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How to get Financial Aid for Trade School and College

There are many ways you can get financial aid to lessen the cost of trade school or college. Financial aid in any form doesn’t have to be an intimidating obstacle. There are millions of dollars available every single year for students so they can pursue their dream education.

Types of Financial Aid

There are four major types of financial aid available: government loans, grants, scholarships, and private student loans.

Government loans are low-interest loans that must be repaid, while grants are need-based funds that do not need to be repaid.

Scholarships are funds from schools and organizations available to help anyone cover the cost of schooling.

Private student loans are from private banks, and the terms of their loans will vary greatly between institutions.

Most sources of financial aid are not a one-time lump sum. They require the student to remain in good to excellent academic standing, and the school’s financial aid office will monitor the student’s record.

Sources of Financial Aid

Many colleges and institutions have their own funds which can be applied for, whether it’s a scholarship, grant, or loan. There are also state government and federal government sources that can be awarded to students who need help paying for trade school or college. Many sources of financial aid are not on a one and done type basis. They require the student to remain in good to excellent academic standing, and the school's financial aid office will monitor the student’s record.

If a private school is beeping on your radar, don’t be discouraged due to its high cost. Private schools may offer better financial aid than public schools both on need or merit-based. This is largely due to the fact that private schools are funded by donations and endowments, as well as tuition; where public colleges are state-funded. The price published on the private college’s informational package or website isn’t necessarily the actual out-of-pocket cost, many offer grants based on financial need that can actually bring the cost down to the same level as public colleges.

Many colleges have a net price calculator available on their website which helps to figure out the net tuition cost including financial aid options. It’s a good idea to visit each potential school’s website, locate the calculator, and follow the instructions. You’ll need to have your tax documents available to complete the net price calculations in order to receive a reliable cost estimation. This could take awhile, depending on how many colleges are on the list. But, it’s a worthwhile endeavor when trying to compare college costs. read about navigating a college website's financial information.

Breaking Down the Options

What is the FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is a simple, free application students fill out to obtain federal aid money to pay for their schooling. In order to receive any federal financial aid, students must start off by submitting the FAFSA, which you can do online or via snail mail.

Every single federal loan and grant is based upon the FAFSA, and many colleges also base their scholarships on FAFSA. The federal deadline for filling out the FAFSA form is June 30th, but each state may be slightly different.

Visit our infographic to help you navigate the FAFSA.

10 things you should know about FAFSA.

Because the FAFSA is THE most important step in obtaining grant or scholarship money, here are some important facts to know:

  1. File as early as possible, the FAFSA is first come, first serve!
  2. Because family or individual income is a factor, minimize the amount of taxable earnings.
  3. Make sure 'college savings' is in a parent's name, when possible.
  4. FAFSA is not just for low to middle income families. Wealthy families are eligible, as well.
  5. The FAFSA uses a July-June calendar with the application period opening in October.
  6. If the student from a divorced home, use the financial information of the parent who more time is spent with. This including a stepparent.
  7. At 24 a student is considered independent and may file accordingly.
  8. Because the FAFSA is recalculated annually. It needs to be filled out every year for the course of trade school education.
  9. Full-time students will receive more funding than part-time students.

Federal Loans

Student loans help cover the cost of school, but they must be repaid over a designated period of time with interest. There are two types of federal loans offered through the Department of Education: the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program and The Federal Stafford Loan.

Federal loans do not reduce the cost of schooling. Instead, they help with the immediate cost of tuition, housing, books and more. These loans will have to be paid back after graduation, employment, or even moving to part-time status. The time it will take to repay the loan is directly dependent on the amount of loans you take out.

Federal loans have fixed interest rates which are much lower than typical interest rates. If the student ever has to consolidate their debt, a federal loan can be rolled into it. Interest rates on Federal loans are tax deductible.

Unlike a private loan, if there is a financial hardship, the debt repayment can be postponed or payments can be lowered. There is no prepayment penalty fee, and a portion of the loan can also be forgiven if you work in public service.

Before any federal money is given, students may have to complete entrance counseling which will spell out the exact loan obligation. You will also have to sign a Master Promissory Note, or an agreement to the terms of the loan.

Your school should provide you with all the information you need to know and help you understand the terms of your loan.

The Federal Stafford Loan

The Federal Stafford Loan is offered by the Department of Education and can be subsidized or unsubsidized. Subsidized means the Federal Government pays the interest during select times while unsubsidized loans accumulate interest consistently.

Subsidized loans are for undergraduate students, and there is no time limit on how long the student can receive the loans. Unsubsidized loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students. It does not matter what their income levels are; however, it is only available for up to six years of schooling.

William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan

The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan is the largest loan lender through the Department of Education. Under this program, there are four different types of loans available: Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans.

Undergraduate students can borrow between $5,500-$12,500 per year with any of these loan programs. Parents applying for loans for their dependent student can qualify for the PLUS loan which covers the costs not covered by other financial aid.


