Financial aid works on a first come, first served basis. Get familiar with the different aid packages that are available as early as possible.
- Step 1: Explore options through the Federal Work-Study program. Through the program, students in financial need earn money through on-campus jobs to pay education-related expenses.
- TIP: Join the military or R.O.T.C. to earn a degree while serving, or earn up to $50,000 for college from the GI Bill or the Army or Navy College Fund.
- Step 2: Fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form based on your income taxes from the previous year. If your financial situation has changed, you can go back and convince them that you need more money. Don't stop trying.
- FACT: The average U.S. tuition, fees, and room and board rates charged for full-time students at 4-year colleges in 2009 was $19,362.
- Step 3: Track down private company grants. Accepting a private benefactor's sponsorship is a lucrative investment for them and great help for you, though their help may stipulate that you work for them or pay them some of your income after graduation.
- TIP: If your school participates in the Expanded Learning Option, you may be eligible for an additional $1,000, or as much as $5,000 over the course of your education.
- Step 4: Apply for a Pell grant, typically awarded to students with family incomes of less than $20,000. Keep in mind that family incomes of less than $50,000 are still eligible.
- TIP: Inquire at the university's financial aid office about their institutional grants, which are usually merit-based.
- Step 5: Try for a Perkins Loan, drawn directly from the school's pool of federal money. Though limited to $4,000 per year for undergraduate applicants, the total limit while in school is $20,000.
- Step 6: Evaluate the federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students, or PLUS. Parents can borrow up to the cost of your entire undergraduate education if they have not filed bankruptcy or defaulted on student loans and hold no outstanding tax liens.
- Step 7: Seek scholarships based on your high school academic records, disability status, race, nationality, and athletics.