Financial Aid for College
An overview of the different types of aid, how to qualify, and how to get what's yours.
First things first, financial aid is not charity. Let's be clear, people and organizations give this money to students because it benefits them. Governments give aid because they want you to get your degree, get a great job, and then pay them taxes. Colleges give scholarships because they want great students who will bring clout to them in the future. So, never feel bad about taking financial aid - it just means that you are so amazing, others are willing to invest in you.
Now, let's talk about the four different ways that you can get financial aid.
A grant is FREE money that is given by the government. You do not have to pay this back, and it must be used for college. Here are some grants you can get:
Pell Grant - This is money from the U.S. government. You need to fill out the FAFSA in order to get this grant. You must be a U.S. Citizen or have a social security number & alien registration card to qualify. You'll also need some help from your parents to fill this out since the amount you get is based on how much money your parents make. You can access up to around $6,000 per year.
State Grants - Different states have their own grants you can apply for. Click on your state here to see the different programs your state has available. For example, in New York, the TAP grant is up to around $6,000 per year as well.
There are other federal grants listed here as well that are more specific. Check them out to see if you qualify.
A scholarship is like a grant, in that it's FREE money that you don't need to pay back, but they're more specific about their requirements. These are a couple of the different types of scholarships:
👩🏾🎓 Merit-based: These are awarded based on how strong a student you are.
💵 Need-based: These are awarded based on your family's financial income.
🆔 Student-specific: You can qualify for these based on different characteristics like gender, race, sexuality, religion, or medical history.
👩🏻🎤 Career-specific: You can qualify for these based on the career you plan to pursue.
🏫 College-specific: Some colleges will give out scholarships to really strong applicants to encourage them to attend.
You can find scholarships here and/or here, and filter based on your own characteristics. Be careful with scholarship searching - rely on sites that end in .gov or .org to be on the safe side.
Need-based aid can be particularly helpful - look for colleges that provide 100% need-based aid. This means that they'll cover 100% of your demonstrated need based on your parents' income.
Work-study is a way for you to earn money to pay for school while you're a student. Basically, you are given a part-time job that may or may not be on-campus, and you can use your earnings to help pay for college. Not every college participates in work-study, and the ones that do might have limited spots available. You can indicate interest early by filling out the FAFSA.
If it's critical for you to use work-study to pay for college, make sure you fill out the FAFSA. Once you hear back from them, you'll see if you qualify for work-study. Then, as you decide on colleges, make sure you know what work-study opportunities are available.
You can email financial-aid officers or the college's admissions team to learn more, and make sure you know the steps you need to take to secure a work-study opportunity. You can use this email template to reach out:
I hope this email finds you well. My name is [name here], and I'm a prospective college student. I'm really excited about [college name], and I would like to learn more about the work-study opportunities to ensure my family and I can support my attendance if I am accepted.
I took a look at the website, but I was wondering if you could answer a few of my questions:
- What percentage of students who qualify for work-study are able to secure a job?
- Are all work-study jobs on-campus?
- Outside of the FAFSA requirements, are there specific criteria to ensure work-study eligibility each year?
- What is the average pay that students are able to receive from work-study?
Thank you so much for your help,
Loans are money borrowed that must be paid back. And often, the lender will require interest. So if you borrow $2,000, the lender might say that it needs to be paid back with 5% interest. That means you have to pay back $2000 + $2000(0.05) = $2100.
Generally, you'll want to borrow from the government for reliability and security. You can find more information about loans here. But, the first step will be filling out the FAFSA, so make sure you do that first 🔥.
We hope that this is helpful for you as you plan for college. We know the financial aspect of things can be stressful, but just remember that there are more resources available than you might think. So, fill out the FAFSA, look into scholarships and work-study, and talk to your parents about potential loans. You've got this.