How to Get Financial Aid for Online College Students?

Do you aspire to pursue an online degree program or course? Read the article to learn more about financial aid for online colleges such as scholarships, loans and grants.

TCM Staff

7th November 2020

College is a rewarding undertaking, however, figuring out how to pay for it can be a formidable task.

The cost of a college education can be an expensive affair which includes tuition fees, accommodation, books and supplies, transportation, and other expenses. Thankfully, there are numerous ways to get financial assistance to help students pay for school. Nonetheless, it can be a painstaking ordeal to navigate the process of financial aid.

Financial aid helps students and their families pay for college. Financial assistance is a form of funding that is usually either granted or loaned to students to attend a college or other institution of higher learning. It can come from many different sources, including governments, schools, and private organizations.

In the olden days, financial aid was provided only to on-campus courses and degrees. At a time when online colleges were in their nascent stage, financial aid for online courses was only partially available or not available for students. Today, as online education has become increasingly prevalent, now the federal government no longer differentiates between online courses and on-campus courses when determining financial aid eligibility.

A good starting point is to find out about the various kinds of financial assistance that are obtainable, as well as how it is funded.

Financial aid is available from a variety of sources

1. Federal Aid

The U.S. Department of Education awards more than $120 billion a year in grants, work-study funds, and low-interest loans to more than 13 million students. Federal education aid covers such expenses as tuition fees, accommodation, books, and transportation. Aid also can assist with other related educational costs, such as computer and dependent care. Thousands of schools across the country participate in the federal student aid programs.

2. State-sponsored aid

Scholarships and grants are available through each state's education agency. Other funding programs may also be affiliated with these offices.

3. Schools/ Institutions sponsored aid

Many institutions offer scholarships, grants, and other types of tuition breaks to students. Athletic scholarships, for example, fall into this category, as do grants based on academic merit. Loans made directly from the college are also sometimes possible. The amounts and types of funding available vary widely from school to school, Visit your school's financial aid page on its website, or ask someone in the financial aid office.

4. Private/nonprofit aid

In addition to federal loans, students may also apply for financial assistance from private lenders such as banks, credit unions, private foundations, and organizations. Many organizations offer scholarships or grants to help students pay for college or career school. This free money can make a real difference in how affordable your education is.

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Types of financial aid

There's a great deal more to learn about each financial aid type referenced above. Continue perusing to learn more about financial assistance choices for online students.

1. Scholarships

Scholarships are a form of financial aid that need not be repaid. They are awarded on academic performance, scholarly promise, athletic or artistic aptitude, cultural and economic background, and financial need.

You can search for college scholarships through your university, non-profit foundations, and local businesses and community organizations.

A common misconception about scholarships is that they are only available for the smartest students with the highest GPAs. However, this just isn’t even close to true. There are scholarships out there for every type of student seeking a college education. 

Who offers it? Private organizations, religious institutions, universities, non-profit organizations.

Following are some types of Scholarships

1. Academic scholarships - These are likewise frequently referred to as Merit Scholarships. Although, a merit scholarship can mean anything that some degree of challenge to it. They typically have the most elevated payouts and are viewed as exceptionally renowned as they are frequently national honors.


Golden Apple Scholars Of Illinois - 

Are you a phenomenally talented student? Do you have exceptional teaching skills? The University of Illinois provides scholarships and assistance to such students for classroom teaching experience.

The amount offered as a scholarship is $23,000.

2 - Athletic Scholarships - An athletic scholarship is an amount of financial aid awarded to a student-athlete from the college athletic department. These athletic scholarships are awarded based on the student’s athletic abilities and how they can contribute to the team. A coach decides who receives scholarships and how much they are awarded.


Full-ride scholarship offer - Full-ride athletic scholarships are only available in six college sports: Football, Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Women’s Gymnastics, Tennis, Volleyball.

These are known as headcount sports that create revenue for the school. A full-ride covers the major costs of attending college like tuition, room and board, books, and some course fees.

The term “full-ride” doesn’t mean for the “full four years.” Full ride scholarships, like all offers, are one-year agreements that may or may not be renewed.

Partial scholarship offer

The remaining sports or “equivalency sports” in NCAA Division I and II are where they essentially have a pool of scholarship money that they can divide up amongst their team.

While not a full ride, a partial scholarship offer can still cover a significant portion of college costs or very little. It may be that one student-athlete on a team gets a scholarship that covers tuition, while a teammate may only get offered a scholarship that covers the costs of books.

3 - Scholarships for minorities - There is an extraordinary number of minority scholarships accessible to the correct college destined student.

These scholarships can be general or explicit in their ethnic prerequisites, with some being available to all minority understudies while others are intended to profit one ethnic gathering specifically. 


