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Financial Aid 101: Where to Start When Thinking about Paying for College

Posted by: Kevin Michaelsen, Director of Financial Assistance Get Free College Essay Tips
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Student meeting with advisor

As someone who has spent the last 25 years helping families figure out how to pay for college, I know that even thinking about how to finance your college education can be daunting.

With seemingly complicated formulas and confusing lingo, it’s hard to know where to start. My staff at Meredith and I are committed to helping individuals and families like you understand the financial aid process. So, let’s start at the beginning with the terms and sources that you will come across when seeking financial aid to help fund college.

The good news is that there are many forms of assistance out there to help you afford a college education.

Institutional Grants and Scholarships

This type of funding is provided by the college or university itself, and can be awarded based on factors such as financial need, academic performance, leadership ability, or artistic talent.

Meredith awards over $24 million in institutional grants and scholarships to hundreds of students each year. In fact, over 95% of Meredith students receive institutional aid.

Federal and State Aid

Through the U.S. Department of Education, the federal government awards billions of dollars in financial assistance annually. Federal aid can come in the form of loans, grants, or work study. To learn more about the different types of federal aid, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types. To be considered for any type of federal financial aid, you must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Be sure to check out state government financial aid programs in the state where you live and where you plan to attend college since most states offer financial aid for residents. (Note: if you’re looking for need-based State funding, the state typically references the FAFSA form to determine eligibility - yet another good reason to complete the FAFSA!)

A prime example of such a state program is North Carolina’s Need Based Scholarship program. This program offers needy N.C. residents attending private colleges like Meredith a NC Need Based Scholarship ranging from $1,100 - $7,640 per year.

Private Scholarships and Loans

Private scholarships are available from a variety of organizations, such as national and local businesses, churches, and non-profit and community organizations. High school counselors, the financial assistance counselors at the schools you're considering, and websites such as Scholarships.com are good sources of information about private scholarship offerings.

Private loans, which involve borrowing funds that must be paid back with interest, are available through banks, credit unions, and other commercial lending agencies. Online search engines, such as Estudent Loan can help you find private loan options.

A college education is one of the best investments you can make for a successful future.  And, as you can see, there are a lot of options available to help you and your family afford the college education that’s right for you.

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