Paying for College

Updated on Thu, 06/23/2016 - 11:46am

Figuring out how to pay for college can be overwhelming! Luckily there are many opportunities to relieve some of the financial burden: grants, work-study, scholarships and loans.

What is FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, offers more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds from the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Program. The FAFSA is used to determine your eligibility for these funds, which are need-based.

In addition, many colleges & universities use the information on the FAFSA to make decisions on scholarships, grants, and loans awarded through their institution (These may or may not be need-based, and may be available for undocumented students).

Apply starting October 1st of your senior year if you intend to attend college the following fall semester. You will use your tax return from two year prior (For example, the class of 2017, apply starting October 1, 2016 and use tax year 2015 information). FAFSA application deadlines vary by school, so be sure to check (and keep track of!) their deadlines when you apply. Watch these short videos to learn more!

Types of Federal Financial Aid

Common Financial Aid Myths

Determining Your Dependency

FAFSA Overview

How to Fill Out FAFSA

After the FAFSA: What happens next?

For more information, please visit Federal Student Aid or talk to your school counselor. 

Adams 12 will hold special events each fall, at the district training center and each high school, to help families complete and submit the FAFSA. See your school counselor for dates and more information.

Applying for Scholarships

Our friends at Fairview High School, in Boulder, create and maintain an extensive scholarship list.

You can also find scholarships on Naviance and posted in or near your counseling office. See the College Essay tab for tips on writing a strong essay.

FastWeb can help you find scholarships, colleges, internships and more!

Saving for College

  • Section 529 College Savings Plans allows you to avoid some taxes on money saved for higher education via 529 Plans.

  • Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) is a tax-advantaged investment account.

  • Roth Individual Retirement Account can be used for both college expenses and retirement income.

  • Education Bond Program (U.S. Savings Bonds) makes the interest on certain savings bonds tax free when the bonds are redeemed to pay qualified higher education expenses or to roll over into a section 529 plan.

  • Uniform Trust/Gift to Minors Act Account (UTMA/UGMA) UGMA is a simple way for a minor to own securities without requiring the services of an attorney to prepare trust documents or the court appointment of a trustee. UTMA is similar, but also allows minors to own other types of property, such as real estate, fine art, patents and royalties, and for the transfers to occur through inheritance.


Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (Stafford Loans) Subsidized and unsubsidized loans are federal student loans for eligible students to help cover the cost of higher education at a four-year college or university, community college, or trade, career, or technical school.

Federal Parent PLUS Loans are restricted to the biological and/or adoptive parents, as well as step-parents of a dependent undergraduate student if they are on the FAFSA. The loan is taken out in the parent’s name and cannot be transferred.

Federal Loans vs Private Loans If you apply for financial aid, your school will likely include student loans as part of your financial aid package. It’s important to understand what types of loans you are offered. Generally, there are two types of student loans:

Current Interest Rates and Fees If you receive a federal student loan, you will be required to repay that loan with interest. It is important that you understand how interest is calculated and the fees associated with your loan. Both of these factors will impact the amount you will be required to repay.


Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. The program encourages community service work and work related to the student’s course of study.

College Affordability Guide

The College Affordability Guide provides clear, correct info and advice on the many options students have to reduce the cost of their degree, and to offer a fresh analysis of which colleges are doing the most to make high-quality education affordable.