Financial Aid Resources for Post-High School Education

— U.S. Department of Education
Updated on Jun 1, 2009

Teachable Moment- Financial Aid Discussion with Your Child

How can I help my child determine how to finance his or her college education?

You should:

  • Sit down with your child to discuss all the financial aid opportunities and resources available.
  • Talk with your child's school guidance counselor to get more information about merit-based scholarships, grants and private scholarships.
  • Check with the colleges that your child is applying to for more information about the financial assistance they offer, and the required applications and forms that your child must turn in to be considered for financial aid.
  • Contact your state's higher education office.
  • Go to the reference section of your public library to find information about financial assistance.

After researching, help your child make a list of all financial aid resources that he or she wishes to consider and apply for.  This list should include:

  • Your Family's Contribution;
  • Federal and State Loans; and
  • Federal/State Grants and Scholarships

What Additional Resources Should my Child Consider for Financial Aid?

For more information:

Federal Financial Aid Programs go to: The Student Guide: Financial Aid from the U.S. Department of Education at: or call 1-800-4-Fed-Aid (1-800-433-3243).

State Financial Aid Programs contact your state's higher education agency at:

Volunteer/Service Programs Americorps at: or call 1-800-424-8580

Merchant Marine Academy call 1-866-546-4778

ROTC at:

Free scholarship and grant resources include:

There are also additional scholarship and grant search services on the Internet that require payment that you and your child may want to consider.

What is Financial Aid?

Financial Aid refers to the wide variety of programs that help students and families pay for college or graduate school.

More than 15 million students are enrolled in postsecondary study in the United States. Over half of these students receive some form of financial aid.

It is important for you to help your child understand all of the financial aid options available during his or her college decision-making process. In addition to college application deadlines, individual colleges and Federal and state programs have application deadlines for financial assistance that must be met in order to be considered for all available financial aid.

Financial Aid is available in four forms:

  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Loans
  • Work-study

Three major sources provide the bulk of student financial aid:

  • Federal government
  • State governments
  • Colleges and universities

Private sources of aid, in the form of scholarships, grants and loans, are also available from companies, community groups, non-governmental organizations, schools, banks and other lending institutions.

How is student aid determined? Student aid is based on either financial need or merit-based need.  Most student aid, federal or not, is awarded to students based on their families' financial need.

Merit-based aid is awarded to students who meet requirements not related to financial needs -- such as academic excellence in high school or displaying artistic or athletic talent.

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