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Financial Aid

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Financial aid is money or assistance to help you pay for college. Most financial aid is awarded based on your need rather than academic achievement.

The federal government is the largest source of money for college. But student aid is also available from your state, college, community organizations and private foundations. See your high school counselor or college financial aid office to learn more, and remember: the first step toward receiving any form of state or federal financial aid is preparing and filing the federal government's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The four most common types of financial aid are grants, scholarships, loans and work study.

Grants are financial aid you never have to repay. They're usually based on need. Federal Pell Grants are the largest source of free money from the government. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are awarded to students with the greatest financial need. In addition, your state may have its own grant programs.

Work-study programs offered by the federal government and many states let you earn money for college through a job on campus or in the community.

Scholarships are also money you never have to pay back. Usually, scholarships are not based on financial need. Instead, they may be awarded for academic achievement, talent, career interests, academic major, heritage, athletic or leadership ability or community service. Colleges, community organizations, private foundations, large companies and some states offer scholarships.

Loans are borrowed funds that you must repay with interest. There are federal student loans and private loans. A number of colleges have their own loan programs.

You and your family should consider setting aside savings for college using the DC College Savings Plan, which allows you to save and invest earnings for college without having to pay income tax on them.

Students with Disabilities

All public and many independent colleges provide services to students with special needs. These services may include counseling, tutoring, readers, interpreters, note takers, special parking zones or the loan of special equipment. Your cost of attendance should include all expenses necessary to accommodate your disability that aren't already covered by insurance or other programs. Be sure to work with the college's financial aid administrator when you're applying for admission so that he or she understands your particular circumstances. In addition, you may be eligible for services from your state's vocational-rehabilitation agency.

For more information, contact your college's disabled student office, the national or local organizations serving your particular disability or the Rehabilitation Services Administration.

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