Scholarships are available both from individual colleges and universities and through various companies and organizations. Most colleges have specific guidelines for merit scholarships that are awarded at entry to the school. These scholarships are usually renewable for each academic year provided the student maintains the GPA requirement. Students can also search for outside scholarship opportunities using a site such as Fastweb.com
The FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) provides information that colleges use to determine eligibility for Federal Financial Aid. The FAFSA form determines the EFC (Expected Family Contribution) for each student. The difference between the cost of the college and the EFC is the amount of aid that a student may receive
The CSS (College Scholarship Service) Form is required by many colleges and universities for financial aid consideration. The CSS profile includes information on home value and other assets not included in the FAFSA. Unlike the FAFSA, there is a charge to file this form.
There are two types of Federal Grants available for students. The Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grant. For the 2010–2011 school year the maximum EFC for a student to be eligible for a Pell Grant is $5273. The Supplemental Opportunity Grant is available for students who are at the lowest end of the family EFC. Neither one of these grants requires repayment.
Federal Work Study is another part of the Financial Aid pie. Work Study is campus based aid. Each school receives a pool of money from the Federal Government and can distribute to students based on need. Not all schools participate in this type of aid.
Federal Perkins Loans are available for undergraduates with exceptional financial need. A Federal Perkins Loan is a low-interest (5 percent) loan for both undergraduate and graduate students..
Stafford Unsubsidized Federal Loans accrue interest beginning with the release of the funds to the student. Students can pay this interest during their time in school to help to reduce their loan totals. In 2007-08, according to Finaid.org, the average debt of a college student at graduation was $24,651. 81per cent of students who applied for Federal Aid borrowed money to finance their education.
Stafford Loans that are Directly Subsidized are awarded to students based upon need. The interest on these loans does not accumulate until the student has left at least half time study. The amounts of the loans are progressive, meaning that the amount that students can borrow increases over the four years of college.
Parent PLUS Loans are also available from the Federal Government. Parents are able to borrow money up to the full amount of costs of attendance. You must have good credit to be approved for these loans.
Private Student Loans are also available through many banks and institutions. These loans typically carry much higher interest rates and the repayment terms are not as favorable as the Federally guaranteed loans.