UNICAF MBA scholarship - Under this scheme, the underserved African students can avail of the scholarship. The eligibility criteria mention a GPA and students are required to take part in philanthropic activities.

The scholarship amount ranges from  $8,000 to $10,000.

4 - Scholarships for women - Similarly that there are scholarships dedicated to ethnic minorities, there are likewise scholarships explicitly intended to profit women.

These scholarships accomplish something beyond awarding financial assistance to college, the can likewise give a pathway into the worlds of business, science, and legislative issues.


Adobe Research Women In Technology Scholarship - Are you a female student with exceptional technology and computing skills? This scholarship is for females around the world, who are pursuing courses related to computer science, computer engineering, and technology.

You will be allotted an Adobe research mentor and enjoy the opportunity to appear for the interview at Adobe for internship opportunities.

The scholarship amount offered is $10,000.

5 - Private scholarships - Private scholarships are awarded to you by businesses, agencies, organizations, and clubs to use during college.

6 - Community Service Scholarships - Participating in community service activities as a high school student can be highly beneficial, and not just in acing a college interview.

Students who get involved can expect to reap many benefits from their extracurricular work, than those who don't.


Do Something Awards - If you’re between 13 and 25, you can win significant scholarship money from

All you have to do is take part in one of Do Something’s campaigns. You might organize a drive for sports gear for the “Game-Winning Drive” or donate clothing to homeless youth as part of “Teens for Jeans.”

Most campaigns award $1,000 to each winner. If you completed all the campaigns, you could win up to $32,000 to pay tuition or school fees.

Plus, Do Something gives $10,000 to five finalists each year to continue their initiatives. The grand prize winner earns a $100,000 community service scholarship to expand their project.

7 - Weird scholarships -  These scholarships are a ton of fun and an incredible method to be innovative and get some money while you're grinding away. For example, there is a scholarship available for left-handed students and one for who can make the best prom dress out of duct tape.

Even though there aren't a lot of these strange scholarships every year, there are sufficient to pull in critical consideration from potential candidates, schools, and even the media. Along these lines, they might be somewhat aggressive. Nonetheless, on the off chance that you have an incredible thought, put it all on the line!financial-assistance

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2. Fellowships

Fellowships are a type of allowance, usually provided based on the merit of the student, usually provided to carry out research. Fellowships are one of the most competitive financial aid. You can avail of fellowships based on merit and financial need.

  • Internal Fellowships - The university provides the student, and it cannot be availed for pursuing an education in any other institution.

  • External Fellowships - These are funded by the Federal Government and other organizations interested in sponsoring fellowships.

Who offers it? Private organizations, not for profit organizations and universities.

Benefit -  Fellowships need no repayment.

3. Grants

Grants are financial aid (also called gift aid) that doesn’t have to be repaid. You are required to apply for FAFSA ( Free Application For Federal Student Application), to avail grants and are provided based on their financial need.

Who offers it? State Government and Federal Government.

Types of grants

1 - Federal Pell grants

These are usually awarded only to undergrad students. The amount of aid one can receive depends on the financial need of the applicant.

The application process is the same as any financial aid process, you need to fill out the FAFSA.

Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG) are awarded to Federal Pell Grant recipients who have completed a rigorous high school program, as determined by their state or local education agency and recognized by the Secretary of Education.

2 - Teach grants

Teach grant varies from other federal grants because it requires the applicant to have attended certain kinds of classes to be eligible to avail the grant, and then complete a specific type of employment to keep the grant from turning into a loan. 

The TEACH Grant Program provides grants of up to $4,000 a year to students who are completing or plan to complete course work needed to begin a career in teaching.

Who can get a teach grant? 

  • Meet the eligibility requirements for the federal student aid program.

  • Fill in the FAFSA form.

  • Be enrolled as an undergraduate, or graduate student at a school that participates in the TEACH Grant Program. 

  • Meet certain academic achievement requirements (generally, scoring above the 75th percentile on one or more portions of a college admissions test or maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25). 

  • Sign a TEACH grant agreement.

3 - Federal supplemental educational opportunities grant (FSEOG)

The FSEOG program is regulated legitimately by the financial aid office at each partaking school. Not all schools take an interest. Check with your school's financial aid office to see whether the school offers the FSEOG.

4 - Iraq or Afghanistan service grant 

This grant is available to students whose parent or guardian died as a result of military service after September 11, 2001, in Iraq or Afghanistan. You must complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible for this grant.

Like other federal grants, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants provide money to college or career school students to help pay their education expenses.

4. Loans

Loans are financial assistance given to students according to the fee structure of the course in the institution. The exceptional feature of loans is that you are required to repay the amount you borrow as a loan.

Who offers it? The federal government, State Government, private and public sector banks.

Federal Loans - Federal loans have a fixed rate of interest, the standards of the loan and loan repayment rules and regulations are set by law.