Grants are the most desirable type of funding because they don’t have to be paid back. Grants help make education obtainable to people who would otherwise not be able to attend colleges or trade schools.

The two types of federal grants are Pell Grants and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). In general, grants are needs based, meaning you must earn below a certain amount to qualify for them. Just like with loans, you must fill out a FAFSA form in order to receive them.

Pell Grant

Pell grant awards are based on financial need, the cost of college attendance, full or part-time student status, and whether the student will be attending for a full year. Pell grants can only be received for 12 semesters or six years of college attendance.

The amount of any other financial aid does not affect the amount received from the Pell grant. You have to apply for Pell Grants annually through the FAFSA. In 2021, the maximum amount that could be awarded through Pell Grants was $6,495.


This grant is a need-based monetary award. It can pay anywhere between $100-$4,000 per year depending on the student’s financial circumstances. In order to qualify, the student must be a US citizen, a full-time student who has already completed the FAFSA application, and be in dire need of additional funding for college or trade school.

Like the Pell Grant, the amount of FSEOG funding is determined by the FAFSA. The money is either sent to the student by check or is credited to the school account.

Other Grants Options

Lottery Grants

Some states, such as South Carolina and Georgia, host lottery and scholarship grants. In Georgia, the Georgia HOPE Grant Program pays for trade school programs and gives a $100 book reimbursement to the recipient. Not all states offer lottery scholarships, so it’s best to check with your school’s financial office to find out if your state offers a lottery-based grant.

Other Types of Grants

There are many other grants available to people that have historically been underrepresented within the educational system and specific fields. There are multiple grants available for women entering the trades, for minorities, and those in need of extra funding.

There are grants available through the state and federal governments, as well as through private sources, professional organizations, charitable foundations, and colleges and universities. Certain standards apply, so research is crucial.


Scholarships are similar to grants because they do not need to be repaid. Whereas grants are typically needs based, anyone may apply for and receive scholarships. There are many different types of scholarships available, many of which are offered by schools.

See our extensive list of trade school scholarships.

Top 3 websites for finding trade school scholarships

  1. Cappex: Not only does Cappex help students with their college search, they also match you with potential scholarship opportunities just by filling out their free profile form. They give you the options and allow you to make your own decisions. The also have their own scholarship available, as well.
  2. Chegg: Personalizes your search for scholarships by matching you with ones that fit your career goals, by simply filling out their profile form. They send out reminders so you’ll never have to worry about missing deadlines, an important factor when trying to get the highest amount awarded by scholarships possible.
  3. Fast Web: Is another targeted scholarship search that helps find some of the most obscure ones. You just complete an online profile on their site. After, Fast Web allows you access to their database of 1.5 million available scholarships totaling over 3 billion dollars.

Merit Scholarships

Merit scholarships are typically based on the applying student’s GPA, test scores, and personal achievements. The Lincoln Tech Group of Schools has over $15 million in scholarship funds available nationally for students who qualify. Whichever school you are considering, make sure to check the financial aid and scholarships sections of their websites to find out what the school offers and what the prerequisites are.

Vocational Scholarships

Vocational scholarships are geared for students planning on entering a certain career. Here are some great examples:
  • Home Depot offers a scholarship for students studying construction, contracting, and HVAC.
  • Explore The Trades gives out 2 scholarships per year to students going into HVAC, plumbing, or electrical and can be renewed for up to four years.
  • The American Welding Society also hosts a variety of scholarship opportunities for undergraduates interested in welding engineering or welding engineering tech studies.
There are also scholarships available directly through the colleges or trade schools and it’s important to consult their websites for specifications.

Trade School Scholarships Specifically for Women

There are a variety of scholarships available for women who are entering trade school. They are specific to women entering male-dominated professions, which are heavy in trade schools, such as welding, electric, and mechanical. The larger grants may be very competitive. There are smaller grants available that may be easier to receive.

American Association of University Women is awarded to full-time, female students who are entering fields where women aren’t represented as often, such as math, engineering, and sciences.

There are a number of female-specific scholarships available for those entering the culinary field, such as Culinary Institute of America (CIA), but this is merit-based and the applicant must carry a GPA of at least 3.2.

Horizon Scholarship for Women in Defense is available for women heading into Criminal Justice fields or any other related field of study.

Private Student Loans

Another option for financial aid are private student loans, which are typically distributed through banks and other financial institutions. Applying for a private student loan is similar to applying for a private loan or a credit card. The amount you receive and your interest rate is based on your credit score. The features and risks of each private student loan depend on each financial institution’s policies, so research is vital to make sure you get the best option for you.

Additional Information

Not all trade schools qualify for government financial aid, so make certain to discuss viable options with the financial aid officer at your school of choice. Your school’s financial aid officer is probably the best source of information when it comes to finding available grant and scholarship money for trade school.

There is a lot of financial aid for trade schools out there to help those who need it!

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