A General Overview of Financial Aid

Financial aid can come in many different forms and from many different sources. With all the possibilities out there, it can often be difficult to know what is available. Here are some basics on what financial aid is available and how to get it. 


As probably the most traditional and also the most purely beneficial form of financial aid, scholarships are often the first place people look when seeking financial aid. Scholarships are aid that is given to students with no expectation of that money being repaid. Scholarships can come from a variety of sources including the federal government and are very frequently awarded based on merit rather than financial need, although that is not always true. 

Scholarships rarely cover the full cost of tuition at a school, but may help to bring down the cost of attending such an institution.


Loans are the most common form of financial aid. Student loans are provided to the student in order to pay for their school and living costs but are expected to be repaid to the institution providing the loan after graduation. The key advantage to student loans is that whether they are provided by the federal government or by a bank, they are generally not required to be paid back until after the student graduates from school. Although there are many different forms of loans, often student loans also do not begin to accrue interest until after the student has begun school.

In the case of federal loans, there are a number of ways that students can get partial or complete forgiveness on those loans by providing service to the nation. Students that go into the army, for example, can gain forgiveness of federal loans. The military is also not the only way. Americorp and Peacecorp volunteers can enjoy similar, though only partial, forgiveness on their loans.

Work Study

Work study is a form of government financial aid which works through the school to provide jobs for students who need extra income to pay for their education. The salary for these jobs are, in turn, paid for by either the state or federal government. In this way, the burden of creating jobs for students is partially taken off the backs of the schools. 

Work study has been around for a long time and has had varying success. Many people argue that it is a costly program that cannot begin to help students cover the cost of their education. However, others continue to argue that it helps provide necessary skills to students while providing them with extra income in a convenient and safe location for them to continue their studies.

Information on this page from the Department of Education, FAFSA, and FinancialAidFacts.org