Students and their parents often struggle to pay high tuition costs when students enter college. Federal financial aid gives students grants, which they do not have to pay back, and loans, which they eventually repay, as well as offering students the opportunity to work part-time in exchange for part of their tuition. Some students attend school part time because of other obligations or to reduce costs. Federal programs have limited financial aid opportunities for these students.
Students must go to school on at least a half-time basis to receive federal financial aid. Half-time students take at least six credits a semester; they may or may not live on campus. They do not receive as much financial aid as full-time students, as they do not have as many costs per semester. Half-time students apply for financial aid the same way that full-time students do, and they mark a box on their forms to indicate that they are not full-time students.
Scholarship requirements vary based on the type of scholarship. Some scholarships do not allow students to take less than a full course load, while other scholarships are specifically for part-time students. Part-time students should ask their college about applicable scholarships as well as searching online at websites such as collegescholarships.org or fastweb.com for scholarships tailored to their needs.
Student loan programs accept half-time students. However, if the student's status drops below half time, the loan enters repayment. The student has nine months after dropping below half-time status to begin making loan repayments. Student loans must also be repaid if the student drops out of school or graduates. Some loan programs accept students who are attending class less than half-time; these students may have a shorter grace period before they must begin repaying the loan once they leave school.
How to Apply
Apply for federal financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form. Obtain this form from your school's financial aid office or apply online at fafsa.ed.gov. Provide your Social Security number and full-time or part-time status on this form as well as your financial information. If you are under the age of 24, you must also provide your parents' financial information. Once you are approved, your school sends you information about your financial aid package. Renew your FAFSA application each year that you go to school by filling out a renewal form. Apply for scholarships or other private financial aid through your school's financial aid office as well.