People are always willing to talk about the fact that it takes a lot of dedication to go back to school, but what they aren’t saying is that it takes a lot of money too. Since there aren’t any schools offering degrees in agriculture with a concentration in money tree growing, it’s safe to say that you’ll have to figure out a way to fund your new future. The process can be pretty overwhelming, so we’ve narrowed down the four major types of financial aid available for students.
Scholarships: All types of organizations and schools offer scholarships for pretty much anything under the sun: your interests, your hometown, your major, etc. There’s even a scholarship out there for skateboarders. The two most popular types of scholarships given are based on academic achievement (good grades) and athletics. Scholarships usually require an application process that involves proof of achievement and in many cases an essay. Applications are then evaluated, and eligible recipients are awarded money according to the terms of the scholarship. A word of warning: there are some sites that will try to scam you with fake scholarship opportunities. You should never have to pay a fee to be considered for a legitimate scholarship.
Grants: The most popular source of grant aid is the federal government. Grants are “gift” aid that you don’t have to pay back, but you don’t have to earn them in the same way you would with a scholarship (scholastic or athletic achievement). Grants are usually offered on a need basis determined by the information you submit on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Loans: These are the most widely available type of funding, but they will need to be repaid. You are borrowing someone’s money (from either the government or a private financial institution), and in most cases you don’t have to start paying off these loans until you graduate. You’ll have to pay interest, but it’s typically lower than what you’ll find on other types of unsecured loans.
Work study: In some cases the federal government will award need-based financial aid through a work study program. These are jobs (mostly on campus) where you are guaranteed a position at a fixed wage (usually hourly). Jobs could include security, library, maintenance or cafeteria work, but this all depends on the needs of the university. Work study is awarded through completion of the FAFSA.
No one knows your situation as well as you do, so the best thing to do is explain your financial situation to someone who can help. You’ll find a listening ear in someone in the admissions or financial aid office at the university you plan on attending. They’ll be able to steer you in the right direction and help you find the best way to pay for your education.