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How To Get Financial Aid For College

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A lot of students and parents struggle with finding ways to get financial aid for college.  For some, their student may be the first one to attend college.  For others, the process of filling out a mountain of financial aid paperwork can seem overwhelming.

The fact is that finding money for college is possible, but it takes work up front.  You have to be willing to endure some paperwork, write essays when needed and be organized enough to report your family’s income (in the case for Pell Grants).

Outlined below are 4 major financial aid programs that you need to consider as well as tips for making your application even better.

get financial aid for college

But I Won’t Qualify, So Why Bother Applying?

Never brush off financial aid because you think that you won’t qualify – especially when it comes to income.  It’s better to be told that you don’t qualify for financial aid than to conclude for yourself because of your income level.

Complete FAFSA Before the Deadline

First, what is the FAFSA? FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  It’s a form that can be prepared annually by students that determines whether the student is eligible to receive Federal financial aid.

Each state has a set of deadlines that you must follow when completing the FAFSA.  The FAFSA deadlines page will allow you to view your state’s deadlines.   When it comes to filing your FAFSA, the sooner you do, the better your chances of getting financial aid.  Some financial aid programs have limited supplies of money that is distributed on a first come first serve basis.

Apply for State Aid

After completing the FAFSA, check with your state to find scholarship options available only for its residents.  For example, the state of Indiana has a program called State Student Assistance.  It provides need based grants through its Twenty-first Century scholars program which helps students pay for some or all of their college tuition.

Your state may have a similar program, so visit your state’s website and type “college aid” in the search bar.

Federal Pell Grant Program

The best part about a Pell Grant is that it doesn’t have to be repaid.   The maximum amount awarded is $5,550 and you must be an undergraduate student who has not previously earned a bachelor’s or professional degree.

You must fill out the FAFSA to be eligible for a Pell Grant and you need to apply through your school.  Check with your financial aid office to make sure you have all the paperwork complete to receive a Pell Grant.  If you are eligible to receive a Pell Grant, the school will receive the funds on your behalf and you’ll be able to apply it directly to the tuition and other educational expenses.

Teach Grant Program

If you want to pursue teaching and intend to teach in a public or private elementary or secondary school  that serves students from low income families, you may be eligible to receive the TEACH Grant.  TEACH stands for Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education.  If you qualify, you may receive up to $4,000 per year of college.  The program requires you to accept the terms outlined on the TEACH Grant website.  Some general requirements are as follows:

  • You must serve as a full-time teacher for a total of at least four academic years within eight calendar years after you completed or withdrew from the academic program for which you received the TEACH Grant.
  • You must perform the teaching service as a highly-qualified teacher at a low-income school.
  • Your teaching service must be in a high-need field.
  • If you do not complete the required teaching service obligation, TEACH Grant funds you received will be converted to a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan that you must repay, with interest charged from the date of each TEACH Grant disbursement.

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