Congratulations, you've decided to go to college! Now you need to know how to pay for it. Thousands of pre-college and college students search for scholarships, government loans, and grants each year.

The estimated cost to attend a public four-year college in the academic year 2006-2007 is at least $16,914 for one year, while for a private four-year college the cost more than doubles. This figure includes tuition, room, and board. A student must also consider the cost of books and personal expenses when figuring college expenses. One source estimates that figure to be over $600 annually. This makes it easy to understand the need for financial aid among many college students.

TYPES OF FINANCIAL AID

• Grants and Scholarships: This type of aid is generally provided by the federal government or private organizations. Grants and Scholarships do not have to be paid back but usually require qualifications in certain areas. (i.e. music, sports, academics, etc.)
• Work-Study: This is a program where a student in college may earn income and gain work experience at the same time. It is usually provided by the Federal Work Study program (http://faid.tamu.edu/main.cfm?Section=2). The college financial aid office can assist you in finding a job.
• Loans: Based on financial need, this type of aid may carry low interest rates and accommodating repayment plans. However, every loan will require you to pay interest for as long as the debt exists.

REQUIREMENTS FOR ELIGIBILITY

There are certain requirements a person must meet to be eligible for financial aid:

• a high school diploma or GED certificate
• proof of financial need
• US citizenship or proof of eligibility as a non-citizen
• a social security number
• a specific GPA
• affiliation with a group
• financial need

When searching and applying for financial aid, remember to apply every year because you might become eligible even though you were not eligible the previous year. Make a note of all deadlines for financial aid; registering early for aid is best. Also, avoid scholarship online services that want money in return for the service. College is expensive, but there are free sources that can help you pay for school if you spend some time and effort looking.

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