Loans, grants, scholarships. The Big 3 of financial aid, and about the quickest financial aid overview possible. Several options are available to students, but how do you pinpoint the best direction to go? The easiest answer is to go with free money. So that leaves us with grants and scholarships as the best financial aid.Loans are certainly helpful as well, and are often a necessity. But in this case, each student loan taken out accrues interest over time, and once the 6-month grace period is over after graduation, that interest keeps piling up. Loans tend to leave the borrower with more debt than they started with because of this.
So, back to that "free money." Grants and scholarships are the best financial aid types because they thankfully don't ever have to be repaid. This is often referred to as "gift" aid. Grants are applied for commonly through the FAFSA (Pell Grant, FSEOG Grant, etc) and are many times provided by outside organizations too (You belong to the YMCA? American Slovak Society? check with them...).
Consider these federal grants:
- Federal Pell Grant. There are only a couple requirements. You must attend a participating university. The grant is based on an individual’s financial need. Keep up with schoolwork, though, as this grant may be revoked if their grades are subpar. Funds are sent to either the school or directly to the student.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Similar guidelines apply to the FSEOG. This grant is only for students with the highest financial need. The FSEOG provides to students who have low Expected Family Contribution (EFC) levels, unable to cover college costs.
And some scholarships... Scholarship money is mostly provided by schools (ask your financial aid office about this!) and outside organizations.
- Sallie Mae Scholarships. Winners are chosen at random, and award amounts range from the low $100s to full coverage of educational expenses.
- Corporate Scholarships. Yes, in the current economy those with big money are in the corporate world. So take some of it back! Companies such as Coca-Cola, Best Buy, UPMC, Dell, Panasonic, etc all have scholarship programs for high school seniors to apply for to fund the beginning of their college education.
Scholarships are highly competitive because there are so many students vying for one (or few) scholarship check(s). There are loads of them to be won, but must put your best foot forward when completing all application requirements so that you stand out (and in a good way).All in all, the best financial aid is that which has no strings attached and can only help you down the road. Gift aid is nothing but beneficial because it covers college expenses, often recognizes achievements and never has to be repaid! Financial aid questions? Need some clarification? Visit our solutions page to get the answers you're looking for today!