Grants and loans and scholarships, oh my! With so many options to fund your college education, it’s easy to see how one might get confused. Here’s a basic breakdown of the most common forms of financial aid as defined by FinAid.org:
Scholarships: Scholarships are forms of aid that help students pay for their education. Unlike student loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid. Generally, scholarships are reserved for students with special qualifications, such as academic, athletic or artistic talent. Awards are also available for students who are interested in particular fields of study, who are members of underrepresented groups, who live in certain areas of the country or who demonstrate financial need.
Grants: Grants are a form of financial aid, based on need, which you do not have to repay. Most commonly, grants are awarded by the federal government and based on the responses provided on your FAFSA form.
Loans: An education loan is a form of financial aid that must be repaid, with interest. Education loans come in three major categories: student loans (e.g., Stafford and Perkins loans), parent loans (e.g., PLUS loans) and private student loans (also called alternative student loans). More than $100 billion in federal education loans and $10 billion in private student loans are borrowed each year. In order to qualify for student loans, you must complete the FAFSA form.
Here are some great books for you to borrow from the library to help you investigate general sources for scholarship funding:
- “Paying for College Without Going Broke” from the Princeton Review
- “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Paying for College“
- CollegeBoard’s “Getting Financial Aid“
- “The Best Value Colleges” from The Princeton Review
- CollegeBoard’s “Scholarship Handbook“
- Peterson’s “Scholarships, Grants & Prizes“