Individuals can apply for financial aid for higher education by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid and completing applications for private scholarships, states the U.S. Department of Education. The FAFSA can be completed online or downloaded and printed from the U.S. Department of Education website.
After the FAFSA is processed, the student is notified of her Expected Family Contribution and what financial aid she is eligible for, advises the U.S. Department of Education. Federal financial aid may include grants, federal student loans or work study options. Loans may be subsidized and do not accrue interest while the student is in school, or unsubsidized and begin accruing interest immediately.
Many schools offer their own aid and scholarship programs. Schools may grant these awards based on the information received from the FAFSA, or may require additional financial aid applications from the student, states the U.S. Department of Education. Students can accept all of the financial aid offered or accept a lower amount to reduce their debt.
Some organizations and schools offer scholarships to students to pay for school. Unlike loans, these do not have to be repaid. The application process for scholarships varies, and students may have to apply for each scholarship individually. Students can search for scholarships using a database such as Fastweb, advises FinAid.
If an individual does not receive enough money from federal aid, scholarships, and from the school itself, she can apply for a private student loan to cover the cost of schooling.