A wide variety of financial aid options are available for students in both the federal and private sectors. North Carolina college students also have several state-specific options.
Take advantage of all of the available opportunities, by following the step-by-step financial aid process.
Below we will cover North Carolina student loan, scholarship, and grant opportunities.
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Financial Aid for College in North Carolina
The first step to securing any financial aid is completing paperwork, specifically for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In addition to covering federal financial aid, the FAFSA is used by schools, state agencies, and some third-party funding sources. The FAFSA offers a comprehensive look at your financial situation. If you’re considered a dependent student, you’ll need your parents’ information as well. Check the FAFSA website help section for the criteria needed to show yourself as an independent student.
The information on the FAFSA is sent to the colleges you listed on the form. If you have been accepted to those schools, their financial aid departments will use the information to determine: 1) your financial need, and 2) your resulting financial aid package, which could include grants, work study programs, or federal student loans.
To determine how much financial aid you’ll receive, your college’s financial aid office will consider your “estimated family contribution.” It’s not a mandated amount that you or your family will have to pay. Instead, it’s more of a benchmark used to determine your financial need. Once their calculations are complete, you’ll receive a financial aid letter from the school, explaining what aid you can receive. It will detail the form of the aid such as grants, loans, or work study programs and will reveal what amount you may need to fill the gaps.
You don’t have to wait for the school’s official letter to get a sense of your financial aid. The FAFSA4Cast tool on the FAFSA website can offer an estimate of how much aid you can expect, even if you aren’t quite ready to complete the FAFSA. The FAFSA4Cast can also tell you whether you’ll have a funding gap between your total cost of college and your financial aid package amount. Student loans are a common way to bridge funding gaps, but there are other options.
North Carolina Student Loans
Once you’ve secured your federal financial aid, you can turn to North Carolina student loans to fill the funding gaps. The College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) offers two types of North Carolina student loans that are good alternatives to the private student loans offered by banks. In general, private student loans come with higher interest rates and less flexible repayment plans.
NC Student Assist Loan
This loan is intended for bridging funding gaps after traditional financial aid has been maxed out. It’s available to both North Carolina residents and out-of-state students attending a school in North Carolina. All payments are deferred until six months after graduation, and interest rates are based on each individual student. There is, however, a discount of 0.25% if you set up autopay.
NC Parent Assist Loan
The Parent Assist is a loan program that allows parents to borrow funds for their children’s education. It has many of the same criteria as student loans. The student for whom the loan is taken out for must attend a school in North Carolina and demonstrate financial need. Contact the CNFC for more information.
North Carolina College Scholarships
North Carolina college scholarships are much like scholarships in other states. They are competitive, and you’ll need to follow their specific criteria. The key is to apply early and apply to every scholarship you qualify for.
First, understand the scholarship you’re applying for, and what they require from applicants. If they ask for an essay of a specific length or type, abide by those rules.
Next, meet all deadlines with a significant cushion. Don’t wait for the last minute, when you have little time to resolve unexpected problems. If you have a deadline, ensure everything is in order well in advance. Stay organized. Since you’re applying for multiple scholarships, you’ll need to keep a file on each one labeled with reminders so you don’t miss any dates.
Annie Alexander Memorial Scholarship
This scholarship offers $1,800 to a student pursuing full-time undergraduate nursing degrees. Preference is given to applicants who are African-Americanand hailing from Forsyth County. The deadline for application is 4/1/2019.
Claude B. Hart Memorial Scholarship
This package offers $1,200 to graduating seniors from Elkin High School, who plan to pursue a major in math or engineering. For this scholarship you’ll need to show not only need, but talent in your proposed major. The deadline is 4/1/2019.
Lloyd E. and Rachel S. Collins Scholarship
Established in 1991 by former students of Mr. Collins to honor his teaching career. The scholarship is available to students in Stokes County who demonstrate good character, service, and financial need. A one-time sum of $2,000 is awarded. The deadline for application is 4/1/2019.
North Carolina Sheriff’s Association Scholarships
This scholarship is $2,000, offered to 12 full-time students in North Carolina who are studying criminal justice. Preference is given to the child or stepchild of a North Carolina law enforcement officer who is actively serving, was killed in the line of duty, or retired. The scholarship is then offered to students who demonstrate financial need. The deadlines vary and applicants should check the website before applying.
Silver Pen Writing Competition
This contest is meant to help foster respect and understanding for senior citizens. The $1,500 award is given to a high school senior who has a minimum 3.0 GPA and lives within one of the participating school districts. Each community chooses a topic, and applicants write essays on the subjects chosen. The deadline is 3/7/2019.
Grants for College in North Carolina
North Carolina scholarships and grants are alike in the fact that they are considered “free” money since they don’t need to be repaid. Unlike scholarships, however, they are generally need-based instead of merit-based. North Carolina offers a few state-based college grants, which all require the FAFSA. Here are two examples:
North Carolina Student Incentive Grant (NCSIG)
The NCSIG is provided by the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, and is specifically designed for full-time students who are both legal residents of the state of North Carolina and attending a school within the state. They must also demonstrate financial need and academic aptitude with prior grades. Students must also be U.S. citizens. Award amounts and application deadlines vary.
North Carolina Community College Grant Program (NCCCG)
The NCCCG awards as many as 13,000 grants per year. To apply, you must be a legal resident of North Carolina, enrolled in at least six credit hours at a North Carolina community college, and demonstrate both financial need and academic skill.
North Carolina Student Aid Final Thoughts
In sum, financial aid in North Carolina doesn’t need to be confusing. College-bound students have ample options to help pay for their education. With the average cost of college rising, you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity. By staying organized and following the process, you could save thousands of dollars in college costs.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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