You can find money for college in a variety of places; it's just a matter of knowing where to look. The three most common types of financial assistance offered include grants (which you do not have to pay back), scholarships (again, you do not have to pay back), and loans (which you DO have to pay back). Depending on the type of loan, you could pay back the interest while in school (unsubsidized) or wait until you either graduate or fall below half-time credits (typically 6 credits or less; subsidized). There is also the possibility of work-study; you would find a job on campus, and you would work off your loan debt. The money is actually awarded to you as a lump sum, but in order to get to that money you have to work a certain number of hours in a semester. Sometimes employers help foot the bill, so long as your grades remain at a C or higher and are applicable to your field of work.
You'll need to sign up for the FAFSA (Federal Application for Financial Student Aid); when you do you'll be given a password. Treat this password like gold, because if it's lost or forgotten it tends to take a few days to re-retrieve or be reassigned a new password. When it comes to financial aid, the faster you move, the better!
The FAFSA application you filled out will be reviewed; if approved (which 99.9% of the time you will be) you can choose a lender from a variety of student lenders. You'll sign a contract, or agreement, known as a Master Promissory Note, which basically states that yes you will pay this money back once you graduate or certain other stipulations are met that are outlined in the contract. The funds will be sent to your college or university of choice once your Master Promissory Note has been signed and approved. Tuition is taken out first; any remaining money is sent to you as a refund check. You have the option to either accept or reject this extra money, but trust me: you can use this for other costs, like books, housing, food, gas, etc.
GRANTS / SCHOLARSHIPS
Finding a scholarship could be as easy as walking in to a local store and asking at the service counter if they have applications for scholarships. Companies tend to use this money as tax write-offs; if the money never gets used, the companies do not get the tax credit. Other places to look include:
1) Your high school guidance office
2) Your employer's human resource office
3) Online (try search engines like Google)
5) TV ads
6) Radio ads
7) From family and friends.
When looking for grant and / or scholarship money, you should be aware of a few things:
1) If you can not find pertinent information within five minutes, such as how to go about applying for the scholarship or who to contact in case you have questions, do not spend any more time looking at the information. It's just not worth it!
2) If you DO find a worthy grant or scholarship, post the information on a social bookmarking site, like Facebook, Myspace, Del.ici.ous, etc. The reason why some very good opportunities are missed is because they're not advertised well enough. Spread the word, and more people can get the education they need and want.
3) You do not need to demonstrate financial need and / or a specialized skill in order to be eligible for a scholarship; you just need to put forth a little effort. Sometimes all you need to do is fill out an application!
WHO CAN APPLY FOR FINANCIAL AID?
Grant and scholarship money is not just for high school students going on to college; there is help out there for every imaginable group of people. From working mothers to minority groups, from physically challenged persons to non-traditional students, anyone could find a grant or scholarship fund set up for a specific group and go after it! It just takes a little work and organization, but you could end up graduating with little to no student loans to pay back.
WHY EARN A COLLEGE DEGREE?
The option of obtaining a higher education should not be one thought of just by upper-middleclass families; it is a right to every US citizen. When citizens are educated, communities function better. When communities function better, states tend to do better. When the states of the Union are all doing well, the country as a whole has a chance to progress. By attending college yourself or helping your children attend, you are ensuring the future of the US That is why there is so much financial aid out there; the government NEEDS educated citizens in order to function in the world, and they will help out in whatever way possible to make this happen. College graduates also tend to earn over a million dollars more in their lifetime; they tend to also have higher self-esteem and be more healthy than non-college grads; and not to mention they have more opportunities open to them in the work. In this rough economic climate, having more options to choose from is very appealing!