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<June 2015>

Current Location: Skip Navigation LinksHome | Get Set for Life | Educational Choices | How do I pay for school?

How to Pay for College, Trade or Technical School

Begin with your high school counseling office. Your next stop should be the college aid section of your public library to research options. Most libraries have a number of books about financial aid, including scholarship guides. They also may have information on local scholarships. Also, contact the school that you would like to attend and get an appointment with their Financial Aid office.

Understand all of your options when it comes to paying for college:


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form the U.S. Department of Education (ED) requires to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The government conducts a "need analysis" based on financial information, such as income, assets, and other family information, which you (and your parents if you are a dependent student) will be asked to provide.

Your application is examined by a federal processor and the results are sent by computer to the financial aid offices of the colleges you've chosen. Applications should be submitted as soon as possible after January 1, but no sooner.

The FAFSA is the application most colleges use to determine eligibility for federal, state, and college-sponsored financial aid, including grants, educational loans, and work-study programs.

FAFSA logo

Pay attention to the deadlines! There are federal and state deadlines, and your colleges may also have a deadline.

Please visit the FAFSA website for more information.


Grants are distinctly different from both scholarships and student loans in that they are free gift money. Grants do not have to be repaid like student loans and they are primarily need- based, compared to traditionally merit-based scholarships.

Young teen

Grants may be divided into the following searchable categories:

  • Student-specific
  • Subject-specific
  • Degree Level
  • Minority

Common sources for grant funding:

  • Federal and state governments
  • Colleges and universities
  • Public and private organizations

The following federal grant programs offer hundreds of thousands of students the necessary assistance that makes college a financial reality:

A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. Pell Grants are awarded usually only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor's or a professional degree. (In some cases, however, a student enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program might receive a Pell Grant.) Pell Grants are considered a foundation of federal financial aid, to which aid from other federal and nonfederal sources might be added.

The Academic Competitiveness (AC) Grant is available to undergraduate freshman and sophomores with outstanding academic records and with demonstrated aptitudes for leadership and service. Qualifying candidates must also be Pell Grant eligible.

The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (SMART Grant) picks up where the Academic Competitiveness Grant leaves off - with $4,000 awards to undergraduate juniors or seniors studying computer science, engineering, mathematics, or sciences. Applicants must be eligible for and receiving the Pell Grant.

Many states administer grants to resident students based on merit, need and even area of study. See Arizona-based grants.


Scholarship cash

Scholarships are given out by private organizations, colleges, the government and companies. To find and obtain scholarships, it is best to start early; many scholarship applications are due during the fall of your senior year. Your grades, heritage, extracurricular activities, volunteer work and other factors will help you qualify for these.

Great sources of scholarships are your school (see your guidance/career counselor), organizations that you are affiliated with, community service organizations, and colleges that you apply to attend. Other organizations to consider include religious, fraternal, military, union and professional organizations.

Look at national scholarships such as those sponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, Gates Millennium Scholars, Intel Science Talent Search, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program. Check the library, internet or with your school guidance / career counselor to obtain more information on these.

Many large companies offer scholarships or tuition programs for children of employees. Ask your parents to check with their human resources department.

Don't overlook student jobs. Employers such as fast food chains, department stores and supermarkets often give scholarships. Awards related to student employment can come from unexpected sources.

For more information, visit collegeboard


Student loans are offered by the U.S. government and private institutions. The average student debt for a typical undergraduate student is estimated at about $20,000. Of course there are borrowers that lie to either side of this figure, some with gruesomely high dollar debt—all of which must be repaid. Did you realize that personal bankruptcy does not eliminate your student loan debt? So declaring yourself legally broke is not a viable last-ditch plan; the strategy won’t erase your student loan responsibilities.

But first things first: Apply with the FAFSA.
Almost every single student should be filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This is the key that gains you access to federal student loans, including the Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, and PLUS Loans. But most borrowers also fail to realize just how many other aid programs also require you file a FAFSA. What this means: if you fail to file a FAFSA, you summarily cut yourself out of almost every form of student aid.


FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid

FinAid - a comprehensive source of student financial aid information, advice and tools

College Scholarships - information on college scholarships, grants and loans


Federal Student Aid on the Web - An office of the U.S. Department of Education that strives to ensure that all eligible individuals benefit from federal financial assistance-grants, loans and work-study programs-for education beyond high school

U. S. Department of Education Grants - explore funding your education through Pell grants, work study programs, loans, etc.

State-based college grants - explore education grants provided by Arizona State. Many are available directly through state universities as need-based and merit-based grants.