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Let’s Talk About Money

When it comes to paying for college, many different types of financial aid are available. Scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs can all help you cover the cost of tuition, fees, and other expenses. But what’s the difference between all of these different types of aid?

Merit Scholarships

Merit scholarships are awarded to students based on their academic achievements, extracurricular activities, or other special talents. They are not based on financial need, so anyone can apply, regardless of their family’s income. Merit scholarships can come from various sources, including colleges and universities, private organizations, and government agencies.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is a broad term encompassing all types of college financial assistance, including scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs. Financial aid is typically awarded based on financial need, but some merit-based financial aid programs are also available.


Grants are similar to scholarships but are more likely to be awarded based on financial need. Grants are also less competitive than scholarships, so they can be a good option for students who may not be eligible for merit-based aid. Grants can come from various sources, including the federal government, state governments, colleges and universities, and private organizations.


Loans are a type of financial aid that students must repay with interest. There are two main types of student loans: federal loans and private loans. Federal loans are typically more affordable than private ones, offering more flexible repayment options.

Work-Study Programs

Work-study programs allow students to earn money to help pay for college by working part-time jobs on campus or in the community. Work-study jobs are typically awarded based on financial need, but all students are eligible to apply.

Independent Scholarships

Independent scholarships are scholarships awarded by organizations other than colleges and universities. They can be awarded to students based on various factors, including academic merit, financial need, extracurricular activities, and special talents. Independent scholarships can be a great way to reduce the cost of college, and many different types of independent scholarships are available.

What’s the best type of financial aid for you? It depends on your circumstances and needs. You may be eligible for merit scholarships if you have good academic grades and extracurricular activities. You may be eligible for grants or work-study programs if you have financial need. 

Talking about money, Here are some tips for finding and applying for financial aid:

  • Start early. The earlier you start applying for financial aid, the more options you’ll have.
  • Fill out the Federal Student Aid Estimator and Financial Aid Calculator 
  • Fill out College and University Estimated Family Calculators and call Financial Aid offices Directly (i.e., University of Wisconsin )
  • Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the most important application for financial aid. It determines your eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study programs. Launches on Dec 1, 2023
  • Fill out the College Scholarships Service for many Private Schools (CSS) 
  • Apply for scholarships and grants. There are thousands of scholarships and grants available to college students. You can search for scholarships and grants online or through your school’s financial aid office.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your school’s financial aid office is there to help you navigate the financial aid process. They can help you fill out the FAFSA, find scholarships and grants, and estimate your costs of attendance. 
  • Use Profesional Resources for support:  Liane Crane at The College Dollar 

Paying for college can be daunting, but we are here to support you! 

Listen to our latest podcast – Saving College Dollars! How Do I Get Free Money for College? With Liane Crane

Join us for a follow-up with Liane on January 16th, 2024, on the Emerging Parent Community! 


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