Primary sources of financial aid are the government, colleges and universities, and private organizations.
Aid comes from the federal government as well as state governments. Examples include Pell grants and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants. Both of these are need-based grants and are intended primarily for undergraduates. Grants are not loans - they do not have to be repaid. Work-study is another form of federal financial aid.
The application process begins with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The Maryland Higher Education Commision administers state financial assistancce programs, including grants.
Colleges and Universities:
Most aid from colleges and universities comes in the form of scholarships. A scholarship is an academic award for outstanding academic, athletic, or artistic talent. Like a grant, a scholarship does not have to be repaid.
Major scholarship resources include:
The College Board warns; while the Internet is a great place to search for scholarships, it's also important that you avoid scams. You can usually tell if an offer is a scam if it seeks a payment from you upfront.
Private sources include financial institutions - like SECU (who offer low interest student loans and their own scholarships), state higher education agencies, private foundations, and philanthropic organizations.
Money comes in many forms including contests, student profile-based (e.g. specifically for students with disabilities, female students, etc.), and specific areas of study (e.g. nursing).
Financial Aid for College - Several good resources, from government aid to 529 Plans to saving advice.
Paying for College - A series of articles covers college savings plans, loans, tax credits and other options to help meet the high cost of a college education.
Sources of Financial Aid - This series discusses grants, student loans, work-study programs, eligibility and the aid application process.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid - The FAFSA form is used to determine the amount of money a family is expected to contribute to the price of attending college.
SECU Scholarships - Every year SECU offers scholarships to Maryland state employees and their family members who will attend college, graduate school or trade school, as well as a scholarship for students transferring from a 2-year to 4-year University of Maryland System school.