If you’re planning on going to college, then one of your biggest concerns is probably how you’re going to pay for it. As you know, debt is a big problem for college students these days, especially those attending private institutions where personal debt can easily exceed $100,000. Due to the issue of debt, college financial aid is a major concern for those involved, since over the course of four years a lot of money is spent and very little is earned. College financial aid offices, however, can sometimes help students. However, if you’re already in college, you’re probably already a bit behind.
Believe it or not, one of the best financial aid strategies for college, especially if you’re attending a private college, is to get as many scholarships as possible. The reason, of course, is that scholarships are more attractive than loans, since it’s free money that never has to be paid back.
What is need-based financial aid?
Most colleges offer financial aid based on need and merit. Need-based aid is usually based on the amount of income your parents have, including the number of siblings, since your parents are expected to help pay for your education and the education of your siblings. Even if your parents don’t help pay for your education, the system assumes that they do.
What is merit-based financial aid?
Merit-based financial aid is based on your high school grades and activities. Private colleges are more likely to award large merit-based scholarships than public colleges, since private schools often have donors who donate scholarships in their own name or contribute to a particular scholarship fund. These institutional scholarships can cover up to at least half of the tuition each year.
Don’t be afraid to seek college financial aid in the form of scholarships from unexpected places. Look around your hometown for various community organizations that offer scholarships, such as the Knights of Columbus or the Humane Society. Although community organizations may not be able to contribute the thousands needed for your scholarship, it all helps, especially when you don’t have to pay it back.
Is there Federal Help for College Financial Aid?
Finally, if scholarships and your savings aren’t enough to cover your college expenses, you should probably apply for a student loan. First, complete the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) to verify the federal loans you qualify for. Someone at your college’s financial aid office will be able to advise you which loans are best suited to your personal circumstances and when to start repaying. Remember, while the prospect of paying for college can be scary, it’s still one of the best investments you’ll ever make.