When you begin your search for sources of student aid, be sure to research the financial aid opportunities offered by both the government and the forensic science programs to which you are applying. Contact the schools' financial aid offices to inquire about institutional aid and what federal programs each school participates in. Be sure to ask about their financial aid deadlines and procedures, as well as when you will receive your award if you are selected as a recipient. There are three primary types of aid available to students: scholarships, grants, and loans.
Scholarships are conferred upon students who fulfill various criteria that reflect the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award. The most common scholarships are need-based, merit-based, student-specific, and career-specific. Prospective forensic science students should search for scholarships offered by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and similar organizations. Here are a few examples of the scholarships available to forensic science students:
- Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists' George W. Neighbor Jr. Memorial Scholarship
- Ellis R. Kerley Forensic Sciences Foundation Scholarship
- The Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners Scholarship
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security Scholarship
- The American Society of Crime Lab Directors Scholarship
Student loans are offered by both private and federal sources. All students attending college should fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Through it, students gain access to Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, and PLUS Loans, as well as many other aid programs that require students to file a FAFSA. Loans, as the name implies, must be repaid.
Here are links to information on each of these loan programs:
Like scholarships, grants do not have to be repaid. They are traditionally need-based, and they may fall into the following four categories: subject-specific, student-specific, degree level, and minority-based. Federal and state governments are common sources of grant funding. You should always pursue grants and scholarships first, since they do not have to be repaid. Grants in particular can be used to cover a variety of school-related expenses, including tuition, room and board, and books and supplies.
Here are links to the federal grant programs you should investigate:
- Pell Grant
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH Grant)
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
- The Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)
- The National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant)
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
Finding different types of aid can seem daunting at first, but there are many resources available to prospective students. To jumpstart your search, use the following websites that list scholarship opportunities:
- Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the Other Sources of Student Aid page lists the government departments that offer student aid, describes the programs offered by each department, and spells out the eligibility requirements.
- The U.S. Department of Education also publishes a list of higher education agencies in each state. Follow your state's link to find local, regional, and statewide education programs, colleges and universities, financial aid assistance programs, scholarships, continuing education programs, and career opportunities in an area near you.
- The federal Student Aid on the Web page allows prospective students to browse scholarships that might be relevant to their situation. Students need only to type keywords into the search engine to access hundreds of scholarship opportunities.
- FinAid provides a list of prestigious undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships. You will find information about eligibility requirements, award amounts, and deadlines. The scholarships are funded by an array of sources and will play on the strengths of students from varying backgrounds.