Guides students through the process of locating and applying for financial aid. Prepared by the Congressional Research Service for Members of Congress, updated September 2009.
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:
- Provides nearly 70% of student aid under Loans, Grants and Work/study programs.
- Available to all need-based applicants; some loans and competitive scholarships for non need-based.
- Free information from the United States Department of Education:
- Loans are the most common federal aid and must be repaid when you graduate or leave college.
- Scholarships/grants are mostly need-based and require no repayment:
- Other grants, scholarships, and fellowships, mostly graduate level: search the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) by Beneficiary, such as "Student or Trainee" or "Graduate Student".
- "Congressional" scholarships:
- Named for Member of Congress or other prominent individual (such as Byrd Honors Scholarships, Fulbright fellowships)
- Merit-based and highly competitive
- Members of Congress do not play a role in selecting recipients
- Work study programs allow you to earn money while in school:
- For questions not covered by the Department of Education Web site, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.
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 institution's financial aid office when you apply for admission.
Private foundations, corporations, and organizations offer scholarships or grants:
College Board Scholarship Search
Grants for Individuals
Interested in public service?
Federal assistance programs seek to encourage people to work in geographic areas or professions where there's 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:
After college, the federal government has ways to help you repay your loans.