Financial aid is money to help pay for college or career school. Aid can come from
- the U.S. federal government,
- the state where you live,
- the college you attend, or
- a nonprofit or private organization.
Besides financial aid, you also should think about what you can do to lower your costs when you go to college.
Aid and Other Resources From the Federal Government
The federal government offers a number of financial aid programs. Besides aid from the U.S. Department of Education (discussed below), you also might get
- aid for serving in the military or for being the spouse or child of a veteran,
- tax benefits for education,
- an Education Award for community service with AmeriCorps, and/or
- scholarships and loan repayment through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service, National Institutes of Health, and National Health Service Corps.
The U.S. Department of Education awards about $150 billion a year in grants, work-study funds, and low-interest loans to more than 14 million students. Federal student aid covers such expenses as tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. Aid also can help pay for other related expenses, such as a computer and dependent care. Thousands of schools across the country participate in the federal student aid programs; ask the schools you’re interested in whether they do!
Federal student aid includes:
- Grants—financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid (unless, for example, you withdraw from school and owe a refund)
- Loans— borrowed money for college or career school; you must repay your loans, with interest
- Work-Study—a work program through which you earn money to help you pay for school
Use FAFSA4caster to get an estimate of how much aid you might receive from the U.S. Department of Education.
Apply for federal student aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM). And remember, the first F in “FAFSA” stands for “free”—you shouldn’t pay to fill out the FAFSA!
Aid From Your State Government
Even if you're not eligible for federal aid, you might be eligible for financial aid from your state. Contact your state grant agency for more information.
Aid From Your College or Career School
Many colleges offer financial aid from their own funds. Find out what might be available to you:
- Visit your school’s financial aid page on its website, or ask someone in the financial aid office.
- Ask at the department that offers your course of study; they might have a scholarship for students in your major.
- Fill out any applications the school requires for its own aid, and meet the deadlines.
Aid From a Nonprofit or Private Organization
Many organizations offer scholarships or grants to help students pay for college. This free money can make a real difference in how affordable your education is.