High School Students Should Understand The Many Financial Aid Options Available To Them
By Courtney White, Stride Success Coach
To call college expensive is an understatement. With the average college asking you to pay between $10,000 and $36,000 per year, most college students depend on some combination of financial aid, scholarships, and/or loans to foot the bill. However, as a high school student weighing college options, the world of financial aid can feel overwhelming. If you're struggling to understand financial assistance, here's a simple explanation of the different options currently available, to help make your college dreams a reality.
Needs-Based Financial Aid
Needs-based financial aid comes directly from your college, or university, based on your family's income. To get needs-based assistance, you usually need to fill out the FAFSA or the CCS profile, which your school will use to determine how much aid you will receive, in the financial aid package that accompanies your acceptance letter. Many people don't know that, if you don't receive enough aid, you can appeal to your school and try asking for more assistance. I highly recommend trying to do this; the worst thing they can say is ‘no!’
Merit-Based Financial Aid
Merit-based aid is what many people typically think of as scholarships. This aid, based on your academic and/or athletic accomplishments, is awarded to you by your school, with your acceptance letter. While some schools don't offer merit-based financial aid, those that do will use it to incentivize high-achieving students like you to come to their school!
Federal Loans and Grants For Financial Aid
The government has many programs to help you finance your education. Federal grants, such as the Pell Grant, are a great way to get money that you don't have to pay back. However, if you aren't awarded a grant, taking out federal loans, which you will pay back over time, is another viable option. Taking out loans is a very serious decision that will affect your finances for many years to come… so, be sure to carefully consider what it means for you, and your family, before deciding to take on a large amount debt.
Third-Party Scholarships For Financial Aid
Third-party scholarships are a great way to cover the gap that financial aid and loans won't cover. While finding, and applying to, scholarships may take a significant amount of time, I recommend applying to as many as possible. A great place to start your search for third-party scholarships is finaid.org.
Work-Study To Help With Financial Aid
Work-study is another way to finance your education, in partnership with your school. By taking on a campus job, you can help to pay for part of your tuition. Most work-study jobs will require you to work between 10 and 25 hours a week, so it is a significant commitment, but it will make college considerably more affordable. If you're looking for more information, the “Department of Education explanation” is an excellent place to start.
Getting College Credit In High School, As Financial Aid
An option that many students forget to think about is getting college credits in high school. By knocking out credits as early as possible, you can spend less time in college and, ultimately, less money on tuition! You may have to be proactive to get these credits, but it is definitely worth it! Be sure to talk to your school counselor to learn more.
Interested in learning more before choosing a college? Be sure to check out the podcast, “A College Recruiter Discusses How To Help Teens Take A Step Forward On The Path to Their College And Career Dreams!”
Feel like you need some more guidance in getting started on your college planning and/or career prep? Make sure you read How To Find A High School Career Coach, as well!
Ready to get an active jump-start on your career plans and college admissions? Make sure you check out Stride Success Coaching: https://www.stridelearning.com/career-prep/career-exploration/student-success-coaching.html
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