Financial Aid

Paying for School

Don’t rule out school just because you don’t have the cash to pay for it up front. Most students don’t. In fact, more than 85 percent of undergrad students rely on some type of financial aid to pay for college. From federal student loans (available to students of any age) to scholarships and grants, discover a host of options to help you get the education you need.

Types of financial aid

1. Federal Student Loans

Uncle Sam is the single largest provider of higher-education funding in the country. Each year, more than 15 million students receive some $150 billion in loans, grants and work-study aid. There’s no age restriction on federal loans, and no official income limit (although you must demonstrate financial need to qualify). Don’t miss out on this important source of support for your school journey.

Am I eligible for a federal student loan?

In order to apply for federal assistance with school costs, you’ll need to:

  • Be a U.S. citizen (or an eligible noncitizen)
  • Have a valid social security number
  • Be enrolled or accepted as a student in an eligible program
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
How do I apply for a federal student loan?

Start by filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Although it’s fairly long, the average student completes it in 25 minutes. The sooner you apply, the better—some student aid programs have limited funds. If you delay, you run the risk of missing out.

What happens after I apply?

Once you’ve submitted the FAFSA, the U.S. Department of Education shares it with the school(s) that you listed on the form. Eventually, the school where you’re accepted—and which you listed on the FAFSA—will send you an award letter, telling you how much aid you qualify for at the school.

Do I need to reapply every year?

Yes. Your financial situation—and your school enrollment—can change, so the government requires you to resubmit the FAFSA each year to determine your eligibility for loans, grants and scholarships.

2. Grants

Generally awarded based on financial need, grants are the “free money” of student aid. Unlike loans, you don’t have to pay back grant money. Sources for grants include federal and state governments, the schools themselves, and private and nonprofit organizations. Good news for teacher-education students: Depending on your course of study, you might also qualify for a teaching grant through the federal government.

How do I apply for a grant?

You’ll automatically be considered for a federal Pell Grant when you submit the FAFSA. This “gift aid” is generally awarded to only to undergrads, and there’s no need to repay it. Also be sure to check with your state’s grant agency to see if you qualify for a state grant.

Are there special grants for education students?

Yes! A TEACH Grant can help fund your education degree to the tune of $4,000 per year—but it comes with strings attached. For instance, you’ll need to take certain classes in order to be eligible. Once you complete your degree, you’ll also be required to teach in a high-need field in a low-income area.

How do I apply for a TEACH Grant?

Start by filling out the FAFSA. To qualify for the grant, you must enroll in a school that participates in the TEACH Grant Program. Before receiving any funds, you’ll get more details through TEACH Grant counseling. You’ll also sign an agreement to serve in a high-need field in a low-income area following graduation.

What are the academic requirements for a TEACH Grant?

Generally, you must score above the 75th percentile on a college admissions test, and/or maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25. Be sure to talk with the financial aid office at your school to get more information on the academic requirements—including fields of study— for a TEACH Grant.

3. Scholarships

Scholarships are gifts that don’t have to be repaid. Unlike grants, though, they’re generally based on merit. You might qualify for a scholarship in any number of ways: through academic achievement, athletic prowess, or affiliation with a church, business, or any number of other organizations and groups. Ranging from one-time awards of a few hundred dollars, to full rides at select schools, scholarship are definitely worth investigating too.

How do I find scholarships?

Never pay to find a scholarship. Start your quest with the financial aid office at the college you’re planning to attend. You should also conduct a thorough online search. The U.S. Department of Labor has a free scholarship search tool that lists more than 7,000 scholarships and other sources of aid.

How do I apply for scholarships?

Every scholarship is different, setting its own terms and requirements. (The FAFSA has nothing to do with private scholarship funds.) Read each scholarship provider’s website to see if you qualify for aid and how to apply. Be sure to check the fine print and meet the application deadline.

When should I apply for scholarships?

Each scholarship is different. Some set their application deadlines as early as a year before the first week of classes, while others accept applications closer to your school start date. Bottom line? It pays to launch your scholarship search as soon as you decide to enroll in school.

How does a scholarship affect my student loan?

Let your school know if you win a scholarship. The financial aid office will subtract that amount from your overall costs of attendance—and probably from your loan eligibility as well. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to keep in touch with your school’s financial aid office.

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