Financial Aid 101
Financial Aid Officers
Financial Aid and Student Loan Introduction
Free step-by-step guide on financial aid with secret tips on saving money!
The financial aid process can seem overwhelming and intimidating at first, but it's easier to understand once the process is laid out. Here, we'll walk you through the basics of the process.
Determine What You Can Afford
A college degree is likely to be the second biggest investment in any person's life besides their house. Just as you'd take the time to shop around and do some research on a potential house to buy, so too should you invest the time in yourself to figure out what you can afford. Do your personal budget, compare schools, and see what's affordable. Be sure to pay attention to the financial aid calendar so that you don't miss any important deadlines.
Scholarships and Grants
Scholarships and grants are your first stop in the process of finding money for college. Scholarships and grants typically never need to be repaid, and as such are the preferred form of financial aid if you can get them.
FAFSA and Federal Financial Aid Paperwork
The FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the single-most important form you'll complete in the financial aid process for unlocking federal student aid such as government grants and loans. The FAFSA is also dependent on the IRS Federal Income Tax Return; we'll review all of the information you need to know about education tax credits and deductions.
- Read more about the FAFSA financial aid form
- Read more about education tax credits
- Read more about federal financial aid programs
Receiving Financial Aid
Once you've filed your FAFSA and applied for as many scholarships and grants as you're eligible to receive, you'll need to wait for financial aid award letters to arrive from schools. Once you receive them, you'll need to figure out what aid you will be receiving.
Federal Student Loans for Students
There are three basic federal student loans that students may qualify for after completing the FAFSA. These are the Stafford federal student loan, the Perkins loan, and the Graduate PLUS Loan. Depending on what program of higher education you're enrolling in, loan limits and terms will vary.
Federal Student Loans for Parents
Parents who want to help undergraduate children afford college are also able to borrow federally guaranteed loans called PLUS loans (Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students) to help pay for college.
Private Student Loans
When federal financial aid is insufficient, or education expenses exist outside of the coverage of federal student loans, private student loan can be used to "fill in the gaps" between federal financial aid and the full cost of education.
- Read more about private student loan
Repaying Your Student Loans
The process of repaying your student loans is even more important than the process of obtaining them. Prompt, on time payment builds a positive credit history and helps you obtain additional credit in the years after your education ends. Missing payments or defaulting on loans can do the opposite. Happily, there are a number of different options to help you repay your student loans, from payment plans to loan consolidation.