It’s a common misunderstanding that financial aid for online colleges is not available. Online colleges are subject to the same rules and regulations as brick-and-mortar universities, as long as they’re properly accredited. This means that if you find an online school with the program that you want, and it’s out of your price range, you can apply for and receive financial aid in order to bridge the gap.
The first step in applying is determining if you need financial aid in the first place. Many people jump to the notion that they can’t pay for college out of pocket. In many instances this is the case, because this is a major purchase. However, many online schools are willing to work out payment plans and keep things within your budget. They will also recommend getting more aid if you just can’t float a monthly payment program.
Whether you pay for it as you go along or you take out loans and pay them back after you finish, you will still be the one paying for your education. It’s best to pay as much as you can up front, without bankrupting yourself in the process. With this in mind it’s also wise to seek out funds that you don’t have to pay back.
Financial Aid for Online Colleges: The FAFSA
If you’re even hinting at getting Federal financial aid you should fill out and submit a FAFSA as soon as possible. This will form a foundation and will help steer the rest of your search for money to pay for school. The reason why this should be your first step is that it might be your only step.
If you receive enough money in the form of Federal Pell Grants you won’t need to keep looking. This is free money that you don’t have to pay back, and it is completely needs based. You won’t have to write an essay or jump through any hoops to get it. If they run the equation and you show enough financial need they will give you the maximum amount possible.
There are plenty of resources that can help you with your FAFSA application. It is crucial that you fill this form out correctly in order to maximize the amount of money you’ll be eligible for. The guide provided by the Education Department is actually pretty thorough and offers explanations and reasons why you’re being asked for certain information.
Grants for Online Learning
You can apply for grants just as if you were attending a traditional university. They are both institutions of higher learning and therefore are subject to the same treatment. Grants are recommended over all other types of financial aid because they typically have less stipulations as to how they are used, and you won’t have to maintain any GPA or other qualifications.
Scholarships for Online Courses
Scholarships are the next best form of financial aid after grants. Yes, they are both free money but with scholarships there are more hoops to jump through before and after being awarded the money. With many scholarships you’ll need to have and maintain a certain GPA or risk losing your award. Scholarships are great, but grants are better and should be your primary focus.
Loans for Online Programs
Loans are the last form of financial aid for online colleges that you want to consider. This is because you not only have to pay back the principle balance that you took out, but the interest that accrues as well. This makes your expensive education even more expensive. Not only that but it puts a lot of pressure on you to get a job immediately after you graduate and start paying off your debt. It can take several years to pay off your loans, even longer than it takes to get your degree in most cases.
Pay Attention to Deadlines
Online colleges and universities follow the same deadlines as their real world counterparts. You don’t want to miss out on money because you let too much time lapse. It’s always good to submit applications as early as possible so that you get a response as soon as you can in order to guide your next steps.
Never Settle for Less
If you get your FAFSA results back and you did not qualify for any grants, or if you apply for some grants and scholarships and get turned down, don’t stop. The only way you can pay too much for your education is by not finding enough free money to cover the costs. It’s a numbers game and you should not stop pushing until you get what you want. The last thing you’ll want is the financial stress and pressure of student loan payments as you try and find your new job.
Add Your Own Tips for Getting Financial Aid for Online Colleges