Higher Education Tuition Assistance

By Dawn Marcotte , last updated January 9, 2012

Higher education tuition assistance is also known as financial aid. Tuition assistance can come in the form of scholarships, grants, fellowships, work-study programs, and loans. Most students will need a combination of these financial instruments to pay for their college education.

Applying for Financial Aid

There are a dizzying array of grants and scholarships available. Students should first read their college applications carefully, and indicate that they are interested in financial aid directly on this form. This may provide some funding automatically depending on the students’ academic history and test scores. Many colleges provide a few hundred dollars automatically to students with high GPA and entrance exam scores. This will also alert the college that the student may be interested in any grants or scholarships they have available.

The second step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application will allow the student to be considered for many different state and federal grants and scholarships. The application will help match the student with scholarships and grants according to the information they provide. Follow the directions on the FAFSA website completely, and check back frequently to stay current on any new scholarships or grants that become available.

Finding Additional Tuition Assistance

Once these two steps have been completed, it is a good idea to research additional scholarships and grants, as there are many thousands available from local governments, private businesses, and non-profit organizations. Some of these are specific to particular industries, while others are specific to ethnicity or even areas of interest.

For example, one of the most unusual scholarships is for tall people. This scholarship provides $1,000 for women over 5 feet, 10 inches tall if they meet the academic standards of the scholarship. Other organizations, such as the American Cancer Society, may provide financial aid to students who plan to do research on cancer.

There are two excellent sources of information for scholarships and grants. The first is the College Blue Book. This book has information on grants, fellowships, and scholarships available around the country. A copy can often be found in local libraries. Another source of information is online financial aid search engines such as FastWeb and CollegeScholarships. These websites allow students to search by area of interest, location, and many other variables in an attempt to narrow the scholarships that are appropriate for the student.

Work-study and Loans

Work-study programs are available through most colleges and universities. This type of tuition assistance allows students to work and get paid while they attend college. They do not need to repay this money.

Student loans are often at low-interest rates, but they do need to be repaid after the student graduates. There is often a grace period after graduation before payments must start, but the loan is expected to be repaid in full. Many students try to avoid these loans to avoid debt after graduation.

Undergraduates and graduate students can often find multiple avenues of higher education tuition assistance if they take the time to do the research and complete all applications correctly.

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