With tuition costs rising roughly five percent annually, higher education “sticker shock” is a common first reaction when investigating how to pay for college. However, before you rule out a school based on cost, you and your family should consider the many opportunities available to you. A number of sources of financial aid are available to students from the federal government, state government, foundations and private lenders, and the colleges and universities themselves. In addition, there are four different forms of aid: grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study.
Grants are given for athletics, academics, demographics, special talent potential, and/or need. Repayment is not required.
Scholarships, also called “merit aid” are awarded for academic excellence. Repayment is not required.
Student loans, which have lower interest rates, may be college sponsored or federally sponsored or may be available through commercial financial institutions. Loans must be repaid, generally after you have graduated or left school.
College work-study is a federally sponsored program that enables colleges to employ students. Eligible students work a limited number of hours throughout the school year.
The federal government is the single largest source of financial aid for students. The U.S. Department of Education’s student financial aid programs make more than an estimated $40 billion available in loans, grants, and other aid to millions of students. To apply for federal student aid you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Pick up a FAFSA in the counseling office after January 1 or complete the FAFSA online.
Student Loans of North Dakota (SLND) is administered by the Bank of North Dakota and offers a variety of loan programs to help students and parents finance a college education. SLND's College Information Service (CIS) also provides a wealth of free information about colleges and financial aid.
The counseling office collects a complete listing of scholarships which can be picked up in the counseling office. During the year, notification of scholarship competitions are received and students are made aware of the scholarships through the daily announcements and “Scholarship Opportunities” lists posted throughout the school (updated bi-weekly). Applications for these scholarships are located in the scholarship file or in many cases you are directed to apply online.
Students are encouraged to involve parents in their scholarship search. Religious groups, fraternal organizations, and employers may be great sources of scholarships. Students should inquire into the availability of institutional scholarships at the schools they are considering. This is where the majority of scholarship money is found.
The internet also presents a wealth of information concerning scholarships. A good place to start is scholarshiphelp.org. Visit fastweb.com for a FREE internet scholarship search or register at www.WeeklyScholarshipAlert.org for regular email notices of scholarship opportunities.
A final piece of advice: Beware of scholarship scams - do NOT pay for a scholarship search.
A number of privately operated scholarship search companies charge fees that range from $30 to well over $300. Most provide a list of sources of financial assistance for which you may apply. Many search companies offer to refund your fee if you do not receive any award. However, some services require you to provide a rejection letter from every source on the list to claim your refund. You should be aware that many scholarship sources do not routinely send rejection letters. According to the Federal Trade Commission, warning signs that a scholarship service may be a scam include the following statements:
“This scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”
Wrong. No one can guarantee to get you a grant or scholarship.
“You can’t get this information anywhere else.”
Unlikely. Many free lists of scholarships are available. Check with your counselor for FREE information about current scholarships before you pay someone for the same or similar information. Use this book and the web sites suggested on the next page for your scholarship search.
“May I have your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship?”
No way. It may be a setup for an unauthorized withdrawal from your account. Don’t give out you or your parents’ credit card or bank account number on the phone without first getting all the information in writing.
“We’ll do all the work.”
Don’t be fooled. There’s no way around it. You must apply for the scholarships or grants yourself.
“The scholarship will cost you some money.”
That doesn’t make sense. Free money shouldn’t cost a thing. Don’t pay anyone who claims to have access to a scholarship for you.
“You’ve been selected by a ‘national foundation’ to receive a scholarship or You’re a finalist in a contest” (that you didn’t enter).
Be careful. Before you send money to apply for a scholarship, check it out. Make sure the foundation or program is legitimate. Most sources of financial aid have application deadlines and eligibility criteria; they do not, generally, operate like a sweepstakes. Some places imitate federal foundations, agencies, and corporations. They might even have official sounding names, using such words as “National” and “Federal” or claim to have a Washington, D.C. location in order to project an aura of legitimacy.