Guide to Financial Aid: Finding and Applying for Scholarships, Grants, and Loans

College, while critical to career and personal development, is expensive. Fortunately, there are ways for students to mitigate expenses related to higher education by way of financial aid. There are various forms of financial aid available, with the most popular being scholarships, grants and student loans.


Scholarships are a form of financial aid awarded for various reasons that help lessen the burden of higher education expenses. The most common scholarships are merit-based, need-based or athletic. Scholarships are available from many organizations, so you should acquaint yourself with the ones available through your school, company, parent’s work, local communities and on scholarship database sites to make sure you aren’t missing any you qualify for!

Scholarship Sources

Many scholarships are offered online through college scholarship Web sites such as Additional information is also available at the U.S. Department of Education. Be sure to read all the information provided by each scholarship application to make sure you are eligible for the money offered. Many scholarships are offered based upon skills performed in writing, artwork, science projects and more. Some scholarships are offered to superior athletes so that athlete can perform for the college. Each offer will stipulate who is eligible for the money and the standards you must reach before and after you are considered.


Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid.  Grants are sometimes referred to as gift aid. Traditionally for undergraduate students, the gift amount is based on the student’s need, as determined by information provided on the FAFSA, and the cost of attendance at the university the student is enrolled at.

Grant Sources

There are currently four federal grants available that undergraduate students can apply for:

  1. Federal Pell Grant
  2. FSEOG- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
  3. TEACH- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant
  4. Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant


Loans are borrowed money and repayment with interest is required. Students apply for loans in order to finance their education that they cannot cover upfront, with saved money, scholarships, grants or financial aid. Students and/or parents can take out a loan to finance higher education.

Loan Sources

There are five federal loans available as well as a wealth of private loans offered by banks and credit unions across the US. The five federal loans are:

  1. Federal Perkins Loan
  2. Federal Stafford Loan
  3. PLUS Loan for Parents
  4. PLUS Loan for Graduate and Professional Degree Students
  5. Consolidation Loan

Financial aid is available to students at both traditional brick-and-mortar colleges and online colleges and universities. Browse the list of schools to find a program that best suits your needs.

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