myUsearch blog

Honest college information — choose, apply, get into and pay for college.

Understanding the Four Most Common Types of Financial Student Aid

November 16, 2009 By: Category: Aid for College, Financial Student Aid

Today we have a guest post from Kelsey Murray. Kelsey Murray is a junior at the University of Oklahoma studying advertising. She also writes about news, trends and advice for college students at, an educational resource helping students at all stages of the education process find student loans, scholarships, testing advice and more.

Being a student is hard work. You attend classes, spend countless hours studying and prepping for exams, stay involved in extracurricular activities, and you might have a job as well. But the hardest part of college can be actually paying for it.

While financial student aid is a saving grace for so many students, it can be difficult to know which type of aid for college suits your academic and economic needs.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the most common types of financial student aid and what factors play into determining who qualifies for each type.


  1. Grants: Grants are sources of financial student aid that do not have to be repaid. There are two main types of grants: Federal Pell Grants and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG). Pell Grants are based on financial need, cost of college, and the student’s enrollment status. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are campus-based and are usually awarded to students with exceptional financial need.
  2. Loans: Loans are exactly what they sound like: Someone loans you money during college and you have to pay them back after school. There are two main types of student loans: federal and private. Private loans are obtained from lenders, such as banks and financial institutions, and can be used to cover any college costs. Private loans usually have higher interest rates than federal loans. An example of a federal loan is the Stafford Loans. Stafford Loans can be subsidized, which means that while you are enrolled in school, the government pays the interest on these loans. These loans are based on how long the student has been in school and if they are a dependent or an independent. 
  3. Scholarships: Scholarships are the most common and most diverse type of financial aid. Students can earn scholarships for academic achievements, athletics, essays, artwork, community service, or ethnic or religious background. Scholarships also vary in amount and frequency of when they are awarded.
  4. Work Study Programs: These programs are campus-based and allow students to work part-time jobs, usually on campus, to offset their tuition and other college costs. They are usually based on financial need only.

Hopefully this short list has helped you understand the four most common types of financial aid. Also keep in mind that many high schools offer free assistance in helping you locate financial student aid sources and additional community resources may even assist you with the application process.