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The Broke College Student’s Guide to Finding Money for College

Money for college? It’s out there, all right. All you have to know is how to get it. If you’re seriously considering how to get funding for your college education, then best start your search now. You’d have better chances of getting money for your college education if you start looking ahead. Here’s why…

There are needs. Groups and institutions just don’t give away money. You have to earn it. Find out first if you’re eligible and then ask about the application process. There are forms to be filled out and filed, along with other documents such as your tax returns. Most colleges have filing deadlines in February and by that time, money reserves for grants may have already decreased, so it pays to apply early.

Your documents also need to be processed. Forms and accompanying papers will be sent to a center to be processed and once the calculations have been performed, you will be sent a form or letter informing you of how much actual money you’re going to get.

Where the money is
The best funding you can get for college is always the one that’s free, so let’s start there. These days, you’ll have to set your sight on federal and state grants. They have a better chance of covering for your college expenses since they make almost 40% of college costs. The rest are covered by scholarships and loans.

Grants are referred to as gift aid. That alone should get you interested enough to apply for one. What’s great about it is that it’s a ‘gift’ and doesn’t need to be repaid as long as you remain enrolled and maintain satisfactory grades. Look for:

Federal Pell Grants. This is the largest program that provides grants to students. Students can get from as little as a few hundred dollars to several thousand and can apply for it through their school’s financial aid department. These grants are need-based and are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s wise to apply early.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants. For students with the most financial need, these grants can cover as much as $4,000 of their tuition.

Institutional grants. These are grants you can apply for from colleges and are usually given when money from federal and state aids won’t suffice. Sometimes, it’s an add-on when a school is trying to attract a student into its fold.

State grants. These are financial aids given by many US states and are often on a need-basis. Some are even awarded to students who choose to study in a field like nursing or teaching. However, it does have certain restrictions, such as obliging a student to repay the grant if he refuses or fails to meet a pre-set needment.

For example, a Cal Grant will offer money to qualified students of teaching on the condition that they teach in a low-income area after graduation. Every $2,000 of grant money entails at least a year of work teaching.

Scholarships
There are hundreds of scholarship programs in the US that a student can apply for and win depending on merit and affiliation. Academic excellence has always been the top qualifier for a college scholarship, but for many students, that’s not the only criteria they have leveraged to get a hold of college money. Many organizations offer scholarships that are based on other criteria such as athletics and community service.

Check with your school regarding the availability of scholarships in your college of choice. Look to community organizations, local businesses and groups and civic groups for help as well, since these also offer scholarships and grants.

If you’re planning on pursuing a college degree in a special interest area, many clubs and associations also offer scholarships and special funding. Students who have enough initiative and resolve can actually win enough grants and scholarships to cover their college tuition up to tens of thousands of dollars, virtually allowing them to go to college free.

Still not enough?
Now that you have the money from numerous grants and scholarships, there might still be a need. It’s probably time you looked into student loans. Federal student loans have long repayment terms and low interest rates. They are given solely based on financial need. To apply, fill out a FAFSA form or go to their website at www.fafsa.ed.gov for more information.

Another option to look into are private banks, schools and educational loan organizations that offer student loans. Approval is based on the credit history of the borrower and interest rates may be higher than that offered with federal student loans.

The only downside to this option is that loans do need repayment and if you get a good amount, you might be saddled with bills long after graduation is over. They can fill your money gap, though and should be considered as a last course of action until after other options have been checked out.


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