Financial Aid for College: Understanding Your Options

No matter the economic status of a student, it’s critical to explore all areas of financial aid for college. Earning a degree ranks among the biggest life decisions a person will make. Knowing where and how to get financial aid can make reaching that decision much less stressful.

The first step is knowing the types of financial aid for college that every student may qualify to receive. They include grants, scholarships, federal or private loans, and aid for military students. Touro University World offers a financial aid information page that explains these areas.

The following provides an overview for those who want to apply for school but are uncertain where to start searching for financial aid. Students likely will find at least one area beneficial, and perhaps more than one.

Fill Out the FAFSA

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step every student should take. The FAFSA form for the fall semester is typically available on Oct. 1 of the previous year. Grants and other funds may get awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier the FAFSA is filed, the better. Many schools also offer an early deadline for applicants that offers advantages but requires completing the FAFSA.

Before completing the FAFSA, students must first sign up for a FAFSA ID that allows them to use the system. Completing the FAFSA requires detailed information about your finances or the finances of whoever claims you as a dependent on their tax return. This includes assets (such as homes), investments, money in savings accounts, and other valuable property. That information determines whether you qualify for a Pell Grant and the loan amount you can receive.

Determine Eligibility for Grants

Grants award money for education expenses based on meeting certain criteria, typically financial. Students do not have to repay grants. Pell Grants from the federal government, which are offered based on economic need, are among the most awarded grants. However, college advisors can suggest other grants that a student may qualify to receive.

Apply for Scholarships

Organizations award scholarships for academic merit, gender, ethnicity, planned major – the reasons are endless. They come from many different sources. Governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and various types of associations all offer scholarships. It’s important to look at the possible sources in your local area. Universities also offer scholarships, such as the $2,400 Academic Opportunity Scholarship offered by Touro University Worldwide to students who transfer to TUW from other academic institutions.

Check Out Loan Rates

About 59% of college graduates under the age of 44 take out a loan to earn their degree. Students (and their parents) increasingly use loans to finance education because of the lower interest rates. Typically, the federal government issues student loans. There are, however, low-interest education loans available from private lenders. The key is to investigate loan rates and find the best one for the amount you want to borrow.

Military Financial Aid

For those who have served their country in the U.S. Armed Forces, a wide range of military financial aid is available. Most military students start with the Post 9-11 GI Bill, which can cover a large portion or even all tuition costs. TUW provides guidance for those who have served in the military and now want to transition into civilian life by earning a college degree.

The time spent searching for financial aid is time well spent. A college degree still leads to higher income and more life satisfaction, making it worthwhile to explore all the different ways you can pay to attain your degree.

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