Financing your college education

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Whether you’ve already been accepted to a college, or if you’re still in the early planning stages, money is an important factor in the decision-making process.

Money is so important that it can be the deal-breaker when deciding which college to choose.

Make sure to explore all your financial options for supporting your livelihood and college expenses.

You could get student loans for college, apply for merit or need-based scholarships, or pay out of pocket.

If you’re still undecided, this brief guide will help you understand your financial aid options better.

Need-based scholarships

For most colleges in the United States, to be eligible for need-based scholarships, your family’s annual income should be below $100,000.

This is important to note because not everyone will be eligible for this kind of scholarship. If your family’s income is between $60,000-80,000 you will not receive as much financial aid as someone whose family earns less than $60,000.

To determine how much aid you are eligible for, use a financial aid calculator to determine what category you fit in.

Merit-based scholarships

These scholarships are based on merit. If you have a high GPA, honors awards, or if you’re highly skilled, then you may qualify for merit scholarships.

Applications for merit scholarship are quite competitive because they require a high level of academic achievement.

Some merit scholarships are awarded to exceptionally talented musicians, athletes, or artists.

The main thing is that students who are awarded these scholarships are highly talented or intellectually gifted.

The downside with gaining this kind of scholarship is that you have to maintain a high standard of academic achievement throughout your degree to retain the scholarship. Some universities review your scholarship award every semester.

This could be an added level of stress because if you’re completely dependent on the scholarship and your grades slip up one day, you could lose all that you worked for.

Sure, getting merit scholarships is a great honor and privilege. However, keeping a scholarship is no easy feat.

Make sure that you are fully aware of the terms and conditions of your scholarship.

Some will require you to be in good standing with the university at all times and impose other restrictions on you.

Ultimately, if you are aware of how to keep your scholarship and are willing to maintain the high standard of excellence that they demand, then you should apply for one.

Student loans

The requirements for student loans are not as rigorous as that of scholarships. For example, a university that requires you to maintain a 3.2 GPA to keep your scholarship may have a minimum 2.5 GPA requirement for student loan eligibility.

See the difference there?

There is much less pressure from the institution because the money is not a ‘gift,’ it will be paid back with interest over time.

For this reason, when you have student loans, you are not constantly under pressure to keep your GPA at a certain level like you would if you had a scholarship.

Keep in mind that student loans have to be handled with care. You will need to research before making a decision.

I recommend reading this guide to get more information on how to get student loans.

In summary

Making decisions about finances is the mark of adulthood. Welcome.

To make your transition from high school to college smoother, you’ll need to read, read, read. Make sure to research your institution and the financial aid options that are offered.

Take advantage of the resources online to get as much information as you can before making a final decision.

Story by Pearl M. Kasirye. Pearl is a writer, editor, and researcher who spends most of her time reading. She is working with Deepak Shukla. When she isn’t reading or working, she can be found sitting on her balcony writing her own novels or traveling.


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