Mapping Your Financial Journey: Helping Adults Plan for College
Get Financial Aid

Types of Traditional Financial Aid


Many forms of financial aid are available, including:

  • Federal: Visit www.studentaid.ed.gov.
  • State: Visit www.finaid.org.
  • Local: Check with large local employers, private foundations and endowments, and local service organizations for information on scholarship programs.
  • Institutional: Many universities and colleges offer their own scholarship and grant money. Check with your school’s financial aid officer. 

Aid generally is divided into the following categories:

  • Scholarships: Money that does not need to be repaid. Scholarships are usually merit-based, but can be need-based.
  • Grants: Money that does not need to repaid; usually are need-based.
  • Loans: Money that must be repaid, often with accrued interest.
  • Work-Study: Money that you receive in exchange for working at an approved job.

Merit-based aid is awarded for grades, athletic performance, musical or acting abilities, and so on. It does not consider financial need. Need-based aid is determined only by financial need.

Applying for federal financial aid is a relatively streamlined process: simply complete and submit the FAFSA form. But it can take some work to find out about the aid options that are available at your college. Start with your financial aid officer. Also check with each department to see what it offers. Find out if your college has a separate scholarship office that distributes funds from alumni endowments or grants from local foundations.

Read more about: Grants, Scholarships, Work-Study

Read more about: Student Loans

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