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5 Fast Facts about Financial Aid

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As the media bombards us with reports about the rising cost of college and frightening student loan statistics, parents are starting to wonder if they’ll ever be able to send their kids to college. Even though college prices have gone up, many students are able to pay for school with help from financial aid.

Brush upon your financial aid knowledge with these 5 fast facts:

1. Financial aid is money given to students to help them pay for college and education-related expenses such as room and board, textbooks and school supplies.

Financial aid is generally categorized into grants, loans, scholarships and work study. It comes from four main sources:

  • Federal government
  • State government
  • Colleges and universities
  • Private organizations or lenders

Some financial aid is considered a gift but other types must be given back, often with interest.

2. Some types of financial aid do not have to be paid back—free money for college!

While student loans must be repaid with interest once you graduate or leave school for other reasons, grants and scholarships do not. They can be considered free money for college.

Scholarships are typically based on merit or talents like good grades, high standardized test scores, playing an instrument or playing sports. Scholarships in the form of contests are also out there, as are scholarships based on physical characteristics, race, ethnicity or religion. Grants are awarded based on financial need.

Work study, in which a student performs a job at their college for pay, is also considered a form of financial aid. Work study funds do not have to be repaid, but you must work in order to receive them.

3. Most college students are eligible for financial aid.

Each year, the Federal Student Aid Office of the U.S. Department of Education provides more than $150 billion in federal grants, loans and work study funds to more than 15 million students attending college or career schools. Roughly two-thirds of all U.S. undergraduate college students receive some type of financial aid and the average amount received is around $9000.

4. It’s free to apply for financial aid for college.

If you want to apply for federal student aid programs such as those mentioned above, you must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Many state governments and colleges and universities also use the FAFSA to determine whether or not you are eligible for state financial aid or aid that comes directly from the school. Private lenders, or banks that offer student loans that are not tied to the government, may also use FAFSA information to qualify lenders.

Filling out the FAFSA is completely free—you can do it online at www.fafsa.ed.gov or submit a paper copy by mail. Once you are a college student, you will have to fill out the FAFSA each year.

5. Money for college is there if you know where to look.

Many students mistakenly assume that their family earns too much money to qualify for financial aid, but that is often not the case. You never know how much money you could receive for college until you file the FAFSA.

Most colleges, universities and career schools also offer scholarships or grants to help students attend their institutions. If you or your parents work, do a bit of homework—many companies offer scholarship programs or tuition assistance programs. Paying for college doesn’t have to be impossible!

Learn more about financial aid at StateUniversity.com, the Internet’s premier college and university directory:

Guide to Student Loans

Guide to Federal Grants


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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