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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Funding Your Education

When trying to find different ways to finance a post-secondary education, there are several options you can investigate. The most common type of financial aid is scholarships and grants, which are funds you don't have to pay back and are given to certain students from a specific donor. Scholarships and grants can be provided by either public or private organizations, businesses, or memorial trusts.

To receive either one of these types of financial aid, a student must meet certain prerequisites and requirements, which should be clearly outlined on all application materials so as to avoid any misunderstanding. When applying for any sort of financial aid, you must take careful notice of any and all responsibilities you are assuming towards the donor.

Scholarships and grants are not the same thing. Scholarships generally are awarded based on a student's accomplishments such as grade point average—GPA, athletic abilities or other talents, extracurricular activities, and so forth; while grants are typically awarded based on the applicant's academic pursuits (area of study/major) and commitment to a career area.

How to Find and Apply for Scholarships and Grants

So how would you go about finding information on scholarships and grants that will be appropriate to you and your needs? One of the first and easiest places to look would be in your college's financial aid office, which should have information on both on- and off-campus sources of funding.

As the application process can be worrisome, it is vital to familiarize yourself with the process. There are many different ways you can become acquainted with applications for financial aid:

  • Consult scholarship guides on campus which will have information on all different kinds of financial aid.
  • Speak with a Financial Aid Advisor or your Guidance Counselor to find out what will fit your academic situation.
  • Check for scholarship-related workshops to acquaint yourself with the application process.
  • Speak with a peer who is familiar with applying for scholarships and grants and has been successful at doing so.

Not only should you become acquainted with the application process itself, you should also focus on the eligibility criteria for each source. It is important to find a scholarship or grant that suits you, your interests and major, and also your situation; for example, finding a donor who lists having a visual disability as a criterion.

When filling out your applications, take extra care to make sure that all of your information is correct and any requested essays or autobiographical paragraphs are written accurately and answer the questions posed. Also be sure to do exactly as the application requires using your best writing abilities in a creative and informative manner. To further your essay's chances, if appropriate, you can research the type of scholarship for which you apply and the donor or provider. Considering the essay is typically the central piece to your application, it is essential to write not only a well-written essay, but an essay that will showcase your strengths, abilities, and personality.

As it can be rather time-consuming to write many similar essays for different scholarships, it is wise to develop one autobiographical piece, including some traits you possess and also your academic goals that can remain consistent over time. This piece can then serve as a basis for the multiple responses you will send out. However, be sure to edit your general piece so as to fit the scholarship for which you are applying, for example, emphasizing certain details about you that coincide with the donor's criteria.

Student Loans: Another Source of Funding

An alternative to scholarships and grants in the search for financial aid is a student loan. While a student loan is presented as an easy way for a student to further his or her academic career, one must remember that student loans MUST be repaid. If not careful, a student may begin his or her professional life in debt and be obligated to pay substantial amounts on a monthly basis that were not anticipated when in the midst of college studies. Student loans often come with conditions that can restrict the ways in which a student receives funding and pays it back in later years. Therefore, caution should be taken before jumping into a loan as an easy way out of financial trouble, as it may put you back into financial trouble in the future.

Most student loans are now owned by private financial institutions that demand a profit for themselves when lending money to students. In other words, most loans will require that a student pay interest when he or she begins making payments after graduation as dictated by the loan owner or institution. If these financial obligations are not met, which is called a loan default, it will result in a troubled credit history for many years.

However, if a student loan is needed, you should choose carefully between loans to find one that will suit you and your needs, as you would a scholarship or grant. In your school's financial aid office, they will give you information on the loans available and how much you will receive. As many colleges now are required to have state-funded agencies dictate what the cost of your college program is per semester or term, that total is the amount which you would receive. If the loan exceeds that amount, then it is your responsibility to return it to the funding source.

There are also different kinds of student loans, such as temporary loans or short-term loans. These are generally loans that are not only easier to receive, but easier to pay back as they usually do not have interest attached. However, these loans are to be used strictly for academic uses and must be paid back promptly or at a time specified by the loan owner or institution.

Other Resources

If you are not interested in or eligible for scholarships, grants, or student loans, there are work-study programs available to college students both on and off campus. There are also paid internships and other part-time jobs that can be related to your major and even help you decide if your major or career goal is right for you.

Once on campus, it will be easier to discover and research methods of paying for college that will suit you and your situation to further enrich your college experiences.

Follow this link to view scholarships you can apply for.

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