What is financial aid?

How students can receive financial help for college


The financial stress of going to college scares many into not furthering their education after high school. This is typically seen with low income and minority students. Many believe they have to pay for college out of pocket, but this is not entirely true. There is a wide variety of financial aid options available for students applying to any type of college. 

The most common one students apply to is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form of financial aid is government-funded. FAFSA determines your eligibility for grants, work-study, and loans. Along with the aid you receive from the federal government, each college you apply to will also take this information to determine what type of aid their individual institution can provide you with. 

Your Student Aid Report (SAR) will display the amount of financial aid you received and in what form. You would typically submit this application your senior year alongside your regular college application. Applying to FAFSA is an easy and quick way for any low-income student to qualify and receive money for college. 

As mentioned earlier, there are different forms of financial aid available to students. One of them being grants. Grants can be provided by the federal government, state government, your college/university, private and non-profit organizations. This form of aid typically is free and does not need to be repaid.  

 The U.S Department of Education offers a variety of grants that many students can apply for. However, the eligibility for these grants varies as different programs have their own policies. Researching and applying for grants senior year will help relieve a lot of financial strain in college. 

Two other forms of financial aid are loans and work-study. A loan is money given to you by the federal government or any other institution. This type of aid is borrowed and must be paid back. Although this form of financial aid has a more tedious process that requires more steps and research, it can still take off some budgetary stress. 

Work-study provides students with part-time jobs on or off college campuses. Undergraduate students are paid by the hour and the school usually accommodates their schedule.  This form of financial aid is a great way for students to work and finish school at the same time. 

Finally, scholarships and awards are another substantial methods to receive aid. They are usually gifted and do not need to be repaid. They can come from thousands of different institutions and organizations. Most scholarships are merit-based and will typically have a list of requirements and special standards that must be met to receive the scholarship. You can begin looking and applying for scholarships during your junior year, unlike grants and loans that are usually your senior year. 

Martin Alcala, an advisor for North Hollywood High School’s Upward Bound program, gives a helpful website that contains more facts about financial aid. “Studentaid.gov is a great website that provides more detailed information and gives you resources that can help you research on the different types of financial aid,” Alcala says. 

He also invites students to get involved with college preparatory programs at North Hollywood such as Educational Talent Search (ETS) and Upward Bound. “We provide workshops on financial aid for both the students and the parents” Martin adds. 

Emma Rodriguez, a senior at North Hollywood, shared some advice for college applications. “Don’t forget to apply to scholarships and make sure to have them reviewed before submitting,” Emma says. The college center at North Hollywood is a place where students receive help on their college application and financial aid. 

 “Mrs. Gonzalez is a college counselor and she can review your whole application to make sure it is complete and correct before submitting!” Emma adds. Overall, there are many ways students can receive financial aid for college. Hopefully, as more information about financial assistance spreads, students will no longer see money issues as a barrier.