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Narrowing Your Student Financial Aid Options

When you apply for admission to the college of your choice, be sure to think about how you'll pay for your education. Student financial aid can help. Here's how to narrow down your many options.

  • Assess yourself. Look at your high school resume. What are your strengths? What college subjects will you study? What career interests you? The federal government offers free self-assessments to help narrow down college scholarship and grant opportunities.
  • Fill out a FAFSA. This standard federal form is the foundation for receiving student financial aid from the government and your college. You can fill out a FAFSA online.
  • Talk to your family. Your parents will tell you how much they can realistically put toward your education. Sometimes employers offer student financial aid programs for dependents as an employee benefit.

Begin with federal grants and loans
In the 2004-05 school year, the federal government provided about $74 billion in new student financial aid to college students through Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, and other federal aid programs. Most federal aid is need-based, although most students are eligible for low-interest Stafford Loans.

State programs
State education offices also administer grants and scholarships. Each state's program is unique, so check with your guidance or financial aid counselor, the public library, or online for a list of student financial aid programs available to you. Check to see whether your state uses the FAFSA or another form to determine your eligibility.

Campus financial aid options
Your college's financial aid office can fill you in on your school's grant and scholarship programs. Though most college financial aid offices use your FAFSA to determine eligibility, check with your financial aid officer to make sure you're not missing any special opportunities.

More financial aid and planning resources