What, exactly,  is financial aid? How do I get it? Do I have to pay it back? 

Financial Aid 

Very few people can afford to attend college without some form of financial assistance. Financial aid helps to make college affordable for everyone. Financial aid can be merit-based, in recognition of special talents, skills, or academic record, or need-based, determined by your family's ability to pay. 

The are are three types of financial aid: grants and scholarships, loans, and work-study. 

Grants & Scholarships 

Grants and scholarships are FREE money that you do not have to pay back. You have to submit the FAFSA to be eligible for most grants.  

Common Grants: 


The work-study program allows you to earn money through a part-time job, usually on your college campus.  

Work-study is awarded as a part of your financial aid award from a particular college or university. You must submit the FAFSA to be considered for a work-study award. 


A loan is money that you can borrow, but must repay after a specified period of time. 

Loans are offered by the federal government and by private banks and financial institutions. 

Federal student loans, provided by the government, are preferred over private loans. Federal loans offer lower interest rates, and you aren't required to repay these loans until after graduation. Private lenders may require you to begin repayment while you are in school - the timing can vary. 

Federal Student Loans ​