Each year, the federal government awards over $46 billion in financial aid for higher education. Aid from the government is awarded based on financial need. To apply, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is available online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov or by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID.
However, not all aid is created equal! The government awards three distinct types of financial aid, each with its own benefits and eligibility requirements:
Grants: Money with no strings attached—meaning you don’t have to pay it back. This is really the equivalent of hitting the financial aid jackpot. Grants are awarded to those who have the most financial need.
Loans: Money you borrow and are required to pay back with interest. In most cases the terms are more generous than other types of loans such as home equity loans. Loans may be based on your parents' credit-worthiness.
Work-Study: Money you earn the old-fashioned way—by working. Through work-study, you may be eligible for part-time jobs on-campus, or near campus, that other students are not because the government subsidizes your pay.
These are the three types of financial aid the government provides. Most financial aid packages are a combination of the above. Your school will try to help you develop a package that meets your financial need. Depending on the package you receive, you may need to pay back the funds, work for the funds, or not do anything except go to class.
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