Myth No. 1: All colleges are super expensive.
Fact: There are many different colleges and universities offering all kinds of educational experiences and charging a broad range of prices. More than half of all full-time undergraduates at four-year colleges attend institutions that charge less than $9,000 for tuition and fees. Community colleges charge less than $2,500 a year on average and provide an excellent way to complete the first two years of a four-year program for some students. On average, public four-year colleges charge in-state students $7,020 in tuition and $8,193 in room and board, but many students receive grant aid that reduces the price they actually pay.
Myth No. 2: There is only money for very smart or very poor students.
Fact: Financial aid is intended to make a college education available to students from families in many financial situations. Most federal aid is based on need, not grades or talent. Of the $126 billion in financial aid awarded to undergraduates, most is from federal sources, but colleges and universities provides about 40% of all grants to students. “Most students receive financial aid to help them pay for college. In 2008-09, full-time undergraduate students received an average of about $10,185 in financial aid, including more than $5,000 in grants and about $4,600 in federal loans,” said Sandy Baum, senior policy analyst at the College Board and professor of economics at Skidmore College. Most government financial aid requires proof of citizenship or permanent residency. If you don’t fulfill either requirement, don’t be deterred. There are foundations and other organizations that offer aid and scholarships for non-citizens. Do your research.
Myth No. 3: Private scholarships are the way to get money.
Fact: Most financial aid comes from the federal government, state governments and colleges themselves. Of the many private scholarships, the best option is often a local scholarship—a high school counselor can probably tell you what is available. To help, The College Board Scholarship Handbook provides a comprehensive and up-to-date listing of more than 2,000 private scholarships for undergraduate study.
Myth No. 4: Financial aid forms are too hard to fill out.
Fact: Most families only need to fill out a single form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is a federal form used to show eligibility for federal aid. The FAFSA looks harder to use than it is, and the online version checks your work. It helps ensure you put the right information in the right spot.