How to find nursing schools with the best financial aid

Financial aid is a big deal when you’re considering where and what to go to school for. So, it makes sense that you might wonder what nursing schools have the best financial aid package. 

It’s no secret that tuition is on the rise, but that’s definitely true of nursing programs throughout the country. Not being able to pay for nursing school might end up being the thing that prevents you from achieving your goal, but it doesn’t have to be. Just as tuition is on the rise, there are also lots of options to help you pay for your nursing education. 

Finding the best financial aid package has less to do with the nursing school and more to do with you and your family’s financial situation. Here are simple steps to affordable nursing schools that will help you achieve your goal of becoming a nurse to get the best financial aid package possible.

 

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Step #1: File the FAFSA®

To begin the financial aid process, you need to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). You will need to provide financial and tax forms for both you and your parents (if you’re a dependent student).

During this process, you will be allowed to list up to 10 colleges. If you already have nursing program considerations in mind, don’t hesitate to put all of them down. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been accepted or not at this point.  

Once you complete the application, it will be submitted to the schools you put on your list. From there, you’ll get an award letter from each school once you officially apply to them. 

Step #2: Review your financial aid award letters

The financial aid award letter will outline what kind of federal financial aid you’re able to receive from each school, including grants, work-study opportunities, and federal loans. In some cases, institutional-based scholarships might be included in these award letters. 

Knowing how much free aid money you’ll be qualified for will give you a better idea of how much you need to pay for school out of pocket. Each nursing school you apply to will send you one of these letters, outlining their “Cost of Attendance” and your aid. This is the best tool to use when you begin to compare which nursing school you can afford. 

But that out of pocket amount doesn’t have to be what you pay. For nursing students, there are a few other financial assistance opportunities to consider. 

Step #3: Apply for additional scholarships

Luckily, there are a lot of scholarships out there for prospective and current nursing students. If you’re trying to lessen the gap between free aid and what you have to come up with out-of-pocket (aka the aid gap), scholarships are a great option. 

There is no limit to the number of scholarships you can apply for, and depending on your life situation, there will likely be a lot of options. Here are three resources to tap into when looking for scholarships:

Your School

Whether you’re graduating high school or currently enrolled in a college nursing program, your school might have scholarship opportunities available for merit-based students. Just because there wasn’t a scholarship on your award letter doesn’t mean there aren’t more floating around campus somewhere.

Contact your financial aid office and ask them to direct you to any possible scholarships you can apply for. 

Your Community

Sometimes local organizations, companies, and groups will have scholarships available for local students. While the monetary amount of these scholarships might be lower, the chances of you winning one are higher, as fewer people tend to apply for them. And when it comes to paying for college, any little bit of money helps.

These days you may be able to find community scholarships through a Google search, or you can ask around. People who can help out are usually school counselors or connected members of the community who know about opportunities. Tap into the community, touch base with people you’ve worked within the past, and be sure to ask your school for a little help.

Google Search

Your best bet for finding larger, nationwide scholarships is with a Google search. There are tons of websites dedicated to general scholarships and specific nursing scholarships that could help you pay for school. Try visiting Scholarships.com or nursing sites like Nursejournal.org and Allnursingschools.org.

Step #4: Look into work-study, residency, and fellowship programs

Depending on where you are in your education journey, there are a few programs that might help you pay for college and provide hands-on learning experiences at the same time. 

Work-Study

If work-study was included in your financial aid package, that means you could potentially get a job at your college and use that money towards education-related expenses. These jobs are typically on-campus and provide flexible hours that work around your college schedule. 

With work-study programs, you get paid just like you would a regular job, and that money can be used to help with any of your expenses. 

Residency & Fellowship Nursing Programs

For undergraduate and graduate nursing students, nursing residency and fellowship programs can be a huge help as they continue their education. These programs are designed to give you hands-on experience and help you build a skill set that could help you land a job in nursing after graduation. 

Residency and fellowship programs offer stipends or salaries, which can be used for anything you need, whether it be personal or towards your education. They are meant to supplement your on-campus education, so they usually have more flexibility when it comes to working around your schedule.

In addition to the salary and stipend, specific programs also offer educational awards that waive or forgive your student loans. This is usually in return for a commitment to the institution or hospital itself (usually  2 to 4-years). 

Building relationships with hospitals as you continue your nursing education can be paramount to getting a job directly out of school. Not only does it provide you with additional income to help you pay for your education, but it’s excellent experience to have on your resume. 

Step #5: Consider tuition assistance programs

If you’re already working at a hospital, you should ask to see if they provide any tuition assistance programs for prospective nurses. Since hospitals are in need of nurses, they’re usually very willing to help nursing students continue their education. 

Each medical institution will have its program, but many of them come in the form of scholarships, direct tuition payments, and tuition reimbursement. Before you begin a nursing program, check with the benefits or human resources administrator for your employer to see if they can help you. 

Step #6: Ask about student loan forgiveness

For prospective nurses, there are a few opportunities for student loan forgiveness depending on the kind of work you do after graduation. We break down those programs in this post.

However, if you got your award letter and were offered Federal Loans, there’s a chance one of those loans is eligible for forgiveness. As part of your consideration as to which package is better, you might want to look into which loans offer forgiveness. 

Ask questions about the forgiveness program and what you’ll have to do to be eligible. These programs can be tricky to figure out, so you want to get as much information as possible before deciding to take out loans that may not be forgiven in the end. 

If there is the opportunity to use student loan forgiveness for your nursing education, it’s another factor to consider as you weigh financial aid packages. 

Step #7: Look at all the options you have and make a decision

Once you know the type of financial assistance you’ll have as you head to nursing school, you can make a decision. Take a step back and look at all the free aid you’ll be receiving. Then, compare that free aid to the estimated “Cost of Attendance” (your school likely provided this on your award letter). Whatever is left over after you deduct your free aid is the amount you need to pay out of pocket.

If you have any of the additional financial aid options we mentioned here, include them in your overall amount of aid. With a clear look at the numbers, you can decide which school is offering the best package and hopefully leave school with little debt to worry about. 

While there’s no way for us to know which school will have the best financial aid package for you, this is the perfect way to figure it out for yourself.