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Financial Aid 101: How to Pay for College

How will I pay for college? This one of the most daunting questions future college students have to answer. With the rising cost of tuition, financial aid plays a considerable role in funding an undergraduate education.


Each year, $46 billion in grants and scholarship money is awarded by colleges and universities and the U.S. Department of Education, and $3.3 billion is provided by private sources (e.g. foundations, churches, non-profit organizations). From 2008 to 2013 the number of undergraduate students receiving any type of financial aid increased from 80 to 85%.

If you’re like the majority of American students and plan to seek out financial aid, here are some articles on student loans and scholarships loaded with useful information that can help you navigate these financial questions!

What types of financial aid are available?

Being able to distinguish between the different types of financial aid available to college students—scholarships, grants, and loans—is important because different types of financial aid have different obligations. For instance, scholarships and grants do not require students to repay the financial aid award, whereas student loans do. The article below will help clarify some of these differences before you move forward in your personal research.

Scholarships, Grants and Loans: What is the Difference?

What should you know about student loans?

Accepting a student loan is a big responsibility—just 6 months after graduation, students are typically required to begin repayment, so it’s a good idea to know exactly what you are agreeing to. Below are two helpful articles that will give you some basic understanding of what student loans are, and different types of student loans that are available to college students today.

Student Loans: A Financial Burden or Necessary Evil?

  • There’s definitely a lot to know and consider about student loans. This article will help increase your understanding of student loans by defining what student loans are, explaining what types of student loans exist, as well as outlining some pros and cons involved in accepting student loans as a financial aid option.

Federal vs. Private Student Loans: What to Know

  • Before you enter the obligation and responsibility of student loans and future repayment, it’s important to be familiar and understand the difference between federal and private loans. These terms were introduced in the previous article above, and you will likely come across them both after receiving your financial aid package from your college or university. This article will help you understand some key differences between the two, and help you determine what kind of student loan might be the best fit for your situation.

What should you know about scholarships?

Scholarships are a wonderful way to subsidize the cost of tuition and other expenses. Although the process of searching for and applying for scholarships can be very time consuming, if you have an understanding of the scholarship basics you can save time in the long-run and boost your chances of being awarded a scholarship. These four articles below will help you develop a better understanding of scholarships.

What are Scholarships?

  • Luckily, there are many different kinds of scholarships available for college students today from a variety of sources. This article will help familiarize you with some of these different types of scholarships as well as searching sources for finding scholarships for which you might be eligible, hopefully making your scholarship search a little simpler.

How to Spot a Scholarship Scam

  • Despite the number of great scholarships students are eligible for today, unfortunately there are scholarship scams that exist that do not deliver the promised award. This article will help familiarize you with some red flag signs of scholarship scams to look out for as you search and apply for college scholarships.

How to Make Time for Scholarship Applications

  • The scholarship application process can certainly be time consuming in nature, including scholarship searches, filling out applications, and writing scholarship essays. With just a little bit of planning and organization, however, it is possible to be successful in making time for scholarship applications. This article will help give you some ideas on how to stay on top of application deadlines and not get too overwhelmed in the scholarship application process!

How to Write an Effective Scholarship Essay

  • Writing a scholarship essay can be daunting if this is your first time applying for a scholarship or you are unfamiliar with what scholarship application committees look for in successful essays. This article will provide you with some tips and advice for making a scholarship essay that is sharp, concise, and relevant to essay requirements, and for increasing your chances of getting that scholarship you are hoping for!


Hopefully this article has provided you with useful tools and resources to help you better plan for your future education. The important thing to remember is that as intimidating as figuring out how to pay for college may seem, you are not alone! It can help to talk to someone who has graduated from college (such as a relative or friend) to ask for advice based on their past experiences with financial aid.

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The Author

Dave Harriman

Dave Harriman

Dave Harriman, SHRM-CP, has a background in human resources, anthropology, and international education. His experience teaching English abroad during a gap year as an undergraduate student in Spain ignited his passion and advocacy for student travel. As a human resources professional, Dave is interested in helping students prepare for future career growth, and for helping facilitate social & cultural inclusion in the workplace.