The financial expenses associated with earning a college degree can be overwhelming for anyone to handle alone. Luckily, plenty of financial aid options are available out there if you look in the right places and are careful about meeting requirements and deadlines. Many schools offer you financial advisors who can help you through the financial aid process and give you resources to look through for loans, grants, and scholarships.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required for financial aid. It's easy to fill out online after you register for a Personal Identification Number (PIN) with the U.S. Department of Education. When you're filling out the FAFSA, there are several pieces of information you need to provide, including:
- Social security number
- Driver's license number
- W-2 forms
- Federal income tax return
- Current bank statements and records of investments
- Records of untaxed income received
- Business or farm records, if applicable
- Alien registration number if you're not a U.S. citizen
If you're a dependent student, you'll also need your parent's Social Security numbers and their income and financial records. Use the records from the year before the academic year for which you're applying for financial aid.
Filling out the FAFSA can gain you access to several kinds of federal loans if you qualify. These loans include Federal Subsidized Stafford Loans, which don't accrue interest while you're attending school; Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, which accrue interest at a low rate while you're attending school; and Federal PLUS loans, which are borrowed by a parent.
Federal grants, which you don't have to pay back, are also available to you once you've filled out the FAFSA. These include Pell Grants, which are based on financial need; Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which are based on financial need and awarded by your school; and Academic Competitiveness Grants, which are based on Pell Grant eligibility and specific academic requirements.
Other grant opportunities as well as private scholarships are available from a number of organizations, including the college you're enrolling in. For example, Rasmussen College offers multiple scholarship opportunities. Each scholarship has its own requirements and applications. You might have to do an interview, write an essay, or enter a contest. It's a good idea to apply for as many as possible. Fastweb.com and Finaid.org are two good websites that can direct you to opportunities.