This article was originally written for FirstGenerationStudent.com, now a part of ImFirst.org.
What Does College Cost?
Does it seem like college may be too expensive for you?
Cost should be a consideration when you’re deciding where to go to college, but it shouldn’t prevent you from achieving your goal of attending and graduating from college. Not only are there plenty of colleges and universities at different price points, there is also a lot of federal, state, and institutional financial aid available to help cover tuition and living expenses.
While the average “sticker” (or published) price of tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year universities is $8,660, the average tuition “net” price most students pay is $2,910 after accounting for financial aid like grants, scholarships, and tax credits. At private four-year universities, the “sticker” price is $29,060, while the tuition “net” price is $13,380 (Source: http://trends.collegeboard.org/college_pricing).
Remember that these are average costs. Depending on your situation, you may receive more financial aid—you could even get one big or several scholarships. The federal government also offers student loans to help cover the cost of college and that you pay back after graduating.
Bottom line: there are a lot of ways you can pay for college. All you need to do is some research to learn about all the options. Start right here by reading our articles about how to get financial aid (FAFSA), loans, scholarships, and understanding financial aid packages from colleges. And don’t forget to manage your money responsibly. You can learn more about personal finance through free online courses, such as those offered by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
What are Loans, Grants, and Scholarships?
Have you been thinking about going to college but don’t know how you’ll be able to afford it?
Financial aid is available to help you cover the costs of college. From money that doesn’t need to be paid back like grants and scholarships, to money you can borrow and pay back later like loans, there are many options that will help cover your tuition and living expenses.
The more you know and understand about financial aid, the more prepared you will feel about applying to and paying for college. So keep reading for an introduction to the different ways to pay for college.
Applying for Financial Aid: the FAFSA
As you start applying to colleges, it’s important to remember that you also will have to complete a separate application for financial aid. Most schools require the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which you can fill out online (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/) and submit electronically to all the colleges or universities where you’ve applied.
Some colleges and universities may require other financial aid applications or forms such as the College Board’s CSS PROFILE (https://profileonline.collegeboard.org/prf/index.jsp). As you apply to colleges, visit each institution’s financial aid website to make sure you have all the forms and applications you need.
Applying for financial aid can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it won’t be if you remain organized! Keep reading for step-by-step instructions on how to fill out the FAFSA form.
Financial Aid Terminology
The world of financial aid is full of acronyms and mysterious terms, so we put together a comprehensive reference for you to clear up everything!
Who Gets Scholarships? How Can You Find Them?
Scholarships are money for college that you don’t have to pay back. For this reason, they are one of the most sought-after sources of financial aid. Most scholarships are merit based, meaning they are awarded depending on certain qualifications such as your grades, test scores or even your athletic ability. Sometimes scholarships also are based on your family’s ability to pay, otherwise known as “need based.”
Since scholarships come from many sources, it can be tricky to find and apply for scholarships relevant to your situation. We’ll provide some easy steps for you to get your scholarship search started. Read on!
What If… I’m Undocumented, Homeless, or in Foster Care?
Sometimes you have a special circumstance that makes applying for financial aid more complex. If you are undocumented, homeless or in foster care, you may have realized that the financial aid process can leave you with more questions than answers. And it can be hard to find those answers. We want to help you with some of your biggest questions about how these special situations affect your financial aid process. Read on to get the facts on how to get financial assistance if you’re undocumented, homeless or in foster care.
Understanding Financial Aid Packages
You’ve applied and been accepted to college, and you’ve applied for financial aid. Congratulations! Your hard work will pay off, and soon you will be a college student. But first, you need to understand the financial aid offers at each of the colleges where you’ve been accepted. Since their financial aid packages can all look different, it might be hard to tell which school will give you the most bang for your buck. But don’t worry. We’ll give you some hints that will help you decipher your award. Keep reading!