A college degree is a tool that unlocks many opportunities. Unfortunately, the price of attendance has continued to rise, making it even more unaffordable than in previous years. This has caused an increase in student debt. The average amount of debt of college graduates is $30,062 (U.S News, 2020). If you’re a current high school student feeling deterred from applying because of these numbers, don’t be! There are many resources and tools out there for you to reduce debt.
Before we get into those resources let’s define some key terms in the world of financial aid.
Need-based scholarships: federal aid awarded to students who demonstrate income below a certain level (generally a combined family income of under $30,000)
Merit-based scholarships: financial aid students receive based on academic performance
(GPA, SAT/ACT scores, etc)
Institutional scholarships: need/merit-based scholarships awarded to students by their college
Private scholarships: financial aid awarded to students by companies, foundations, and organizations
FAFSA: short for Free Application for Federal Student Aid; form for current and prospective US college students that determines whether they are eligible for student financial aid
FAFSA is a great starting point for students looking to get money for college. The average amount of financial aid received from Pell Grant (FAFSA) is $9,000 (Kantrowitz, 2020). Schools have a limited amount of money to offer so time is of essence when filling out the form. Forms are available on the 1st of October and should take less than an hour to complete!
“Don’t stop at the FAFSA – apply for institutional and private scholarships'' says Maureen Amos, executive director of financial aid, scholarships, and student employment at Northeastern Illinois University. She makes a great point. You can receive both federal financial aid and money from private/institutional scholarships so why not aim for both? Ryan Martin, a recent alumna of Howard University says, “I received a full-ride scholarship through Howard University.” This proves that institutional scholarships are no joke. Other scholarships can be found on sites including myscholly.com, FastWeb, Scholarship Owl, and Sallie Mae.