Cost is a consideration for many students looking to earn their degrees. Students who need financial assistance have many choices, and the options below share how to get more financial aid and detail the necessary steps to take.
1. Federal Aid
The first step in your quest for financial aid is to complete the Federal Application for Free Student Aid (FAFSA). This form will show what federal aid you are eligible for, including grants and loans. Knowing this information will help you determine what other types of aid you might need. The form should be finished as quickly as possible. Although many potential students procrastinate on this task for fear of not receiving any aid or because the form is intimidating, doing so only hurts you. You may be eligible for more aid than you thought, and there are experts available to help you fill out the form.
Grants are a terrific option for students because they do not need to be paid back and they do not accrue interest. After your FAFSA is completed, you will be notified if you received any grants from the government or your university. If you have, you will be given a full breakdown of your awards. There may be further action for you to take, and a financial aid advisor is available to speak with you. Be sure to understand exactly how the funds will be distributed, as it may vary from year to year.
After you understand the full extent of your free student aid, you can begin your search for scholarships that help bridge the gap. There are several websites available to your scholarship search. Some easy to use sites are Cappex, FastWeb, and Zinch. These sites allow you to find scholarships that relate to your degree, demographic or just are available to students. For example, there are several scholarships available to returning students for specific fields of study. Make sure you know the scholarship requirements before applying and inform your school’s staff if you earn any outside scholarships.
4. Federal Loans
If scholarships and grants aren’t enough to pay for your tuition, it may be time to look for a loan solution. Federal loans should be the first option you seek because they have a much lower interest rate than any private loan. These loans are also automatically deferred until six months after you complete classes. To keep the costs as low as possible, make sure you only take out loans on what you need. Also consult with the financial aid office at your school before making the final decision.
5. Private Loans
Some students choose to take out private loans to pay for their degree.
If you are considering private loans, start at a bank where you already have an account. Because of your pre-existing relationship, the bank may offer you more favorable terms.
When taking out private loans, keep an eye on the interest rate and payback terms. Do not be afraid to shop around to find the best rates.
Help is Available
Understanding your different options can be confusing, but your institution has experts ready to help. When you are figuring out your financial aid, stay in contact with the financial aid office at your school. The staff is a valuable resource and has knowledge about all of the different options available to you, including ideas you may not have considered. At Point Park University, for example, our dedicated financial aid team works with students to take advantage of all available funding options.