It's one thing to get into college. Footing the bill for college is another animal all together. Somewhere in the ballpark of 80% of college students require some form of financial aid to attend college. In order to meet this demand, there are many types of financial aid programs to consider. For the purpose of maintaining simplicity, I will define "financial aid" in two separate categories...money you have to pay back and money you don't. We'll start with the free money...who doesn't want some of that?
GRANTS & SCHOLARSHIPS - Free money? Yes, please!! And, there's plenty of it to go around provided you meet certain criteria. Depending on the type of grant or scholarship you apply for, there will be specific criteria required for eligibility. This criteria can be in the form of race, gender, age and other culture specific details, academic performance, intended degree plan, demonstrated financial need, etc... Criteria will vary based on the type of grant being offered. For example, schools may offer federal and/or state grants, institutional grants as well as private sector/special interest grants. In addition, scholarships are typically offered as institutional and/or private sector/special interest scholarships.
Free money is awesome! But, grants and scholarships often have stipulations that you must adhere to in order to utilize and maintain that free flow of green. Stipulations are usually associated with academic standing & other academic issues. So, be sure to have a firm understanding of the expectations set forth by each individual grant and/or scholarship.
Professor's Pearl of Wisdom:
Free money for school is an incredible gift. It's not a blank check for a shopping spree or otherwise. Honor and appreciate this gift by making the most of the opportunity to attend college on someone else's dime. Nobody deserves anything...including you. It would be a tragedy to squander what you don't even deserve, but were fortunate enough to receive.
Institutional grant and scholarship information can be obtained directly from the college you plan to attend. Other scholarship opportunities may be accessed by searching the following websites:
SCHOLARSHIPS.COM - Search for scholarship & financial aid opportunities by a variety of categories.
US DEPT. OF EDUCATION - Search for federal sources of student aid.
EROD DIRECTORY - Weblinks for state supported financial aid.
FASTWEB.COM - Database that will match your information to potential scholarship opportunities.
SCHOLARSHIPEXPERTS.COM - Comprehensive database of scholarship and loan opportunities.
SCHOLARSHIPS FOR ATHLETES - Specific information for student athletes.
OUTSIDE SCHOLARSHIPS - Ultimate scholarship database for current and prospective college students (a work in progress)
THE REALTY MEDIC - Scholarship resources.
STUDENT LOANS - If you are or come from a middle class family and/or lack "diversity" (this mean you are white according to the government, not according to me), you may find that you don't qualify for much of the grant and scholarship money available for the taking. If this describes you, as it did me, student loans may be your only option for funding your college career. The good news is that student loan money is generally available to most students and interest rates for repayment are moderately low. Before you borrow, be sure you know the difference between the various types of loans. The most popular types of loans are posted below (descriptions according to American Student Assistance):
Detailed information about each type of loan can be accessed at AMERICAN STUDENT ASSISTANCE
Professor's Pearl of Wisdom:
A loan is defined as "something lent or furnished on condition of being returned". A loan is not a gift. A loan is a debt, which means you are obligated to repay the money that you borrow. If you are under the impression that you don't "really" have repay college loans, you have been a victim of tomfoolery. First and foremost, you are a person of high moral character. No self-respecting borrower of tax-payer money would even attempt to avoid repayment. The legally binding promise you make to a lender is virtually nothing compared to the ugly stain that will be your reputation, symbolic of your character, your morals, your ethics and last not but not least, your credit score which follows you forever. Don't borrow money if you can't keep the commitment to pay it back. Creditors will work with you given your financial situation if "life happens". But, you must be proactive to avoid default status. It should also be noted that student loan debt is not forgiven should you file for bankruptcy. It follows you forever and ever and ever and ever and ever... infinity.