No matter your age, making higher education affordable is always a challenge and knowing how to find financial aid grants is a very important tool. In fact, most students receive some type of financial aid during their school career, but are eligible for much more and never apply simply because they do not know how.
According to a recent Washington Post article, most students graduating this year will walk away with $26,500 in student loan debt $25,00500 on average for someone earning a bachelors degree from a public college, $32,300 for those graduating from a private nonprofit four-year college and $39,950 for those graduating from for-profit four-year colleges.
The Difference Between Grants and Loans
Financial aid comes in several forms which include loans and grants; grants being the more desirable of the two. As opposed to a loan, grants are considered gifts and do not need to be repaid. Scholarships and fellowships also fall under the same category of a grant because they do not need to be repaid.
Start with the Biggest Opportunities
The federal government is the largest source of financial aid for school. To be considered for financial aid at the federal and state levels of government, complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Contact the State
Every state has different offerings concerning financial help for higher education. Contact the U.S. Department of Education’s Educational Resource Organizations Directory to find your state. The site provides information on each state’s education programs, financial assistance programs, grants, financial aid assistance, and career opportunities.
Grant and Scholarship Database
One way to find out what kinds of aid might be available to you is to do an online search of a grant and scholarship database. Many companies, organizations, clubs, and nonprofits award scholarships based on their own set of criteria. You might be eligible based on need, area of study, work or life experience, religious affiliation, ethnicity, or location. Without doing an exhaustive online search, it is impossible to know the availability of every award for which you are eligible. It is important however, to watch out for scams. Always use a reputable source for finding scholarships.
- U.S. Department of Education’s Educational Resource Organizations Directory
- College Board Scholarship Search
Check with the School
Talk with the school’s financial aid office. Financial aid counselors will know of resources that other students have used, and are most likely to know of companies and organizations that favor your area of study. The school might also offer special scholarships of which you might not be aware.
CCU wants education to be accessible to all and helps students explore all financial aid opportunities including, scholarships and grants, loans, and student employment programs. The School also offers a very valuable resource, Your Guide to Financial Aid.
If you are working, your company might offer tuition assistance, especially if the area of study is related to your job. Higher education makes you an even more valuable employee, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Trade and Professional Organizations
Once you have chosen your area of study, research and contact the professional organizations that serve that industry and find out if they offer any forms of tuition assistance. Some organizations have unadvertised grants, contests, and awards for people pursuing jobs within their particular industry.
Many people do not take advantage of all the help available to them, mostly because they do not know how to find financial aid grants. Take the time to do your research and follow up on every opportunity. You’ll see a boost in aid that makes your dream of a higher education possible.