News Flash: If you want to go to college or career school and you meet the admission requirements, you have few excuses not to go. There is a ton of financial aid in the form of scholarships, loans, grants and special programs to help you pay for your education. Here’s the lowdown on the money up for grabs.
To receive federal or state financial aid, no matter what type, you must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some private scholarship programs also require the FAFSA. You can get an application from your guidance counselor or from the financial aid office of the school you’re planning to attend. You can fill out a paper copy and mail it in, but submitting the FAFSA online speeds up the process.
Go to www.fafsa.ed.gov and download a worksheet to help you gather all the necessary information. Then you can enter the information into the online application. You can submit the FAFSA after Jan. 1, 2009, for the 2009-10 academic year. Do it early to get the most financial aid.
Next, you should contact the financial aid office of the school you’re planning to attend to find out about specific deadlines and eligibility requirements. Be sure to ask if your school offers any additional scholarships and grants.
Scholarships and Grants
Scholarships and grants are the type of financial aid that you don’t have to pay back. Some are need-based — your eligibility is determined by how much money your parents make. Florida qualifies students for need-based programs based on different criteria for different programs. Some programs use data from your FAFSA; others calculate need using the cost of attendance at the school you’re going to and other factors.
Some scholarships and grants are merit-based — you qualify based on your academic achievement.
Loans are another way to pay for college, but the money you borrow must be paid back. Federal student loans have more favorable terms than private loans, so get all the federal loans you can before looking into private sources. The four federal loan programs listed below can be used at schools in and out of Florida.
Another type of financial aid is called work-study, which gives you first dibs on part-time jobs (both on and off campus) to help you pay for school expenses. Eligibility for work-study is based on need and can be used at schools inside and outside of Florida.
If you decide to work as a teacher in Florida, you may benefit from the state’s tuition reimbursement program that pays you back for the tuition you spent. There’s also a loan forgiveness program that helps you pay back student loans you may have taken out to fund your education.
The chart below includes info on scholarships, grants and loans. You can apply for all types. For example, if you earn a Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, you may also be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant. Each program has its own eligibility requirements and deadlines. Unless noted, these scholarships and grants are offered to students to attend Florida schools.
— Need-Based Scholarships & Grants —
Federal Pell Grant
Can be used at schools in or out of Florida. Based on financial need.
First Generation Matching Grant
For students whose parents have not earned higher degrees and who demonstrate financial need.
Florida Public Postsecondary Career Education Student Assistance Grant
For students enrolled in certificate programs at participating community colleges or career centers.
Florida Student Assistance Grant
For degree-seeking students who demonstrate financial need and are enrolled at participating schools.
José Martí Scholarship
For eligible Hispanic students who will attend public or eligible private schools.
— Merit-Based Scholarships & Grants —
Florida Bright Futures Scholarship
Includes three programs that reward you with money for partial or full tuition depending on academic achievement in specific classes, test scores and community service. See the brochure facing page 30 in the magazine or click here.
Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship
Principals or school superintendents nominate high school seniors who show promise of continued academic achievement. Can be used at schools in or out of Florida. The availability of this program depends on a federal grant. Check floridastudentfinancialaid.org for current info.
— Other Scholarships & Grants —
Access to Better Learning and Education Grant
For students enrolled in degree programs at eligible private schools.
Ethics in Business Scholarship Program
Provides assistance to students who attend community colleges and eligible independent schools.
Federal Academic Competitiveness Grant
For students who completed rigorous studies in high school and who qualify for the Pell Grant. Can be used at schools in or out of Florida.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
For students with exceptional financial need. Can be used at schools in or out of Florida.
Florida Resident Access Grant Program
For students attending eligible private schools.
Mary McLeod Bethune Scholarship Program
For students who attend Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College, Florida A&M University or Florida Memorial University.
Rosewood Family Scholarship Program
For minority students who will attend a public school; direct descendants of Rosewood families affected by the incidents of January 1923 receive priority.
Scholarships for Children and Spouses of Deceased or Disabled Veterans and Servicemembers
For students whose parents or spouses are Florida veterans or servicemembers who died or were injured related to their service.
— L O A N S —
Low-interest educational loan; first priority is given to those with financial need.
Loans available to parents of students who are enrolled at least half-time.
Subsidized Stafford Loan
For students who demonstrate financial need. The interest is subsidized.
Unsubsidized Stafford Loan
For students who do not demonstrate enough financial need. No interest subsidy.
Ashley Cisneros is a co-founder of Chatter Buzz Media, an Orlando Internet marketing firm that helps companies and organizations engage with their target markets through inbound marketing via the Internet. Chatter Buzz Media, which won the Social Madness competition for the Orlando small business market, is a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and content creation. Prior to founding Chatter Buzz, Ashley worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, technical writer, marketing manager, public relations practitioner and freelance journalist. To see Ashley’s content writing, visit www.ashleycisneros.com. You can also reach Ashley on her Google profile.