When you are considering going for a bachelors degree, one of the first questions that comes to your mind is how you will pay for it, because, face it, all four of those years of bachelors degree education does not come cheap. Fortunately, bachelors degree-holders have more financial aid available to them than any other type of degree-seeker.

According to a National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, on average, 15 percent of a typical student’s college costs are paid for with grants and scholarships and 39 percent are from loans either taken out by parents or the students themselves. The rest was made up from work income, savings or support from friends or relatives.

Now, we’ll be honest with you: finding financial aid to pay for your bachelor’s degree program takes a little bit of legwork. But it’s worth it. Any dollar you can receive to help pay for your schooling is a dollar less you have to spend out of your own pocket. To help you make sure you’re covering your financial aid, here is a list of all the type sof financial aid that are available to bachelor’s degree-seekers:

1. Pell Grants

These are everybody’s favorite type of financial aid, because, unlike student loans, you don’t have to repay that money unless you fail to finish the semester of term for which you receive financial aid or meet other stipulations. Students also love them because the application process is typically less intense than those for scholarships and they guaranteed as long as you meet federal requirements. But, again, if you can qualify for Pell Grants, they really need to be your first option since they don’t carry any interest and they don’t need to be repaid (unless you fail to meet federal stipulations). Qualifying for Pell Grants is based on need.

2. Scholarships

Scholarships for bachelor’s degree-seekers tend to be awarded more on a merit-basis. Like Pell Grants, they do not have to be repaid unless you fail to meet the organization’s requirements for the scholarship. However, scholarship applications typically take some work and there might not be a guarantee that you will be awarded the scholarship, since you would basically be competing against other applicants for the scholarship.

Most scholarships are based on performance, whether it is academic, athletic, dramatic, etc. According to www.finaid.org:

“A total of about $1.25 billion is awarded to 750,000 undergraduate and graduate students from about 3,100 private-sector sources each year, when employee tuition benefits and college-controlled aid is excluded. This represents about 4.0% of the student population.”

That’s a lot of money available to students.

Specific scholarships are awarded at each institution, but there are other scholarships that anyone can apply for, no matter what school you attend. Many scholarships require that you maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) or have other criteria to maintain the funding. Look at your GPA, your skills and interests and see if there are any scholarships that you would qualify for.

Look into other private sector companies and organizations to see if there are scholarships they award. Check with professional associations affiliated with the field you are interested in studying or with non-profit organizations to see if they offer any financial assistance.

Fortunately, there are many websites and blogs dedicated just to scholarships. When you do find scholarships and grants, apply for all that you can. The more you apply for, the more you may be able to secure. It will take time, but may pay off in the end, literally, as you keep applying and stay on top of those application deadlines.

A great source for searching for scholarships without giving away your personal information is ScholarshipLibrary.com.

3. Stafford Loans

More expensive than grants but less expensive than private loans, Stafford Loans are loans that are subsidized by the government to help students pay for their bachelors degree education at a low interest rate. Having the government involved keeps your interest rate much lower than you would pay on, say, a credit card or car loan, but you do have to pay it back, every cent, plus interest. Student loans typically stay with you for years after school, so be careful about how much of this money you accept and use. Use as little as possible and you will find yourself much happier down the road.

4. Private Loans

After scholarships and federal financial aid, there are a host of private options for financial aid, but this is also where the waters get murky. Everyone from friends to banks and credit card companies may offer to give you money to pay for your schooling. Some of these will be a very good deal for you and others will be made to keep you in debt for the rest of your mortal life. The best way to weigh these offers is to look first at their interest rate (lower is better) and then at their payment terms. To get the full skinny on the different types of private financial aid, check out our post “When Federal Financial Aid Is Not Enough: All About Private Student Loans.”

So once you’ve figured out the different financial aid options that are available to you for your bachelor’s degree program, the next step is to figure out how to get started. For that, we’ve got you covered. The first step to receiving a federal grant is to apply by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This information is used to help estimate the cost of earning your bachelor’s degree against how much you are able to pay. To learn all about the magically world of FAFSA, check out this handy video:

The same FAFSA form is used to determine if you qualify for grants awarded by the state. Most states have money they can offer to resident students to help finance college. Low-income students are typically given precedence for these grants, as are women and minority students, but there are grants for students in certain fields, such as nursing, where the demand may be greater.

As you tell, figuring out how to pay for your bachelor’s degree education is serious business. The wrong decisions can haunt you for years after. That’s why it’s super-important to leave no stone unturned when you are looking for available funding. Do your homework on interest rates and payment terms. Look to your financial aid office, and let them help you find financial aid.

What questions do you have about obtaining financial aid for your bachelor’s degree? What have you tried? What has worked best for you? Tell us in the comments below!

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