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Financial Aid for Nurse Education

Written by NS StaffJuly 20, 2011
Financial Aid

You know you want to be a nurse, you know what school you want to go to, but you have no idea how you'll pay for it. Don't worry, you aren't alone. Between books, tuition, and everything else you'll need when you start classes, you will need to get to work on finding funding.

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But how do you even get started? First, you should know all the different types of financial aid that are available and how to sign up. Then you need to draw up a… Call it a plan of attack. Just as you plan out events and other major activities, you need to plan out your financial aid needs. Lastly, you need a back-up plan.

Financial aid comes in four main flavors: scholarships, grants, loans, and work study. You'll probably end up with a mixture of aid. Just make sure that you understand the requirements of the aid packages before you sign the paperwork.

Scholarships are probably the best known, yet trickiest to get, type of financial aid. Scholarships are determined not by need, but by academic achievement, ethnic background, and almost every other activity and group. The good thing is, you don't have to repay them. The bad part? There are so many scholarships out there that it will be hard to find one that you fit. Don't forget to check with your state; they often offer scholarships, especially if you plan to go to school in state. Your college may also offer scholarships.

Grants have always been a bit more mysterious, and also more helpful. You receive grants based on need. You won't have to write essays or do any of the footwork scholarships required, and you never have to repay it. Your state and school should both offer grants. There are also two federal grants you can apply for; the Federal Pell Grant and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.

Loans are probably the most dreaded type of financial aid. Not only do you have to repay the loan, but interest will begin accruing a few months after you graduate. The three main types of loans are the Federal Perkins Loan (offered through your school), Federal Stafford Loans and Federal PLUS Loans (offered through banks to you and your parents), and supplemental loans (also through banks). The PLUS loan is for your parents, and they will be required to pay it off after you graduate.

The last option is work study. You do need to include that in your financial aid package if you plan to do it because most on-campus jobs are reserved for work study students. Your first job will likely not be very glamorous, or even fun. The key is to figure out where you want to work, and push to get a job there next year. You will not receive a normal paycheck. Instead, the money you earn will go straight to your school dues.

Now write up your plan of attack. Figure out how much money you'll need to make it through your first year, then add 5 percent to be safe. Then register with the scholarship services such as FastWeb and Peterson's (a site for all of your college prep needs). Keep track of all the scholarships you have applied for, and any that you want to avoid, because you will find yourself seeing the same scholarships listed in many locations. You really want to keep your time to useful applications instead of rereading listings that don't quite fit. If you are really anxious, keep a list of yes, maybe, and never. If you find you won't get enough through the yeses, start on the maybes.

Next, come up with a back-up plan. Maybe your back up is work study, maybe it's Aunt Mary. Maybe you will find a part time job at an assisted-living facility where you can put what you are learning in perspective. Whatever your plan, simply having one will make the financial stress less. Yes, you will likely have to work off some loans. But by planning ahead, you won't be as shocked when you graduate and have to sign the loan paperwork.

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