The 4 Main Types of College Aid

Dear College Made Simple reader,

“How can we afford to pay for college?”

That’s one of the questions we get asked most frequently from the families we work with.

But the truth is, the cost of college doesn’t have to come entirely from your pockets. In fact over $227.2 billion dollars is out there for the taking – a lot of which you don’t have to pay a dime back.

Today’s let’s review the four main types of college aid, and how to go about pursuing them.


The 4 Main Types of College Aid 

1. Need-Based Grants and Scholarships

Need-based grants and scholarships are given to applicants with significant financial need.

The words grant and scholarship are often used interchangeably. That’s because, generally speaking, they are the same thing – a lump sum of money that does not need to be paid back.

They are given by a wide array of organizations to a wide array of students for a wide array of reasons… however, they are always based on need.

How to get them: The first thing you should do is complete the required financial aid forms. Those forms (the FAFSA, the CSS Profile, as well as other school-specific ‘need-based’ forms) provide a comprehensive report of a students’ family’s financial information that colleges use to determine which prospective students have the most need for financial assistance. But these forms alone aren’t enough.

You’ll want to research local, state and federal sources for grants and scholarships. This information should be assembled as early as possible, but no later than your junior year of high school. Each grant and scholarship has different criteria to earn them, as well as different deadlines. Knowing this early allows you to prioritize them and tailor your applications for them accordingly.

2. Merit-Based Grants and Scholarships

Merit-based grants and scholarships are awarded for academic, athletic or artistic achievement. Like need-based grants and scholarships, they are given out by organizations, people, endowments, colleges and varying levels of government. Some merit-based grants and scholarships consider financial need, but their primary objective is rewarding talent.

How to Get Them: Since each merit-based grant and scholarship has a different basis for reward (i.e. academic), they all have different criteria to win them. However, it’s your job to study that criteria and highlight your achievements of them when you apply.

 3. Subsidized Loans

Subsidized loans are loans by which the government pays the interest while the student is enrolled in college and for six months after the student leaves school. Interest is also paid by the government during periods of deferment. The two main subsidized loans are Subsidized Stafford Loans and Perkins loans.

How to get them: Subsidized loans are awarded based on financial need, so the first and most important thing you need to do is fill out the FAFSA form – correctly and on time. Colleges will review your application and determine how much in subsidized loans you are eligible for..

4. Work Study Programs

Work study programs are part-time jobs (usually on campus) awarded to students who demonstrate financial need. Work study jobs are often related to a student’s field of study, but not always. The hours are molded around your academic schedule.

How to Get Them: On the FASFA application, select the work-study option. If you have been accepted to receive a work-study job, you still need to apply for one at your college. Work study jobs are highly sought after, so the earlier you apply — the better. These jobs are great because typically, the earnings don’t count against you for financial aid… and the majority of the time, there’s not too much to do so you get paid to sit around and do homework while on the job! They also serve as a great networking opportunity if you end up getting a position in a department that you tend to go into after college graduation.

To your college funding & admissions success,

Scott Weingold

Co-Founder, College Planning Network LLC

Publisher, – The free educational resource of College Planning Network


Related Articles:

Tips for the Financial Aid Application Process

How to Take Control of the College Funding Process

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.