If you have a student in high school, likely the prospect of paying for college weighs heavily on your mind. However, the majority of students (from all income brackets) do receive financial aid for college. The key, however, is knowing how to apply for aid and how to look for financial aid programs that will work for you and your child. Here's how you can get financial aid for college.
Fill out the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, to apply for student aid from the United States government. There is no cost to fill out or submit the FAFSA. Obtain the FAFSA from the U.S. Department of Education website or by calling (800)433-3243. The FAFSA can be filled out electronically online or on paper. Be aware that the FAFSA is required by many aid programs and that it should be filled out as soon as possible after January 1st of the calendar year in which you plan to start college.
Check and see if the colleges or universities that you are interested in require any other forms to apply for financial aid. Some private schools use their own financial aid form or the College Board's College Scholarship Service (CSS) form. Check with the college or university's financial aid office or read your application materials to see what forms are required of you.
Consider loans as part of your financial aid package for college. Loans have to be paid back with interest, in most cases after you are out of school. You can obtain student loans (such as a Stafford loan or a Perkins loan), private student loans or even parent loans. For government loan programs, the FAFSA will be required. For private loans and some parent loans, talk to your bank or college financial aid office for information. You can also search for college loans using the Internet.
Apply for scholarships to help pay for college. Scholarships, unlike loans, don't ever have to be repaid. There are many ways in which you can find scholarships to help pay for college. You can search the Internet for college scholarships, using a free service such as FastWeb. You can also talk to a high school guidance counselor for available scholarship programs or to a financial aid officer at the college you are interested in about scholarships that are available. Scholarships usually are given based on merit or based on the applicant having some special characteristic or interest. Apply for as many scholarships that fit you.
Work as part of your financial aid package for college. Applying for federal work study programs on campus requires filling out the FAFSA. These work study programs are based on need. You may also consider working on campus in various positions that are not relegated for federal work study. The financial aid advisor at your college can help you figure out what positions are available on campus.
Talk to people in the know. Your high school guidance counselor can provide you with information on local scholarships and loan programs as well as help you fill out any necessary financial aid applications such as the FAFSA. The financial aid office at the college or university that you are interested in can also help you navigate the maze of financial aid. Stay in contact with these people through your application process. They will always help steer you in the right direction.