Financial aid is a very important part of college. Quickly, you’ll realize that the costs will add up. College, as people rightly say, is expensive. There are books, transportation, food, and tuition to worry about. Unless you are sitting on a gold mine, it will be difficult for anyone to pay for it purely out of pocket. Therefore, there are a whole bunch of aid options available. From FAFSA to scholarships, everyone has a chance at receiving the education that they deserve. It may be difficult to navigate through the different types of aid, but there are always people to help. Talk to your counselors and go through Fastweb for any help and advice that you may need. The first and most important step of tacking your financial aid checklist is applying for FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is an important part of your financial aid journey. It opens on October 1 of each year. That means that the application for this year is already open. If you have not filled out your FAFSA then you better hop to it. Many colleges require you to submit your FAFSA to their financial aid office in order to qualify for aid from the college or university. Filling out the FAFSA can be tricky. Luckily, many high schools and colleges host FAFSA nights where experienced teachers helped students fill out and understand the FAFSA. If it is your first time filling it out, you will hit a snag or two along the way. To make things easier, assemble all the documents that you need before you start working on your application so that you can complete the whole thing in one sitting. If you are not sure of anything at all or if you get confused, stop and ask questions. Careless mistakes could affect how much aid you receive. FAFSA has this neat tool called the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. It automatically syncs the information from the tax return from the IRS to your FAFSA application. This will save you so much time. Half of the application is filled out for you. Also, this lessens the chance of you making a mistake since the information comes straight from the IRS. Depending on your family’s income and assets, you could be awarded grants or “free money.” Grants do not have to be repaid. With your FAFSA, you may also be qualified for a work study which allows you to earn money to pay your tuition while in college. Typically, you will get a job on campus. Finally, you may be offered loans through your FAFSA. This will cover the amount that was not covered by grants or your work study. A person can be awarded a mix of all three aid options. As always, try to avoid loans if you can. Taking care of your FAFSA is one thing that you can check off your college to do list. Besides the FAFSA, there are other ways of paying for college. Scholarships are also known as “free money,” but they can come from many different places. Scholarships can come from your religious institution, high school, job, and many more. There are two different types of scholarships: merit based and need based. Although, there can be some overlap between the two. Scholarships can come from any where and for any amount. They can range from 100 dollars to a full ride. Merit-based scholarship primarily are awarded to students who do well in school. They are based on merit. Students who do not get any aid from the government still have a chance at getting assistance if they do well in school. Although some merit-based scholarships also have financial need as a qualification, many of them rely primarily on the grades of the student. The better that you do in school, the better of a chance you have of getting scholarships. Need-based scholarships are just what the title implies. They are based on the financial need of the student. These scholarships also have qualifications such as grades, organization, and more. However, many of these scholarships require a copy of your FAFSA or some type of financial record that proves that you need the scholarship to pay for college. Once again, FAFSA is proving to be important! High-schools, colleges, and universities also offer scholarships for their students. Some of them are automatic based on a student’s grades and some of them must be applied for. It is important to apply to as many scholarships as you can. This not only increases your odds, but also increases the amount of money that you are likely to get. Since many scholarships don’t, and shouldn’t, have an application fee, there is really nothing to lose. In fact, you could create a basic essay that you can modify or change as the different prompts for scholarship essays change. Some scholarships take minutes to complete and others take days. Still, it is worth it. Free money is good money! There are scholarships for all types of things. There are some based on heritage, gender, and organizations. Keep applying and keep trying. There is never a time to stop applying. If you are in college or about to go into college, there are scholarships out there for you to apply for. The least popular form of aid among students is student loans. The two scariest words for any college student are student debt. You may have heard from your parents or other adults about the trials that they are going through with their own student debt. It is not pretty or fun. Loans are not free. They must be paid back. It is important to remember that. Every single dollar that you take out may still haunt you five years after graduation. There are two types of loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans hold of on adding interest until you graduate from college and you have a 6-month breather after graduation in which you don’t have to make payments on your loan. Unsubsidized loans start adding interest immediately and you do not get the 6-month reprieve. Loans are tricky. But, if you manage your money right and plan accordingly, then you’ll be ok. Again, college is expensive. That is why it is important to look for aid wherever you can. Start doing some of your own research into your college costs and aid options immediately. You never know where your college money may come from!