If you're considering careers in computer science or information technology, don't be intimidated by the cost of going to college. It's easy to apply for student financial aid and scholarships, and there are many opportunities to get free money or low-interest loans to finance your education.
To get student financial aid, first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will automatically set the financial aid ball in motion. Then check out the following list of student financial aid resources to see what financial aid you qualify for.
The federal government regulates the maximum interest that lenders can charge on student loans, creating lower interest on college loans, which means you'll have less to pay back. In addition, you don't have to begin making payments until six months after graduation (or if you are enrolled in school is less than half time).
Here are the most popular loan types:
- Stafford Loans – Stafford Loans are the most common federal student loan. These loans include the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) and the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan. Both loans are paid directly to students, and the amount of the loan is based on the financial needs of the individual student. Almost all students are eligible for Stafford loans.
- Private Loans – Another common type of student financial aid is a private loan. These loans offer higher limits and no payments until graduation, but interest will start to accrue the day you receive the loan. Private student loans can be made out to either students or parents, so you'll need to determine which is more advantageous for you. Loan eligibility normally depends on your (or your parents') credit score; being approved for a private loan is more likely if you have a good credit score (above 650). Interest rates and fees are also based on your credit score, so you may decide to apply with a cosigner to get the lowest possible rate.
- PLUS Loans – PLUS Loans are granted to help parents pay for their dependent children's college education. In order to qualify for this type of loan, you must be a dependent student enrolled at least half time in an undergraduate program, and one of your parents needs to apply for the loan. This loan also requires a good credit score, and there is a yearly limit, equal to your school costs minus the sum of your other financial assistance. The first payment on the PLUS loan is due 60 days after the loan is distributed, with a small fee that your parents are required to pay (usually less than four percent of the loan).
- Grad PLUS Loans – Graduate and professional degree students are now able to borrow under the PLUS Loan program, with the same terms and conditions. This program is referred to as the Grad PLUS Loan.
There are many scholarships available to help you pay for your college education, among which are the National Merit Scholarship and the Truman Scholarship, which helps selected students pursue their graduate studies in a variety of public service fields.
Scholarships generally recognize academic achievement or financial need, or are intended to help minorities and students with disabilities. Although scholarships can be competitive, they do not need to be repaid so are an excellent way to help pay for your education, if you qualify.
Some scholarships have restrictions, such as applying to a specific course of study or involvement in a group or organization, and generally, you must maintain a certain grade point average.
Large software companies grant scholarships every year so that the computer science field continues to get qualified IT workers from among underrepresented groups: women, minority students and students with disabilities.
Grants are a smart way to finance your education because it's free money that you don't have to pay back. There are many federal grant programs in the U.S., among which are the Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and miscellaneous other student grants to help defray the cost of your college education. Students are automatically considered for federal grants when they complete the FAFSA.
Work Study Programs
Work study programs help students finance their education by letting them work part time during their studies. Work study awards typically depend on factors such as level of financial need and available school funding.
You may find work on campus with professors, or off campus at nonprofit agencies or public offices. Students often choose work study programs that are related to their field of study, which helps them finance their education, and also gives them professional experience they can put on their resumes.
Work study pays at least the federal minimum wage, and often more, depending on the skills and level of experience needed. You can indicate whether you want to be considered for work study when you complete the FAFSA.