Financial Aid for College

College isn’t free, and it’s getting more expensive every year.

The nation's economic troubles are a bit of a dilemma catch-22 for high school grads looking into higher education. While The College Board reports that two-year public colleges will (on average) cost just under $3,000 annually, more and more jobs are requiring a Bachelor's degree (BA) rather than the Associate's degree you would earn at a two-year institution. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a B.A. earned about 300 dollars more per week and experienced a significantly lower chance of unemployment than those with just an Associate's degree. But sometimes, a B.A. can cost as much as $35,000 a year!

That being said, no matter what degree you plan on pursuing, there’s an important question that comes up: What's the smartest way to go about paying for college? Aside from saving money, you should know that there are a ton of financial aid options out there for every prospective student.

Your first step in the financial aid process should be filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal aid can help pay for your tuition and - in some cases - offer you on-campus work opportunities.

Next, consider applying for a scholarship – arguably one of the best means for decreasing or negating your tuition costs. Not all scholarship opportunities will offer the same amount of money - some may only bestow several hundred dollars towards books while others - like athletic scholarships - will potentially offer half or even full rides. There are a lot of options out there, so try to find the ones that best suit your interests, needs and background and begin applying!

Many students end up taking out loans to pay off the remainder of their college expenses. Student loans are often custom-tailored so as not to begin charging interest until after your college graduation, and under certain circumstances, loans can even be deferred. While student loans require being paid in full at some point in time, they're still a great option for those seeking financial assistance.

Don't forget to seek out college scholarships and grants, apply for FAFSA and look into the best options for student loans - whether through your own bank, the state or federal grants. True, college is expensive, but you've got a lot of help on your side.