Funding for post-high school education (including traditional four-year colleges, career colleges, and technical schools) can take several forms. These are outlined in the federal government's Student Aid website. Take a few minutes to look at this site, because it contains a lot of useful information.
Types of Student Aid
There are several types of student aid:
- Grants and scholarships (These do not have to be repaid)
- Student loans (These do have to be repaid)
- Federal Work-Study — This program provides part-time on-campus jobs for undergraduates
Who Awards Student Aid?
Financial aid for attending community, 4-year or technical college is awarded by:
- The federal government (apply using the FAFSA)
- States (for Missouri state aid, look at the Missouri Department of Higher Education's Grants & Scholarships website)
- Schools. Many institutions offer scholarships; visit with the financial aid officers of schools you are interested in attending to learn more about the application procedures.
- Businesses and organizations. Think about every place you regularly do business with, and ask them if they have a scholarship available.
To qualify for student aid, you must:
- Demonstrate financial need (in most cases)
- Possess a high school diploma or GED
- Be working toward a degree or certificate in an eligible program
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Have a valid social security number
- Register with the Selective Service (if required)
- Maintain satisfactory process once in school
- Certify that you are not in default on a student loan
- Certify that you will use federal student aid for educational purposes
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
An important step of the process for applying for college aid is complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Application deadlines for the various programs vary; many schools have their own application deadlines for completing the FAFSA.
A major part of the FAFSA application requests your tax information. Because you may not have your income taxes completed at the time your FAFSA application is due, use the information you have to estimate your income, credits, and deductions.
Regarding federal work-study, remember that not all on-campus jobs are federal work-study jobs; you should verify this when you apply.
Scholarships, Loans, and More
In addition to government websites, also look at:
- FinAid! The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid— Contains information about student loans, scholarships, saving for college, the FAFSA, military aid, and financial calculators
- Fastweb— An excellent online resource for searching for specific college scholarship opportunities. You'll be asked to create a short profile and will then be provided matches based on your inputted information. Also information about jobs, financial aid, and college life.
- Big Future (by the College Board)— Reliable information on paying for college
- Savingforcollege.com— Another great site that includes a calculator to estimate expenses based on your unique circumstances
Finding General Information About Colleges Online
Here are three excellent websites to search for colleges by size, program, and more:
- College Navigator — The federal government's official college search site
- College Scorecard — Another excellent government website for comparing colleges
- Trade & Vocational Schools — An online guide to trade and vocational schools
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