When it comes to paying for college, most students rely on a variety of funding sources. But not all types of financial aid are the same. We encourage you to take advantage of money that doesn’t have to be paid back—like grants and scholarships—before taking on debt in the form of student loans. Here are the pros and cons of some possible sources of aid, and how to go about getting each one.

All About Grants

Grants are a type of financial aid from the federal government, your state government, or your school that doesn’t need to be paid back. Many schools automatically consider you for grants when you apply for admission. You can also visit StudentAid.gov to find and apply for federal grants.

Finding and Winning Scholarships

Scholarships are typically awarded by schools and private organizations. Like grants, they don’t need to be repaid, and many schools automatically consider you for scholarships when you apply. To find scholarships, check out:

Family Contributions and College Savings Plans

According to the most recent Discover Student Loans survey, nearly three-in-four parents (73%) say they will pay for half or more of their child’s education. Your family may have set up education saving plans, such as 529 Plans or Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, which are tax-advantaged investment accounts specifically for college costs. Or, they may have money set aside in traditional savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and money market accounts. Talk to your parents about what savings they have and how much they are able to contribute to your education.

Work Study and Working in College

The Federal Work-Study Program is a part-time employment program funded by the government that allows students to earn money that can be used to help pay for college. You may be awarded work study as a portion of your financial aid package that is generated after completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). You can also work in the summers and save money for school expenses, find a non-work study part-time job that fits around your class schedule or attend school part time while working.

Did You Know?

Once you exhaust free money, family contributions, savings and wages, consider federal and private student loans. If you need to borrow money, compare federal and private student loans and choose the loans that best fit your needs.

FAFSA® is a registered trademark of the US Department of Education and is not affiliated with Discover Student Loans.
Scholarships.com™ is a trademark of Scholarships.com, LLC and is not affiliated with Discover Student Loans.


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What is an Award Letter - Financial Aid
Financial Aid

The Award Letter


Award letters are sent from the schools where you are accepted and details how much financial aid you will receive. Discover Student Loans explains what to expect.


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