Financial Aid 101: How to Get College Scholarships & Grants

If you’re like most students, you’ll need some help paying for your college degree, so take advantage of opportunities to find grants and scholarships. This is usually free money that you won’t have to worry about paying back. The trick is knowing where to look and getting started early.

How Much Does College Cost?

Students are now graduating with an average of over $37,000 in student loan debt. Sallie Mae found that most families know their children would like to attend college, but only 44% have a plan to pay for it.

Depending on the type of school and where it's located, you could pay an average of up to nearly $50,000 per year, according to The College Board. To find out how much your school may cost, check out the College Affordability and Transparency Center's online resources.

Financial Aid Through Grants & Scholarships 101

Applying for financial aid can take time, but it's worth it to help make college more affordable. According to Sallie Mae's report, 31% of college costs are covered by scholarships and grants. Typically, grants are awarded based on financial need, while scholarships are awarded based on merit. Both grants and scholarships are available through the federal government, state governments, colleges, private companies and non-profit organizations.

Fill Out the FASFA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

One of the most critical steps for receiving federal financial aid is to fill out your Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA). This application helps the government determine your financial aid qualifications, but many state and private organizations also use it to understand your financial situation and award student aid.

You'll want to complete your FAFSA by January 1 of the year you're entering college and again each subsequent year of your college education. Some federal aid programs operate on a first-come, first-served basis, so filing the application early gives you the best chance of receiving the most favorable financial aid package. Note that the deadlines for federal and state aid may vary. Visit the FAFSA website find the application deadline for North Dakota, or wherever you're attending college.

Visit the University Financial Aid Office

Your college or university of choice can also be a great resource for scholarships or grants. Almost all schools have financial aid offices that can help you understand your available options. Start by scheduling an appointment with a financial aid counselor to learn about the types of grants and scholarships available to you.

Find Grants & Scholarships

Countless scholarships are available to students around the country. Scholarships can be based on various criteria, such as geography, GPA, sports teams or clubs, essay questions, student origin or nationality, intended major, military affiliation, gender and so much more. Start by looking for scholarships within your community. Check with local organizations, employers, schools, religious centers and community groups.

Online resources are also available to help you to search for scholarships or grants:

College is expensive, and costs continue to rise. Stay at the head of the class by taking the time to find scholarships and grants. Turn to Starion Bank for additional help with student loans and financial planning. Get in touch to learn more.