If you feel like you’re in the dark about financial aid, you’re not alone. It’s not something that students and families typically think of until it’s time to start searching for colleges, which in most cases is the junior year of high school. Once the college search begins, so does the financial aid research. Throughout the process, you will learn a great deal about bits and pieces of financial aid, but there’s always a chance you could miss out on a financial aid option that would benefit you. Check some of them out below: 1. State GrantsGrants are typically awarded to students who demonstrate financial need; however, grants are financial aid dollars that never have to be paid back. Most states award grants to needy students who qualify, but in order to do so, you must submit the FAFSA as well as any state financial aid forms if required. NASFAA has a link to every state’s financial aid website, which will contain all of the information you need to know about qualifying and applying to state grants. 2. University GrantsIn addition to state grants, most colleges and universities have their own grants that they can distribute to students with financial need. Again, like the state grants, you’ll have to apply by filling out the FAFSA as well as submitting the school’s financial aid application if they have their own. 3. Local Scholarships You may hear a lot about big scholarships, as well as scholarships at the schools to which you’re applying; but you should also search for local scholarships too. There’s a good chance these local scholarships are featured on Fastweb, but you should always talk to your guidance counselor, mentors and coaches about community scholarships for which you could qualify.4. Tuition Payment Plans While not exactly financial aid, tuition payment plans allow the task of paying for college tuition to become more manageable. Typically, you’re able to split your tuition payments up into monthly installments rather than paying a lump sum at the start of the semester or school year. 5. 529 Savings Plans Finally, students and their families do receive monetary benefits from opening 529 savings plans. In addition to tax credits, many states incentivize residents to open 529 plans with grants. A 529 can be opened at any time to begin saving for college. Check out FinAid to view 529 savings plans by state. Paying for school is no small feat, and in order to do so, you have to get creative. So in addition to exploring the more traditional avenues of financial aid, do some research on the options above as well. Remember, the more you can find funds in unexpected places, the less you’ll have to borrow.
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