College choice: Consider Affordability and Aid

When choosing a college, two of the most important factors you should consider are affordability and aid. They go hand in hand in the sense that how much aid you do or don’t receive will obviously determine your budget and the amount of college you can afford.

At the undergraduate level, there are scholarships and grants. Both are free money that do NOT need to be repaid. They are gifts, basically. In addition to scholarships available at each school, there are also scholarships available throughout the country for various demographics, skills, military or law enforcement service, etc. One of the biggest scholarship “search engines” is This site will allow you to enter certain details about yourself and your educational goals and will then give you a list of potential scholarships that you may be eligible to apply for.

Grants are also free monies from the government. For example, in California students can apply for a Cal Grant. The Cal Grant awards are determined by GPA and household income. There is also a federal grant called a Pell Grant.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the application that must be submitted every academic year to determine a student’s eligibility for aid. The FAFSA only determines eligibility for both grants and loans. It does not award or obligate an applicant to either. That is handled by the school that the student chooses to enroll with.

In my opinion, there is no reason for a new college student (i.e. just out of high school) to go into huge debt for college, at least not for an undergraduate degree (i.e. associate or baccalaureate degree). However, for an older adult who may be returning to school, who may have a job and/or family, a traditional public college may not have a course schedule that will be conducive to maintaining a regular job and caring for a family. This makes a non-traditional private college the likely choice, and unfortunately, this usually means that loans are going to be necessary. While not ideal to go into debt, it may be a necessary evil to get the training you need for the career you desire. BUT–make sure you have done your first two steps: is the training you seek applicable or necessary for what you want to do, and is the school you are considering properly accredited? If you’ve done your due diligence and can honestly answer yes to both, then you can feel a little better about any loans you have to incur.

What has been your college experience with aid and affordability?

For your advantage,



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