Federal loans have plans which let you pay interest after you start earning (after the completion of your degree or course), widely known as income-driven repayment plans. Not just this, there are lucrative types of federal loans that you can choose according to your requirement.

1 - Direct Subsidized Loans - Are you an Undergraduate student who has enrolled for a half time degree or certificate program? This is the type of loan you require.

The Highlight - Interest-Free Grace Period Repayment6 months after the completion of the graduation period.

2 - Direct Unsubsidized Loans - Are you an undergraduate, graduate, or a professional studies student? Your search for a type of loan ends here. The loan amount varies based on your grade level, whether you are dependent or independent. If you are independent then you can get a higher loan amount. You can apply for this loan in the US Department Of Education.

Repayment 6 months after the completion of the graduation period.

3 - Direct PLUS Loans - Are you a graduate or pursuing professional studies? Do your parents have a high credit rating? If the answer to both questions is a Yes then this is the perfect federal loan for you. No interest-free grace period.

Repayment (students) -  6 months after the completion of the graduation period.

Repayment (parents) - after disbursal of the loan amount or parents also have the choice of selecting the repayment ( 6 months after the completion of graduation).

Private Loans

Private loans are offered by private banks, financial institutions, credit unions, etc.

Undergraduate students do not have a credit history, there is a need for a parent/guardian who will be responsible for paying debts in case the student does not make payment.

Demerits - Higher interest rates; Extra Fees for loan processing.

5. Work-Study Program

Willing to work part-time to pay for your educational expenses?

The federal government offers a work-study aid option, where you can work part-time. It is need-based financial aid. Undergraduate and graduate students who wish to pay for their educational expenses, and are financially backward can apply in federal work-study programs. You can also work on campus under the work-study aid program.

Who offers it? The Federal Government.

Benefit - No repayment.

Employer-Sponsored Tuition

If you are an undergraduate or graduate working for an organization willing to sponsor your education while you work, this is widely known as employer-sponsored tuition.

In some cases, the employer mentions what kind, of course, the employer wishes to fund. Students are eligible only if they maintain a certain GPA. The amount of reimbursement for the tuition fee depends on the employer, some employers pay for the total cost of the tuition fee, and some wish to pay for partial costs.

Benefit - No Repayment is required.

Who Offers It?  The Employer

6. Additional Opportunities for Financial Aid

Crowdfunding - Let us go by the literal sense, crowdfunding means to acquire funds from a large group of people.

Some websites provide funds for businesses and charitable purposes, now there are websites that provide funds for educational purposes.

Websites like AlumniFunder comprise of a feature where the donors can interact with the students in need of a scholarship. This gives a sense of trust to the donors that their funding is being used for meaningful purposes.

Apart from the above-discussed options, you can also avail tax deductions under Federal Tax Breaks, Veteran Benefits, and Alumni Programs.


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How to determine if you are eligible for financial aid as an online student?

The primary step to know your requirements for the FAFSA form. FAFSA stands for Free Application For Financial Student Aid. The FAFSA is a complete application, comprising of Scholarships, Loans, Grants, Work Aid Programs, etc. Some academic institutions also look out for FAFSA information to determine the financial aid on campus.

Things to keep in mind before filling out FAFSA -

Avoid paying charges - Though FAFSA is widely known to be free, there are services available to fill the FAFSA, these services cost you $500. If you need any assistance then you should inquire with your institution’s financial aid office.

Go online - The best way to fill the FAFSA is to do it online, even if you are halfway through the process and are unable to continue due to some reasons, you can save the work and start later from where you stopped. 

Fill in all details - No matter what question has been asked in the form, whether relevant or not, attempt the question or write “ N/A” in the space given for the answer. Skipping questions will be considered as ‘incomplete application’ and will put your application at risk of not being considered a all.

Accurate Estimations are advisable - You will be asked to enter details regarding the income tax deductions, you have to be ready with the calculations and enter the correct amount. In case the authority’s calculations do not match yours, the application will be at risk.

Apply annually - Irrespective of whether your application got accepted or rejected in the previous year, you should apply every year, to not lose the opportunity. Guess what, the renewal is easy as the information you entered in the previous year will be stored in the specific fields.


In an era where education is known as a right but treated more like a business, there are various opportunities available for students who cannot afford education. Financial Aid of various forms comes as a rescue for these students. Among the various types of financial aid that are available, the student and the family should evaluate the merits and demerits of availing of these loans. Based on the eligibility criteria, procedure, and the loan amount offered, the interest rate (in case of loans), the student loan repayment methods, the duration, should be measured and evaluated.

After the clear evaluation, an analysis should be done about each option and the best alternative should be selected as per the financial need of the family. Choosing the right type of financial aid will reduce the overall effect of the burden of debt on the student as well as the family.

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