It starts with a nervous feeling in your stomach and turns quickly into sweating hands and a thumping head as you become paralyzed with a case of "Financial Aid Fear". This is a common condition among many students and parents faced with applying for financial aid. Do not fear! There is help for this process. First, we cover some basic you need to know. Plus, we spoke to experts and students across the country about their advice on financing an education.
Q: What is financial aid?
A: Financial aid is money used to pay for your education. A student may receive financial aid in the form of loans, grants, scholarships or through federal work-study.
Q: What are the different types of aid?
A: There are several types of financial aid available. The most common types of aid are:
Loans: There are a variety of different loans available for prospective students. These loans are generally subsidized and guaranteed by state governments. In most cases, no interest is charged while the student is in school, and no repayment is required until six months after graduation or leaving college. The best place to start is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA form.
Grants and Scholarships: Free Money! It's true. A grant is free money given based on need. Grant money comes from the federal and state governments, schools and occasionally private groups. Scholarships are also given for free, however, they are usually based on merit in: academics, arts, sports or group affiliation. There are many scholarships available that you might not even dream of ,so searching and applying for scholarships, is one of the smartest things you can do to prepare for your education.
Federal Work Study: Although it's not "free money," Work-Study programs are a source of funds you do not need to pay back and the money is generally tax-free. Subsidized by the federal government the federal work-study program provides part-time jobs to students. These jobs are usually on-campus and generally require a student work a certain amount of hours per work as required to meet their financial needs and the employers.
Public Service Pays
One lesser known option to pay for school is through public service work. Sometimes referred to as fellowships you can contact the Fellowship Office or Financial Aid Office of the Institution you plan to attend for more information. These are not loans but rather an exchange of services in return for an education. There are three forms of public service-the United States military, the National Health Service Corps and Americorps.
Public Service Options
The ROTC: The Reserve Officers' Training Corp offers scholarships, which cover everything from tuition and books plus wages. The ROTC programs are offered through all four branches of the military (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps). The time commitments vary however; it is typical to serve 2 years for every year that you received a scholarship.
More information: http://www.armyrotc.com/
National Guard: National Guard service offers a monthly salary and covers a certain amount of tuition costs. Generally the National Guard service requirement is one weekend a month, and two weeks away a year.
Non Military Options
National Health Service Corps: This program is excellent for students pursuing careers in the health care professions. The scholarships cover tuition, books, and other school-related costs as well as a monthly stipend in exchange for work. Not only will this earn you an education but it will also help you get hands-on experience in a field related to your education.
More Information: http://nhsc.bhpr.hrsa.gov/
AmeriCorps: Americorps is one of the nation's most important service organizations. Serving over 430 programs across the country Americorps offers a variety of service opportunities that will help you pay for education. With services ranging from helping youth to building homes; you might be able to volunteer in an area related to your career goals, which will help you gain experience and earn money. There are full and part-time opportunities available with Americorps.