Types of Financial Aid
Federal Student Loans
More than 15 million students receive federal financial aid each year in a combination of loans, grants and work-study aid. If your financial aid package includes loans, only borrow as much as you need. Remember, you’ll have to pay it back with interest. Some students also use private loans, but these often have a higher interest rate and stringent repayment options.
Am I Eligible for Federal Student Loans?
To be eligible for federal financial aid, you’ll need to meet these basic requirements:
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Have a valid Social Security Number
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student
- Demonstrate financial need (for most programs)
How Do I Apply for a Federal Student Loan?
Your first step is to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The fastest and easiest method is to complete the form online, but a paper version is also available. Before starting, be sure you’ve collected all the necessary documentation, such as your driver’s license, tax forms and bank statements.
What Happens After I Apply?
Once your FAFSA has been processed, the U.S. Department of Education will determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which is shared with you and the schools you listed on the form. The EFC helps colleges and universities determine your financial aid package. After being accepted, you’ll receive a letter from your school detailing your aid options.
Can I Receive Federal Financial Aid for Industry Certifications?
Federal financial aid isn’t available for industry certifications (Microsoft, CompTIA, Cisco), but check with your employer as they may offer tuition reimbursement. You’ll need to make a business case outlining how your new skills will benefit the company. You also may be required to stay with the organization for a certain amount of time after completing your certification or maintain a certain passing grade. If employer assistance isn’t an option, you can also check with the company offering the course. Financing options may be available.
Grants, also known as gift aid, don’t have to be paid back and are awarded based on financial need. Often referred to as free money for school, grants come from the federal government, state governments, private organizations, nonprofits and colleges. If you have to pay for school with loans and grants, be sure to use free money first so you can borrow less.
How Do I Apply for a Grant?
Filling out the FAFSA will automatically put you in the running for a federal grant. It’s also a good idea to do some research on your own; you may find grant money in other places. A good starting place is your state.
What is the Pell Grant?
A Federal Pell Grants is a need-based award for undergraduate students who have not already earned a degree. The maximum award amount changes from year to year (it’s $5,775 for 2015-2016). In order to receive the grant, the school you attend must participate in the Pell Grant program.
How is my Pell Grant Amount Determined?
Your eligibility for the Pell Grant is based on a number of factors, including:
- Financial need
- Costs of attendance
- Whether you’re a part-time or full-time student
- Whether you’ll be attending school for a full academic year or less
Any other student aid you qualify for doesn’t impact your Pell Grant amount.
Scholarships are typically merit-based (instead of need-based) and do not have to be repaid. They come from a number of sources, ranging from local nonprofits to colleges. Scholarships are awarded to students for their outstanding academic achievements, athletic prowess, ethnicity or other characteristics. While there are the lucky few who receive full scholarships to school, many students are awarded anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
How Do I Find Scholarships?
The list of scholarships out there is seemingly endless, but you can narrow down your search a few ways. Start with the U.S. Department of Labor’s scholarship search tool which lists more than 7,000 scholarships. Your college’s financial aid office is also a good source for scholarship information.
How Do I Apply For Scholarships?
Start early. Some scholarships require you to apply a year before you start school. Since there isn’t one entity awarding the scholarships, you’ll have to complete a separate application for each. The requirements will differ—some may require an essay, while others don’t—so be sure to read the instructions carefully and meet the deadlines.
What Scholarship Options are Available for my Military Service?
The GI Bill offers education benefits to members of the armed forces, but it only covers a portion of the cost of college. If you’re one of the many military members interested in pursuing a technology degree, scholarships may be another way to fund your education. The following organizations offer scholarship programs to active duty military, veterans and family members of military personnel:
- Veterans of Foreign Wars
- American Legion
- Disabled American Veterans
- Paralyzed Veterans of America
Are There Scholarships for Women and Minorities in Technology?
Absolutely. In response to the growing concern that the tech world lacks diversity, more companies are funding scholarships specifically aimed at women and minorities in computer science and technology. Global organizations like Google and Microsoft are just a few who award money to students each year, but smaller companies offer scholarships as well. It may not cover the total cost of your education but every little bit helps.
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