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Paying for College

Financial aid is money that can help you pay for college. 

Most full-time college students receive some kind of financial aid.

There are four main types of financial aid:

  1. Grants. Grants are gift aid because you don’t have to pay them back. Grant money comes from federal and state governments and from colleges. Most grants are needbased: your family’s financial circumstances determine how much aid you receiveA Pell Grant is the federal government’s needbased aid program, and it is worth up to $5,845 during the 201617 school year. Some grants are meritbased: your academic record determines how much money you earn.
  2. Scholarships are also gift aid and do not have to paid back. Scholarships can come from governments, colleges, or private organizations. There are hundreds of scholarships and they can be awarded for almost anything: students earn scholarships for academic or athletic ability, for interest in volunteer work or a certain subject in school, or for membership in an ethnic or religious group.You may be eligible for a scholarship if you had a parent who served in the military, or if your parent’s employer offers scholarships to children of employees.
  3. WorkStudy Programs. You can get a paid parttime job through the federal workstudy program to help you cover part of the cost.
  4. Loans. A loan is money borrowed from the government, a bank or a lending company. Loans must be paid back with an extra charge that accrues (grows over time) called interest. The federal government offers special loans to students paying for college: these loans are lowinterest, and don’t have to be paid back until you earn your degree. Other lenders charge more interest, and you have to start paying them back earlier.

How to Apply for Financial Aid:

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be considered for financial aid from the federal government, state governments, and many colleges. Students in the Class of 2016, the first day you can access and complete your FAFSA is January 1. The FAFSA is free. You do not need to pay to submit your FAFSA..

Some colleges also use FAFSA to determine scholarship awards. You can also apply for financial aid directly from the colleges you’re applying to and from private organizations. Most colleges have a priority deadline for submitting your FAFSA application of March 1st.

What do I need to get started?

1. You will need to create your FSA ID at FAFSA.ED.GOV. 

This is an IMPORTANT CHANGE IN THE FAFSA: On May 10th, the FSA ID will replace the PIN. You will be prompted to created a FSA ID when you log into FAFSA.ED.GOV When it comes time to submit the FAFSA, students & parents will need a FSA ID to sign & submit your FAFSA. Read more here.

2. You will need to gather your parent’s financial information (if possible). For the 2016-2017 school year you will need financial information from 2015.

You may need to refer to:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your parents’ Social Security numbers if you are providing parent information*
  • Your driver’s license (if any)
  • Your 2015 W-2 forms and other records of money earned
  • Your (and if married, your spouse’s) 2015 Federal Income Tax Return.
  • Your Parents’ 2015 Federal Income Tax Return (if you are a dependent student)
  • Your 2015 untaxed income records
  • Your current bank statements

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Need help completing your FAFSA? Call 205-939-1408 or your college’s financial aid office.

Free Tax Preparation Resources

  • United Way of Central Alabama: (for individuals making up to $53,000), 1-888-421-1266,
  • Impact Alabama SaveFirst Tax Sites: To schedule an appointment, please call 1-888-99-TAX-AL.
  • If you earn up to $57,000 file your taxes for free online at this website.

Volunteers, for more information click here.

For more information about the FAFSA, visit us on our website. For FAFSA workshops throughout Alabama, visit College Goal Sunday.


For more information about specific colleges and their financial aid offices, check out our compiled list!

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