For countless college students, financial aid is a necessary element of their ability to properly complete their degree and higher education. While college is an incredibly fulfilling and enriching experience that helps young professionals properly prepare for a role in their future careers, it can be an expensive undertaking as well. Especially when calculating factors such as application fees, tuition costs, and other necessary investments such as textbooks and classroom materials, it makes sense that over 50% of college students in 2020 were taking on student loans in order to complete their degree. Another way college students will save money while earning their degree is by choosing a reputable online degree program to help lower the tuition costs. Financial aid can be a valuable resource for achieving online degrees and earning the experience needed to professionally thrive and understanding how to apply for financial aid for college online is a useful tool in maximizing the value of an education.
In this article, we’ll cover how to apply for financial aid online as well as hopefully assist aspiring college students in finding financial aid opportunities specifically for online degree programs. These tips will provide some welcomed ideas for monetary relief and cherished insight into financially optimizing the college experience to lead to success.
Can You Get Financial Aid for Online Colleges
Yes, it’s not only possible but very common to receive financial aid for online colleges and degree programs. Online students are able to apply online for financial aid by first determining their FAFSA eligibility in order to apply to their school’s grants and scholarships. While online colleges and degree programs will commonly boast lower tuition costs and a lack of room and board driving up semester fees, many online programs also feature flexible term limits which can lead to students having a longer span of time to potentially need financial assistance. Whether the student is completing their degree online or in person, many online schools and programs will allow students to apply for financial aid.
Where Can I Apply for Financial Aid Online?
There are a couple of different types of financial aid, each with its own unique advantages and disadvantages and repayment structures that may influence a student’s willingness to accept financial assistance. We’ll break down some of the most popular financial aid options for online students to help future and current college students gain a stronger understanding of their financial options when earning their degree and how to apply to them.
The FAFSA, otherwise known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the most common source of financial aid for aspiring college students and their families. While being one of the most popular resources for those needing financial assistance in order to earn a degree, the application is a detailed one that can provide numerous opportunities for complication if one doesn’t learn how to apply for financial aid online successfully.
The FAFSA is available at StudentAid.gov and can be completed either electronically or through a printed form that needs to be mailed after completion. Once submitted, qualified applicants are able to see both federal and state financial aid resources as well as the financial aid offered by colleges and universities of the applicant’s choosing. While many apply for the FAFSA seeking student loans, they can also gain access to grants, scholarships, and work-study opportunities that can help provide financial relief within their degree pursuits.
How to Apply for the FAFSA
Applying for the FAFSA can be a fairly simple process if the college student properly anticipates online college application deadlines and gathers the necessary documents in order to successfully determine eligibility. A general step-by-step guide for applying for the FAFSA online entails these key steps:
Create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) Account and Collect Needed Information
The FAFSA is a required form for each year of an online student’s college experience, so creating a unique FSA ID that the student will always remember and collecting the needed information for the form is the first step. Once the FSA account has been created, interested applicants can complete the FAFSA by providing needed information and verifying documents. Applicants should be able to provide their social security number, family size, and income information, the list of online colleges they wish to apply to, as well as the applicant’s income information.
Fill in Student Demographic Information, Family Details, and Financial Information
Once you’ve created an account and collected the needed information, it’s time to fill out the FAFSA application online. The FAFSA begins by requiring the applicant to provide student demographics, such as name, age, date of birth as well as income information. They will also need to provide information about their parents such as their income level, mailing address, and household income as well the student’s dependency status to determine certain financial aid options. Applicants will also need to list the schools that they wish to apply to in order to determine the maximum level of student financial aid available for that particular online college or university.
Review and Submit FAFSA
Once you have completely filled out the FAFSA form in its entirety as accurately as possible, review the application again and scan for any potential errors in the form. The application is an extensive one, so taking extra time to verify personal details and income information is crucial for ensuring a student is gaining access to all qualified financial aid options. After guaranteeing the FAFSA is mistake-free, applicants are able to electronically sign and submit the form for review.
Private Student Loans
Private student loans vary from the student loan options available via the FAFSA and are the best option for those looking to access financial assistance outside of federal aid. Before applying for a private student loan, applicants will have usually already learned what financial aid they are qualified for through the FAFSA and are in need of additional funds through private lenders. Private student loans are issued by financial institutions or banks and can be another option for those wanting to learn how to get financial aid for online colleges and degree programs.
Before borrowing a large sum of money in any context it’s important to understand where it comes from and how long the applicant has to repay the balance. Private student loans have a huge variety of repayment options and interest rates that should be considered before applying. As with any loan issued by a bank or financial institution, approval is based on eligibility but in many cases can also receive approval with the help of a qualified co-signer. After applying and receiving approval for a private student loan, the lender and college of choice will connect to certify the loan and verify the details of the disbursement. While in some cases financial aid is sent directly to the borrower, most private student loans are immediately applied to the balance owed to the college.
Some of the potential places those interested in applying for private student loans may explore include:
Tips for Applying for Financial Aid Online
While now readers likely have a stronger understanding of the financial aid options available for online students, questions are likely to still pop up along the way and financial aid is an inherently complex system. Here are some helpful tips in learning how to apply online for student aid that can further streamline and simplify the financial aid process.
Pay extra attention to deadlines
At the core of financial aid and loan disbursement is eventual repayment. Whether the financial aid is issued directly from the academic institution of choice or from a private financial lender, these funds are designed to be eventually repaid by the borrower. There are numerous financial aid repayment plans available to past students looking to lower their monthly payments, but deadlines are very crucial in ensuring borrowers do not negatively affect their credit or get swamped with climbing interest rates. Making the appropriate monthly payments in a timely manner is the only way to create a consistent plan for repayment and eventually release the borrower from their balance altogether.
Read the small print about any ongoing applications
In a similar level of importance as keeping track of deadlines, it’s also crucial to understand that many of the financial aid applications completed when first applying to an online school need to be completed more than once. The FAFSA is a great example of an ongoing application, but many private loans and student scholarships also require additional engagement and follow-up throughout their collegiate experience and after within the repayment process. It’s important to pay close attention to any legally binding document being signed, and financial aid resources are no exception. By reading the fine print of these financial aid applications students can be assured they won’t have to worry about any abrupt disruptions in their educational funding.
When Should I Apply for Financial Aid for College?
If interested applicants are sitting there wondering When to apply for financial aid for college? They’ll be happy to learn that it’s never too early to begin. Whether that’s by researching scholarships to seek eligibility or by gathering the proper documentation to pull the plug on applying for financial assistance through the FAFSA, the more information applicants can gather before applying can help them maximize their assistance earnings. Preparing for applying for financial aid online allows applicants to apply for as many opportunities as possible as well as properly anticipate any upcoming deadlines that may be crucial for their application.
While it may seem overwhelming to wrap your head around initially, financial aid is designed to help those who may not have the funds to apply for college on their own gain access to the same valuable opportunities and resources available to students that don’t require this assistance. These financial aid options can open the door to prosperous career paths and fulfilling professional goals, which is an overall priceless experience. By learning how to apply for financial aid for college online, students are able to not only earn the degree of their choosing but maximize the value of their education.