How To Secure College Financial Aid

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College financial aid is available to help you cover the costs associated with school. Here’s how to secure the funds you need.

The cost of higher education continues to rise. That’s why it’s becoming increasingly important to know how to secure college financial aid so that the cost of college can’t be a factor in stopping you from achieving your degree.


While there are alternative and more cost-effective means to earning a degree, such as attending a tuition-free school like University of the People, there are still costs associated with school that are necessary to cover while continuing to live your life. At UoPeople, one’s ability to pay for school is not a factor in the admission process, and by offering an online education that is US accredited and tuition-free, over 18,500 students have attended the degree-granting programs.


Regardless of one’s situation or school of choice, securing college financial aid can only be beneficial. Let’s take a deep dive into what financial aid is and how you can get it.



What is Financial Aid?

Financial aid is money that helps students pay for college to cover tuition, living expenses, books and supplies, room and board, transportation and the like. Financial aid can come in the form of scholarships, grants, loans, and work study. Many students combine various types of financial aid to cover all costs associated with earning their degree.



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How Much Does College Cost?

The cost of college varies by location, degree program, and institution. In general, private universities cost more than public universities, and in-state tuition is less than if you attend a college outside your home state or country. To get an idea of costs, for the 2017-2018 academic year, the average cost of a public, in-state institution in America was $25,290 a year. For a private institution, that number was about double at $50,900. Tuition alone at institutions in the U.K. is roughly $12,000 a year, with Australia, Japan, Canada, and South Korea all averaging between $4,000 and $5,000 per year.



How to Apply for Financial Aid?

From the numbers above, it’s clear to see how expensive college education can become. Because typical degree-granting undergraduate programs last 2-4 years, the costs quickly add up. But the good news is that anyone can apply for financial aid.


First and foremost, it’s important to fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). This data goes to the U.S. government and is sent to your chosen list of schools to assess and award financial aid in the form of loans (have to be paid back) and grants. Along with government applications for your respective country, there are loads of scholarships that you can apply to on your own based on eligibility and need.


Let’s take a deeper look into the types of financial aid available.



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Different Types of Financial Aid

Options for college financial aid come in many forms and are globally available.



1. Loans Around the World


As mentioned above, FAFSA is the starting point for applying for federal financial aid in the U.S. However, according to a study by NerdWallet, more than 1.4 million high school graduates never completed Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In effect, they lost out on a potential $2.7 billion in federal grant money. For any U.S. citizen or permanent resident, filling out FAFSA will offer an easy starting point to be awarded financial aid. These are just for government (aka public) loans. It’s also possible (but less advisable) to borrow from private institutions like banks and credit unions.


The government in Canada offers many types of student financial aid. They can be researched here.


The U.K. government offers tuition fee loans, as well as maintenance loans to cover living costs to new and continuing students. They can be found here.



2. Scholarships


For options outside of loans, which have to be paid back, you can apply for scholarships, which is essentially “free money” or gift money to help students pay for school. Scholarships are geared towards different eligibility groups, like scholarships for women, minorities, athletes,and first-generation college students, to name just a few.


A good first step is to fill out a College Scholarship Services (CSS) profile through the College Board, or check out your school of choice’s website for scholarships offered through that specific institution. For example, at University of the People, with its tuition-free degrees, there are nine scholarships available to help cover the course assessment fees.



3. Grants


Grants, like scholarships, offer money that doesn’t need to be paid back. Although the application process typically entails more than loans, as there may be letters of recommendation required and/or personal essays, the pay-off is that the money comes with no strings attached.


In the U.S., FAFSA is used for state-sponsored grants, but there are also grants available that mirror the way scholarships are offered in terms of eligibility requirements. Specific schools may also offer grants.


Be sure to check with the universities that you want to attend so you can be well informed and cover all your opportunities.



Alternative Options

Besides for the typical forms of financial aid mentioned above, you can also choose to enroll in work-study programs, ask for employer assistance, or take an alternative route to earning your degree.





This is a program where you can work while studying and take advantage of a portion of your paycheck being untaxed to be applied to school costs.



Employer Assistance:


Seek employment at companies that will help pay for part or all of your tuition.



Tuition-Free Education:


Choose to study at a university like UoPeople, where tuition is free and the only costs associated with earning your degree is a one-time application fee and then course assessment fees. Additionally, through the help of donors and funds, scholarships are available to cover the course assessment fees and, if need be, the application fee may be waived.



Dispelling Financial Aid Myths


Myth 1: Applying for aid affects your chances to be admitted.


False. Applying for financial aid does not impact your likelihood of being admitted to school.



Myth 2: All scholarships are merit-based.


False. Although many scholarships are merit-based due to academic achievement, government financial aid is based on need.



Myth 3: Private colleges offer more aid than public colleges.


True. Private colleges may actually offer more financial aid than a public institution in order to admit a diverse student body.



Myth 4: Once you receive financial aid from the government, it can’t be changed.


False, Most government financial aid will allow for appeals and can be updated throughout your educational career should your needs change.



Top Tips from the Pros

  • Start early and don’t procrastinate the financial aid application process
  • Be organized
  • Constantly check your email and spam folders for correspondence
  • Have your financial documents ready, like tax forms
  • Understand how loans work and the repayment options before signing
  • Use all government loan aid before applying for private loans
  • Start saving for college as early as possible
  • Only apply for scholarships where you meet the eligibility requirements
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help



Useful Resources