees' children, local community residents, or study in a specific field. Other scholarships may be available after you have completed a specific amount of study, for example a semester or year.

Scholarship information is available from your high school guidance counselor's office, local library, college library, college or career school financial aid office, and particularly the Internet. You don't need to pay for help in finding scholarship and financial aid information. Nor do you need to use a fee-based scholarship search service. Many of these so-called scholarship services or seminars are only interested in taking your money not in helping you locate and apply for actual scholarships. The Federal Trade Commission has posted useful tips for checking out scholarship search scams.

You can find scholarships online, particularly those offered by groups and institutions other than colleges and universities. An excellent website, FinAid! provides a guide to Financial Aid including links to several scholarship search sites.

Apply for several scholarships. Most scholarships usually cover a small portion of tuition and fees, so one scholarship is usually not enough.

Other Sources of Financial Aid
This credit union probably has products to help pay for college. Check out their website.

Scholarships might also be available from professional organizations that you or your parents belong to.

Looking for Student, from the U.S. Department of Education, is a good resource.

Done? Go to Avoiding Scholarships and Financial Aid Scams