Each year, the U.S. Department of Education rewards over $120 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds to more than 13 million students. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
is the only way to apply for federal, state, and college aid. It is completely free and it typically takes ONLY 30 minutes to complete. Students may submit their FAFSA starting October 1st of their senior year. Many schools offer money on a first-come-first-serve basis, so the sooner one applies, the better.
Grants are financial aid that does not need repaid. The most common grant is the Pell Grant which is currently capped at $6,095. If you qualify for free or reduced lunch, there is a high probability that you will receive some amount of the Pell Grant. There are many other grants that you may qualify for as well.
Loans are borrowed money that must be repaid with interest. Two common types of loans from FAFSA are unsubsidized or subsidized. Subsidized loans are available to students with financial need. Interest does not accrue until you start making payments, six (6) months after graduation. Unsubsidized loans are available to all students regardless of financial need. However, interest starts to accrue the second the money is disbursed.
Work Study is a work program through which one earns money to help pay for school. It is typically part time employment. One can work on campus or off campus at a non-profit organization. One must demonstrate financial need to qualify and the college one attends must participate in the Federal Work Study Program.