The good news is that most all students receive some sort of financial assistance. And while good grades will certainly help your cause, a lot of financial aid is awarded based on financial need also.
It’s important, though, to understand the different types of aid that will be available to you.
Grants: Usually given based on need and – this is important! – do not require repayment.
Scholarships: Typically awarded based on academic achievement, skill, ability or community service. Scholarship money does not need to be repaid.
Student loans: Money borrowed from a bank, the government or an educational institution that must be repaid. However, low-interest loans are available, and you don’t have to begin repaying the loan until after you graduate or leave school. (However, depending on the type of loan, you may have to pay interest on the loan while you’re in school. Be sure to check and fully understand the terms of the agreement.) It’s important to try to gather as many scholarships and grants as you can so that you can keep your loan amounts as low as possible.
Work-study programs: Enable students to earn money to offset the cost of their education.
Get your shareAn important key to obtaining financial aid is making sure you apply early. Many scholarships and grants are available on a limited basis; if you wait too long to apply, the money will have already been awarded.
Two kinds of scholarships are available: institutional grants awarded by colleges and universities, and outside grants awarded by other organizations.
Institutional scholarships/grants are usually based on merit, financial need or both. For outside grants, research your eligibility. In other words, where you live or a family member’s job can make you eligible for certain scholarships. There are scholarships for left-handed people, musicians, athletes, students whose parents work in the equine industry, animal lovers, artists, people who’ve had certain diseases – the list goes on and on.
Although many scholarship/grant rewards may be small, the number of scholarships for which you can apply is limitless. This means there’s an opportunity to gather a significant sum of money toward your education, and unlike loans, scholarships and grants don’t have to be paid back.
When to applyMost outside scholarship programs have application deadlines in February or earlier. Some, including the National Merit Scholarship, require applicants to take the PSAT/NMSQT in October of their junior year.
To be considered for most student aid, you have to use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Forms like the FAFSA and CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, which certain private colleges also require, can be filed online.
The information you submit on the FAFSA is based on your tax information for the year ending on Dec. 31. In order to meet financial aid deadlines, it’s critical that you get the FAFSA forms completed as soon after Jan. 1 as possible – even if it means using estimated figures. The longer you wait to file the FAFSA, the more likely it will be that colleges will have run out of money by the time they receive your application.
Don’t procrastinate. Staying on top of things and getting your applications filed early can pay off in a big way!
Financial Aid Resources
Federal Student Aid Information Center: (800) 4-FED-AID (800-433-3243)
Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA): (800) 928-8926
On the Web
College Board: CollegeBoard.com/student/pay
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): fafsa.ed.gov
Go Higher Ky: GoHigherKY.org
Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA): kheaa.com
Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation: kheslc.com
U.S. Department of Education: studentaid.ed.gov
Student Loan Comparison ToolThe Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority offers the KHEAA Student Loan Marketplace website, a loan comparison resource, at kheaamarketplace.com. The site provides side-by-side comparisons of personalized private loan rates and terms to students attending colleges and universities served by KHEAA in the state of Kentucky.
Instead of showing a range of rates or "as low as" advertisements, the KHEAA Student Loan Marketplace delivers personalized rates and terms to users based on their own credit information with a complete listing of loan terms, including total cost, monthly payment, interest rate and APR.
The Marketplace enables a safer, more efficient loan shopping experience for students by using a single credit report to match borrower information with multiple lenders’ products, and allows them to choose which lender, if any, receives their information.
The Student Loan Marketplace connects students and their families to loans from a range of lenders, including attractive products from credit unions aiming to serve their communities with affordable student loans.
How much will college cost?You know that a college degree is the most important investment that you can make in your future. That investment begins with paying all the costs associated with obtaining a degree from a college, university or technical school.
Fortunately, information about what to expect in the way of expenses is readily available on the Internet. The total cost of higher education generally comes from these areas:
Tuition and fees: Depends on your academic program and the number of credit hours you are taking.
Room and board: Charged by the college if you live in a residence hall and take meals on campus. If you live off campus, you’ll have to estimate these expenses.
Books and supplies: Textbooks, specific equipment/instruments/tools for a class, computer, printer.
Personal expenses: Cell phone, clothing, coffee, entertainment, laundry, pizza, tickets to sporting events, etc.
Transportation and travel: Depends on where you live and where you attend school. Driving a car to and from class, for example, means paying for gas, insurance, maintenance and possibly parking permits.
How to Land a ScholarshipThere are literally millions of college scholarships out there – the trick is finding them. If you’re willing to invest some time, it can pay off in a big way.
One college admissions counselor tells of a student who was determined to find the money to put herself through college. As a junior in high school, she began devoting time each day to searching for and applying for scholarships. By the time she graduated from high school, she had pieced together enough scholarships and grants to manage a full ride to a private four-year college.
Here are some tips:
Search for scholarships. Web sites such as FastWeb.com let you create a profile and then notify you when opportunities are available. Check the local chapters of national organizations such as Rotary Club, Lions Club and Elks Club. Many offer scholarships to local students. Also visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship tool.
Study hard and get good grades. SAT/ACT scores do count. Note that your involvement in school, church and community activities will make your application stand out.
Fill out your scholarship application as neatly as possible. Check spelling and grammar.
Select the right people to write your letters of recommendation.
Don’t shy away from scholarships based on difficult essays. The harder they are, the fewer people apply. That means less competition for you.
Be honest. Never lie about finances, grades or work experience.