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In the first part of this series, I discussed an overview of the financial aid process, including an explanation of what it was, what it could potentially cover, and how it’s paid back. In the second installment of this series, I’ll be discussing the different elements of student federal financial aid.

The U.S. Department of Education disburses about $150 billion in federal student financial aid each year. These awards go towards college, university, and trade school students. It can be a bit tricky to understand all of the moving parts in financial aid allotment, and how they coincide together. Therefore, it’s important to learn about these aspects ahead of time to better plan and prepare yourself.

Federal aid can be distributed through grants, low-interest loans, work-study funding, and more. These factors are considered on a case-by-case basis, often determined once a potential future student completes their FAFSA. The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Without the completion of this form, you will be unable to take any kind of federal student aid loans.

The FAFSA helps the government determine what each individual will be eligible for, including the level of financial need, the cost of tuition at the school of your choosing, and whether you plan to be a full-time or part-time student. From there, officials will distribute aid from a list of available options, below.

Types of Federal Student Financial Aid:

  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Federal Supplemental Educations Opportunity Grant
  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
  • Federal Direct Subsidized Loan
  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan
  • Federal PLUS Loan
  • Federal Perkins Loan
  • Federal Work-Study
  • Veterans Benefits
  • Tax Benefits
  • Loan Forgiveness Programs

In some cases, you may be eligible for a combination of different types of federal aid. However, it is important to note that the battle for federal grants can be a tough competition, as they do not require repayment. It’s crucial to meet all loan deadlines, and of course, it’s always better to apply early.

Dr. Arnold Peter Weiss is the R. Scot Sellers Scholar of Hand Surgery; Chief of Hand Surgery; Vice Chairman & Professor, Brown University. He is the former Dean of Admissions at Brown University Medical School (2004-2012).