Going to college is essential in order to obtain the necessary skills and training for most jobs these days. However, the costs associated with college are increasingly high and the majority of students need financial assistance in order to attend. There are 44.2 million Americans who have student loan debt, and an estimated 70% of students graduate college with debt. These numbers are staggering, but it is possible to borrow responsibly for college. February is Financial Aid Awareness Month, the purpose of which is to provide students and families crucial information regarding federal, state, and institutional student aid and how to borrow smartly.
Once you begin applying to colleges, you should be thinking about how you will be paying for school. Tuition costs can be drastically different from school to school, so be sure to take these costs into consideration when sending out applications. If you receive scholarship offers, be aware of what exactly is included and what you will still be responsible for. Scholarships are frequently for set dollar amounts, or cover tuition only, leaving the student responsible for all other associated costs, such as housing, meal plans, books, and additional university fees. Many colleges will have calculators available on their website which can provide a realistic overview of what it will cost to attend that school.
Financial aid is available so that students can attend college even if they can’t pay their tuition ahead of time, and scholarships and assistance from family members are not enough. There are many ways students can get financial aid for college, including:
- Being financially qualified to receive it based on income
- Performing well academically
- Being a first-generation college student
- Talented in sports
- Planning to pursue a degree in a specific field
- Serving in the military
- Agreeing to work in particular locations or certain fields after graduation
- Having a special need or disability
Even if you think you will not qualify for financial aid, you should still fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is used not only for financial aid, but to determine eligibility for federal and state student grants, fellowship programs, work-study opportunities, and federal loans.
If you are a graduating senior or college underclassman, be sure to apply for Eastex Credit Union’s scholarship. Every year we select six of our members to receive $500 to be used towards their education. In order to be considered for this scholarship you must submit a completed application (click here for the application), a 250-word essay, official transcript, two letters of recommendation, have a grade point average of 2.5 or higher and be in good standing with the credit union. More information about our scholarships is available here.