Whether you are starting college for the first time or the financial burden of school has you looking for assistance, financial aid is always on the mind of college students. Some students and their families are not sure where to start. Consider this your Financial Aid Crash Course.There are lots of confusing acronyms when it comes to financial aid, and perhaps the most important one is EFC, or Expected Family Contribution. It is a number that comes from analyzing your family size, total income, assets, and number of children in college to determine your financial strength. There are a few places to determine what your EFC is, including www.collegeboard.com and www.finaid.org.
Once you have determined your EFC, apply for financial aid at your college. Do not hesitate to apply for aid, especially if you feel you need assistance paying for college. The financial aid office will determine if you are eligible for aid, so do not be afraid to ask for it. Someone with a higher income but more children in college at a school with a higher tuition may receive financial aid over someone with a lower income and one student in a less expensive college, so do not assume that you are unable to receive aid.
An important piece of the financial aid puzzle is the FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This form determines whether you are eligible for government aid, including grants and subsidized student loans. This is a form you will need to fill out yearly, and you will choose which schools you want the information sent to. Depending on your school, you may also be able to apply for aid directly through your college or university. Ask your financial aid office or check your school’s website to see when the application dates are.
So what happens if the money you are able to receive through financial aid is not enough or you did not qualify for it? There are still lots of options! There are thousands and thousands of private scholarships out there that are waiting to help pay for your college. Many go unclaimed simply because no one qualified or applied for them. Each scholarship has its own set of rules and qualifications, but some are need based, others are merit based, and some are based on an essay. There are even scholarships out there for students who win a duck calling contest! There are no limits to the amount of scholarships you can apply for, and with enough perseverance, you may even be able to pay for your education in full! Start your search here: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/scholarship-search
You can also consider getting private loans to fund your education. There are many options available to you, and the best way to start is to educate yourself. Understand how loans and interest rates work, consider how long you want to be paying back loans, and decide how much you can afford. Many students end up buried in debt with no job prospects at the end of their education, so make sure you know what you are getting into before you take on private loans. They are a great resource and assist countless students, but knowledge is key when dealing with private loans.