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How to get Financial Aid for Trade School

how to get financial aid for trade school or college

Furthering your education in 2020 can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be unaffordable. There are many ways you can get financial aid to lessen the cost of trade school or college. The trouble is, the whole concept of financial aid can be confusing, whether you are headed off to college or trade school. Where can you find available money and how do you apply for it? And, the deadlines, criteria, paperwork, and all the other necessary evils that go hand-in-hand with finding and applying for scholarships and grants, it can be a long and drawn out process. However, financial aid in the form of scholarships and grants for trade school doesn’t have to be an intimidating obstacle. There are millions of dollars available every single year, ready and waiting for students to receive so they can pursue their dream trade school careers.

Types of Financial aid

There are many different types of trade schools and there are three major types of financial aid available. There are government funded grants, scholarships, and both private and federal government loans (available for online programs too). Government grants are considered ‘gift aid’ because the money is free and does not require the student to pay it back. Grants are based on need while scholarships are often given to students with high academic and test scores, or outstanding ability in certain areas. There are also student loans which require reimbursement and depending on whether they are private or federal funded, the interest rate will vary. There are a vast amount of scholarships available, which do not need to be paid back.

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 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 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.

How to Get Financial Aid

The student must start off by applying for the FAFSA. It can be done all online but it can also be done via snail mail. The FAFSA is a fairly easy, yet time-consuming process but a school’s financial advisor may be able to help to make it more efficient. The earlier the application is in, the more aid the student can receive. It can not be stated enough the importance of filing the FAFSA before applying for any more grants or scholarships as all of the awards are based on this form. Visit our infographic to help you navigate the FAFSA.

Breaking Down The Options


Grants are the most desirable due to the fact that they don’t have to be paid back. Two of the best options are the Free Application For Federal School Aid or FAFSA and the Pell Grant. There is also the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) which can give some additional funding depending on need, which the FSEOG is based upon. To even begin the financial aid process, you MUST fill out the FAFSA form.

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. 24 is the age when 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.

Pell Grant

There are extenuating circumstances which could exclude a student from being eligible for Pell Grants, such as incarceration. For the 2020-2021 school year, you will need to report your 2018 tax information through the online form. You could have started this as early as October 1, 2019, and the deadline to have this completed is June 30, 2020. The amount awarded changes yearly but the 2020-2021 maximum allowance is $6,345. Pell grant amount 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. Pell Grants are awarded through the FAFSA application; there is no other way to apply. The Pell Grants need to be renewed annually, in the same way as the FAFSA. Funds are disbursed by the school the student is attending.


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. It can be done online but the student must be a US citizen, a full-time student who already completed the FAFSA application, and is in dire need of additional funding for college or trade school. Like the Pell Grant, the FSEOG amount is determined by the FAFSA, there is no other way to apply for this grant directly. The money is either sent to the student by check or is credited to the school account. If the student’s financial circumstances do not make them eligible for the FSEOG, then they may be more fitting for a Pell Grant.


The FAFSA is simply a free application for students to fill out to help them obtain money to pay for their schooling. This online form MUST be filled out by any student wanting to apply for grants and scholarships as it is used to determine the amount of money the student will be awarded. Every single loan and grant is based upon the FAFSA, and colleges also base their scholarships on FAFSA, as well. It’s important to find out deadlines of schools being applied for because they could differ drastically from one to the other and timeliness is extremely important in order to receive the highest amount of money. The federal deadline for filling out the FAFSA form is June 30th, but each state may be different.

Federal Loans

Student loans help cover the cost of school but they must be repaid over a designated period of time and usually with a high-interest rate. Two loans to be aware, both offered through the Department of Education, are The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program and The Federal Stafford Loan. Also, there is the Sallie Mae Career Training Smart Option Loan . These loans are usually lower than the market rate so the payback isn’t as daunting. They do not reduce the cost of schools, they just are there to help with the immediate cost and will have to be paid back upon graduation and employment or lessening college enrollment to part-time status.

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 has no federal aid. The subsidized loans are for low-income undergraduate students with high financial help needs 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 and it does not matter what their income levels are but is only available for up to six years of education

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

Sallie Mae Career Training Smart Option Loan

Sallie Mae Career Training allows the borrower to take out a loan for the entire cost of school with a choice of repayment options. There are no prepayment penalties with this option and it payment starts upon receiving money but at low rates. Six months post graduation is when full payment plus interest begins.

Federal loans have a fixed interest rate which is much lower than credit card interest rates. If the student ever had 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. To receive a Federal Loan, you must first fill out the FAFSA. Based on the result of the FAFSA, a financial aid offer will be sent out by the college or trade school from which the student is enrolling in. This might include the federal loans, as well. Before any federal money is given, the student will have to complete entrance counseling which will spell out the exact loan obligation so that it is easily understood, and a Master Promissory Note, or an agreement to the terms of the loan, will have to be signed. The school will have all the information and will help the student understand how to make sense of it.

Private Student Loans

Approximately 38% of all money students receive is from loans . Many private loans need to be paid back even when the student is still enrolled in college and at a high-interest rate, the average being 18% annually. The interest rate is what can bring the cost of the loan up tremendously. Interest may not be tax deductible with private loans and many not be included in the event of a debt consolidation. Private loans rely on credit scores along with other factors specific to the loan institution.


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, simply by 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 most scholarship money.
  3. Fast Web: Is another targeted scholarship search that even helps find some of the most obscure ones. You just complete an online profile on their site and it allows you access to their database of 1.5 million available scholarships totaling over 3 billion dollars.

Merit Scholarships

Merit scholarships are given directly through the specific schools and the student has to apply for them. The scholarships are awarded based on certain criteria which are generally school specific and usually based on the applying student’s GPA and test scores as well as 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 qualifications are.

Vocational Scholarships

Depending on which trade the student is entering, there are scholarships available. Examples such as Home Depot for students studying construction, contracting and HVAC. Straightforward Media which offers six different types of scholarships of $500 and are given out four times a year. 2nd Chance Scholarship is given out by American Fire Sprinkler Association and it awards 5-$1,000 scholarships to high school graduates going into trade school. They also have a High School Senior Scholarship Contest which awards 10 students a $2,000 each scholarship to go to trade school. There are also scholarships available directly through the colleges or trade schools and it’s important to consult their websites for specifications. Nexstar Legacy Foundation gives out 2 scholarships per year to students going into HVAC, plumbing, or electric and can be renewed for up to four years. The American Welding Society also hosts a variety of scholarship opportunities for undergrads 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 for Women

There are a variety of scholarships available for women who are entering trade school. They are especially 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 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 3.2. Horizon Scholarship for Women in Defense is available for females headed into Criminal Justice fields or any other field of study.

Grant 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 the school financial office to find out if your state offers a lottery-based scholarship.

Minority-Specific Grants

There are so many grants available to minorities that have historically been underrepresented within the educational system. These grants are available in hopes of making higher education obtainable to minorities who would otherwise not be able to attend colleges or trade schools. There are grants available through the state and Federal governments, as well as through private sources, professional organizations, charitable foundations, and college and universities. Certain standards apply so research is crucial.

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 money for trade schools out there to help those who need it!

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