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Know the 5 Basics of Financial Aid Resources to Pay for College

You’ve gotten to the point of your college search where you’re waiting for those acceptance letters. A time of anticipation and tentative excitement. You may also start to feel a sense of being overwhelmed as your brain starts the natural shift to thinking about “how the heck do people pay for all this?”.  We have you covered! There are strategies and tools we can help you take advantage of to continue confidently along your college planning path.

For a start, it’s important to know the five basic categories of financial aid sources.

National Merit Scholarships

Scholarships granted to those students who score in the highest percentiles on the PSAT test in October of the Junior year. Those students who receive these high scores then submit an essay, resume, and other scholastic data to the National Merit Scholarship Organization. This source is supported by many nationally ranked businesses who fund this program. The committees involved then select the student recipients, and the donations are then made directly to the school of the student’s choice.

Grant Programs of the Federal Government

Students who are eligible are those whose family’s adjusted annual gross income is less than $50,000 as determined by the combined filing of IRS forms. Students who have trust funds, or other assets, normally do not qualify for grant aid. Financial aid amounts can be determined when the student files the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, available online at  In fact, most colleges that grant any other type of financial aid (nonfederal) usually require that this form be submitted.

College Discretionary Scholarship Promise

These scholarships are given to students with outstanding SAT/ACT scores, high grade point averages or athletic skills. The private schools develop their own requirements regarding the granting of scholarships and will use this money to attract top students, students from special populations or students with special talents, i.e. football.  Some of the private schools with high tuition costs are also now offering financial aid support to those students from middle income families who might not be able to afford the high cost of private school tuition.

Student Loans and Work Study Programs

These are Federal sponsored loans that require FAFSA also be filed. The difference is that in order to receive these loans the student must promise to repay these loans at a future date. There are also non-federal, low interest, long term loans available for college bound students. Some of these loans are need-based, and some of them are options for credit-worthy parents to borrow funds for their child’s education. In addition, there are twelve federally funded curriculum areas that offer work opportunities for students through work study programs. Some college campuses also offer similar opportunities.

Private Scholarship Foundations

These scholarships are awarded by associations, businesses, private individuals, and charitable organizations for a variety of reasons from ethnicity to talent, to academic interest, to parent occupation, etc. They range in amounts from $50 to $5000. They usually have at least four requirements and can be researched at any public library that carries a database or reference volumes or online through various scholarship search engines.  For the database, students enter their personal data and the computer program will college all scholarship opportunities that fit the profile of the student.  Thousands of these scholarships remain unclaimed annually. Students pay only paper costs for these services.

Take it One Step at a Time

Don’t feel that you need to tackle all five right away. Take them one step at a time!

In College Pathfinder, the LaunchPad newsletter, we share opportunities for scholarships along with tips for completing financial aid applications. One of the best first steps is to make sure you are subscribed to College Pathfinder here!

Then work on completing your FAFSA and making a super-complete list of all the activities and sports you’ve been involved with as well as a list of your interests and hobbies.

Want some help taking those steps? Reach out to Beth today!

Planning for college doesn’t need to be stressful!

Our personalized collaborative approach helps to make the process stress-free for both the student and parent.