Financial Aid Helps Offset College Costs

Financial assistance is available from a variety of sources

Each year, parents and students search for financial aid resources to help pay for college costs. While it can be overwhelming to think about, particularly when prior financial preparations have not been made, financial aid for college can be a life saver. Financial assistance for college can be acquired through grants, loans, and work-study programs, which help students to work while paying for school.

Educational grants

The Pell Grant is one of the most popular forms of financial assistance for undergraduate students. With a Pell Grant, students may receive up to approximately $4,050 that does not have to be repaid. Another popular federal grant is the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), which is available for undergraduate students who can demonstrate extreme financial need. With SEOGs qualifying students may receive up to $4,000 for each year they attend.

College scholarships

Scholarships are another option for financing a college education. Like grants, scholarships do not have to be repaid. However, scholarships differ from government grants in that they are awarded based on specific academic criteria. If students who receive scholarships fail to continue satisfying the minimum requirements, usually include a specified grade point average or participation in a sport or other activity, scholarships can be withdrawn.

Compared to the relatively few government options for educational financing, scholarships are available and numerous and a student can often qualify for more than one at a time. Scholarships are generally awarded by non-profit organizations, and there are literally thousands of them. Students can apply for more than one scholarship at a time and, if enough scholarships are received, they can cover the entire cost of a student’s college education.

Plan ahead

No matter how you pay for college, it’s best to begin exploring options and making investments as early as possible in a child’s pre-college education. Financial aid, grants, and scholarships are widely available, but it’s a good idea to apply for them before the student actually needs them. Most students wait to apply for federal financial aid until they’re seeking admission to a college or university. Very few are aware that applications for government aid can be made ahead of time. In fact, it’s recommended that anyone considering applying for government-sponsored financial aid should apply sooner, rather than later because aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. It is advisable to begin applying for government aid in January of the year that a student intends to commence his or her college education.

A necessary luxury

Attending college is a luxury, there’s no arguing with that.  In terms of both career opportunities and personal achievement, however, a higher education is also something of a necessity. Although a college education is an expensive undertaking, financial assistance is available and should be utilized whenever possible. For further information and answers to questions about college financial aid, visit the Department of Education website at www.ed.gov. For help finding scholarship opportunities, visit www.fastweb.com, which maintains a database of more than 175,000 available scholarships.

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