Financial aid is essentially any money given to a student in order to help pay for that student's schooling, including tuition, textbooks and other supplies, and living expenses. Students can apply for student aid by filling out the FAFSA (Federal Application for Federal Student Aid) or by contacting the many private institutions which offer student aid.

There are several different types of student aid. Some are based on need, such as a low-income family situation, whereas others are based on merit, such as an academic scholarship.

Students can earn scholarships based on their grades, academic achievements or interest in a particular subject or occupation. Scholarships can be full, paying all of a student’s expenses, or partial, paying for only some.

Loans are given to students with the expectation that they will be paid back, although many student loans offer a “grace period” after graduation during which no payments are necessary, giving borrowers time to establish income before the first payment is due.

Grants are essentially gifts, and are not required to be paid back. Grants are typically smaller than loans or scholarships but a student may obtain many different grants, and many students get through school entirely on grant money.

Work study is another form of student aid. In work study, a student works at a job while they are in school. Instead of a paycheck, their tuition, and sometimes living expenses, are paid.

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