Financial Aid: Funding the Dream

You want to get some more education, but are concerned that you may not be able to afford it. Relax: that is the reason for financial aid! Whether you are looking into grants, scholarships, or loans there is likely to be a route available to you that will permit you to accomplish your goals and achieve your dreams. The trick is to begin, rather than give up before you get started.

How do you go about learning what financial aid is available to you? Begin by asking at your nearby community college or university financial aid office. The counselors there can give you a quick overview of the most commonly used and most available funding resources for most sorts of programs, even those their own institutions may not need or allow. Remember, their students may be going on in life, too, just as you intend to, and the experts need to be ready for their questions, too. Add in a good bit of search engine skill and a sound library and you should come away with a very good picture of what primary options are available to you.

Don’t quit there: it is important to remember that many private sources of funding exist. Grant writers are used to the process of seeking funding. Individuals, however, often forget that they, too, can work as personal grant writers, exploring what clubs, religious institutions, and corporations offer educational support to a wide range of possible students in any number of fields. For this you need a combination of approaches: first, you may want to pay for the use of a grant search engine. This may allow you to find the broadest and most detailed information available regarding potential mentors for your education. Also consider direct approach if you think your need may match that of a corporation. There is usually a department of giving that can be contacted with a polite, professional letter asking if the company provides charitable support to striving students.

Now that you are armed with a sound set of information, y0ou should proceed to investigate the financial aid options offered by your chosen institutions. At this point you should be able to ask for a financial aid advisor, who can help you assemble a solid plan to provide financing for your education. Working together with the resources you have developed and those offered by your school, you can establish what possibilities are ahead of you.

Don’t skimp on this step in the process of return to school. Failure to procure sufficient financial aid has derailed many a promising student — but success has made many students capable of doing work they could never have imaged without the resources offered them. So don’t allow yourself to feel guilty when you do this research, and don’t rush through. The effort you put in now can determine the entire outcome of your educational efforts.

When your financial aid program is worked out, and your various sources of funding have been determined, you can proceed with a clear mind and a calm spirit. The fear and stress you might have faced if you had not taken this time and made this effort with have been avoided, leaving you able to concentrate on the pleasure and value of your education, rather than having to miss half of the benefit of learning because you are too busy gnawing your nails and pacing the floor and trying to tally up your debts in the dead of night. Is it worth it? Oh, yes!

Anne Bradley counsels adult students on online degree programs, financial aid, online college selection, and career choices.

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