Unless your parents are able to pay for most or all of college, you’ll need to explore alternative funding options. Applying for the federal aid program is an important first step in securing funding. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education. Awarded approximately $150 billion in grants, loans and work-study funds. Another funding option would be to apply for scholarships to use toward your college tuition.

Federal Student Aid Program

Federal student aid consists of grants, work-study and loans. Grants, such as the Pell grant, come from federal or state government programs, and you don’t need repay them after you finish your degree. Work-study is a federally funded program that allows students to work on campus to earn money throughout each semester the student is enrolled. Money earned through this program is applied toward your college tuition and does not require repayment. Stafford loans, also known as subsidized and unsubsidized loans, are borrowed monies that you must repay after you are no longer enrolled in college courses. Subsidized loans are interest-free loans, whereas unsubsidized loans accumulate interest.

Applying for Federal Student Aid

To receive federal assistance for college, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA. This application requires information about income, financial assets and tax information from you and your parents. Once processed, information from the application determines your need for different types of aid. Colleges use this information to prepare a financial aid package for the year, including grants, work-study and loans. If you don’t receive grants or work-study, speak with your parents or guardians about other borrowing options, like private loans or the Parent PLUS loan. The financial aid office at your college can provide more information about borrowing options.

Scholarships for College

Scholarships are financial awards for college that you don’t need to repay. Each scholarship has specific criteria and a different application process. For example, St. Olaf College offers art scholarships for exceptional students, and the University of Iowa offers academic scholarships for high-achieving students. Find scholarships through your guidance counselor, college, employer, or via online scholarship search engines.

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