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Guides students through the process of locating and applying for financial aid. Prepared by the Congressional Research Service for Members of Congress, updated April 2015 .
The basics: getting started
Start gathering information early.
Free information is readily available from:
High school counselors
College and career school financial aid offices (where you plan to attend)
Local and college libraries
Federal Student Aid (U.S. Department of Education)
Other Internet sites (search terms student financial aid OR assistance)
Ask questions: counselors may know if you have exceptional circumstances that affect your eligibility.
Keep copies of all forms and correspondence: you must reapply for aid each year.
Student aid and where it comes from
Basic assistance categories:
Remember that students and their parents are responsible for paying what they can -- financial aid is a supplement, not a substitute, for family resources.
Factors include academic excellence, ethnic background, or organization membership. Corporations may also offer assistance to employees and children.
Federal Student Aid:
States offer residents a variety of scholarships, loans, and tuition exemptions.
Colleges and universities provide some 20% of aid, most need-based. Check university Web sites and the institutions financial aid office when you apply for admission.
Targeted aid for special groups
Interested in public service?
Federal assistance programs seek to encourage people to work in geographic areas or professions where theres a particular need (such as doctors in underserved areas); encourage underrepresented groups to enter a particular profession; and provide aid in exchange for services provided (such as military service).
Aid for private K-12 education: No direct federal assistance, check with schools themselves:
Repaying your loans
After college, the federal government has ways to help you repay your loans.