There are many federal, State, and private financial-aid programs that offer loans, grants, and work study jobs to help students pay for a college education. To apply for them, you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The US Department of Education uses this form to determine how much aid you are eligible to receive. You may also want to work with a financial-aid counselor at the school to explore options, answer questions, and assist you through the process.
The financial aid process usually takes several weeks, or months, so it is helpful to apply far in advance of the first day of class. You can even apply before you are accepted at a school. It is important to pay attention to the date on which the applications are due, as late applications are not accepted.
Need based financial aid includes:
- Grants: gifts or scholarships that do not need to be repaid.
- Loans: borrowed money, which must be repaid over a specified period of time.
- Work: you earn money through a job that the school has helped you to obtain.
Note: For individuals on SSDI or SSI, grants are not considered income when they pay for school expenses (i.e., tuition, books, etc.), so they will not affect your monthly benefit check. Grants, however, are considered income when they cover living expenses.
Further resources on financial aid and help to begin the process:
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
The Financial Aid Information Page
Federal Student Aid Information Center
Box 84, Washington, DC, 20044
Phone: Phone (800) 433 3243 or (800) 730 8913