Self-help aid is financial aid that the student earns through work or is required to pay back. Student loans and federal college work-study are kinds of self-help aid. Many colleges build their financial aid award starting with self-help aid.
There are many loans available to students. The federal government provides federal student loans (i.e. direct loans) in the form of a subsidized loan or unsubsidized loan.
There are also PLUS loans (i.e. Graduate/Professional PLUS loan or Parent PLUS loan) to which the borrower would need to apply for the loan via Studentaid.gov, and must be creditworthy to receive it (per the federal government's credit check standard). Private loans are provided through a private bank or lender, and are not federal-based loans.
Federal College Work-Study Program
This form of aid is earned by students through work. Students can work part-time through a Federal College Work-Study Program to earn money that will be paid directly to them during their school year. The Work-Study award amount is the maximum amount that can be earned for that school year. Work-Study earnings do not have to be paid back.