Four Types of Financial Aid

Need a crash course on financial aid? Or maybe just a refresher? If you’re looking for the basics, this one’s for you! Here are the four common types of financial aid and how to find them. 


Of the different types of financial aid, scholarships are often the most familiar to students. Scholarships are gifts of money awarded based on factors such as financial need, academic achievement, community involvement, and more. As senior year approaches, you’ll be advised to apply for scholarships. Look for local scholarships, national scholarships, scholarships through your school, your church, your community, or your college. The best place to start? Your high school! Ask your teachers and advisors if they know of any scholarship opportunities that you could apply for. They’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. 


More free money! Grants are awarded based on financial need, and you’ll have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility. You’ll learn more about the grants you qualify for when you receive your financial aid award letter from the colleges you’ve been accepted to. There are federal grants, state grants, institutional grants, and privately funded grants. You do not have to pay grants back. 

Work Study

Kind of like free money—but you don’t get it upfront and have to work to earn it throughout the academic year. After you fill out the FAFSA, the U.S. Department of Education determines how much money you’re eligible for, and then to earn the money, you’ll work a job on campus. Often this money is great to put towards course fees, textbooks, groceries, or other living expenses. Students earn their work study dollars by working in places like the dining center, the library, facilities management, or the campus store. Some colleges place you in a work study job. At other colleges, you might have to search for work study opportunities yourself. Ask your college’s financial aid office for more information about how to find a work study position. 


The first step in determining your eligibility for federal loans is filling out the FAFSA. If you need additional financial assistance after that, you can apply for private loans, too. Students usually start to look at their loan options after they’ve received their financial aid award letter, and know how much money they’ll receive in grants, scholarships, and work study. A majority of students accrue some student loan debt while in college, so taking out loans isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just make sure you’ve thoroughly researched and exhausted all scholarship and grant options. Also, do the math to make sure it’ll be feasible to repay your loans after graduation. A good rule of thumb? Don’t take out more loans than the yearly salary you’ll be likely to have when you start your career.  

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid goes live in October, but it’s not too early to start prepping! Check out our  7 Things to Know Before Filling Out the FAFSA post. Have more questions? Talk to a financial aid expert!