Financial Aid for College
Let's face it: college is EXPENSIVE. Ranging from $3,000 per year, to over $40,000 per year, the price of tuition in the United States is reaching staggering amounts. When you tack on the cost of room/board, books, food, and a social life, most students will have to seek financial aid of some sort to cope with the rising collegiate expenses. Luckily, there are more options than ever for students seeking financial help and we have put together some of the top options to turn to to help with college funding.
The most popular type of financial aid is a college scholarship. College scholarships are broken into three categories:
- Merit-Based Scholarships
- Activity-Based Scholarships
- Affiliate-Based Scholarships
Merit-based scholarships are based upon academic standings and are decided by factors such as GPA and strength of courses. Most merit-scholarships require that you write an essay (although not always) and also that you maintain a certain level of academic performance to receive the full scholarship distribution. This is the most prevelant type of scholarship and usually the most popular amoung high school seniors and college freshman. We recommend that you ask your guidance counselor about merit-based scholarships as they can do a good job of matching you with a local scholarship that will have less competition than some of the national scholarships.
Activity-based scholarships are given to applicants that excel in specific extracurricular activities. The most popular and well-known type of activity scholarship is an athletic scholarship, where star athletes are given financial aid by colleges that want them to play for their teams. Most of these scholarships will also require you maintain a minimal grade-point average, however it will definitely be lower than a merit-based scholarship GPA. A lot of times students will be 'scouted' by a recruiter and offered an activity-based scholarship directly without having to apply. You can also reach out to the head of the department who overseas your activity to request infomation on scholarships they offer. For example, if you are a talented musician, you should contact the head of the colleges music department and inquire about scholarships that you may qualify for.
Affiliation-based scholarships are given to students who are affiliated with a specific group or organization. An example of this is the NESA Scholarship that is available to men affiliated with the Eagle Scouts. These types of scholarships are more difficult to find and qualify for and are usually given out more on the local and regional level. We recommend checking local newspapers, magazines and periodicals for affiliation-based scholarships. Also, if you are affiliated with an organization that has a treasury or fund, it may be worth asking the people who handle these funds if they offer or have ever considered a scholarship for one of their members.
The second type of financial aid that students apply for is a College Grant. There are three types of college grants:
- Private Grants
- State Grants
- Federal Grants
Private grants are often administered by local groups, organizations or foundations. They vary in amount offered as well as the requirements to apply for one, so be sure to read the specifics for each private grant you come across. Your guidance counselor is a good option when searching for private grants.
State grants are given by certain states to students. Usually these grants are offered to students attending state universities (such as the California State college system). Student infomration is often obtained automatically from the FAFSA, so be sure to fill out your FAFSA as soon as possible. Guidance counselor or a quick Google search will also turn up a handful of state grants.
Federal grants are distributed at the federal level and have specific procedural requirements, the biggest of which is completion of the FAFSA. Federal Pell Grants are one of the most popular type of grants and don't require that you repay the aid. Most federal grants require that you maintain a minimal GPA in order to keep receiving grant money.
The final - and least appealing - type of financial aid is a student loan. There are two types of student loans: guaranteed student loans and parent-guaranteed student loans. Guaranteed student loans are given directly to the student by the financial aid office of the attending college. They are often easier to obtain than a traditional bank loan and can provide a student with a good opportunity in building credit (assuming they make their payments in a timely manner). Repayment of these loans usually begins six months after graduation. Payments can be a fixed amount or escalating amount (where the payments start lower and than increase as the student makes more money), or income based. A parent-guaranteed loan is similar except that it is guaranteed by the parent of the student so they are responsible for payment if the student can't.