Over 85% of the nation's schools offer various types of scholarship, granting money to college students based on a host of criteria such as academic merit, financial need, and in some cases, racial or ethnic background.

Though the application process can be complicated and redundant between scholarships, there is a great deal of money available for those who are willing to jump through the right hoops and prove their merit and/or need.

Even if you have not been able to save all the money you will need for college, several alternatives exist to assist you in making up the difference.

Financial aid comes in many shapes and sizes -- from scholarships and grants which do not need to be repaid, to federal loans which carry very favorable interest rates and terms. The following are a few of the most popular sources of financial assistance:

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