Most students find that they need to utilize multiple funding sources to pay for their college tuition. Fortunately, there are several avenues you can explore when you are looking for student loans.
Start by listing your personal savings and family contributions. While this may not be enough to cover the total cost of college tuition, it will give you a good idea of how much you will need to borrow by way of student loans.
Before you start looking for student loans…
Before you start looking for student loans, do extensive research into the different types of scholarships and grants available. Apply for every scholarship and grant that you are eligible for to win more scholarships. These do not require any repayment, so any funds you get is like free money, which is always good.
After you’ve exhausted your personal sources and all scholarship and grant sources, it is time to start to explore and understand student loans. Remember, whatever loans you take, you will have to repay with interest. With that in mind, you should apply for the absolute minimum that you will require so you could end up in debt for several years after you have graduated.
Start with the FAFSA
Complete the FAFSA! Any search for college loans should start with the FAFSA. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is a type of loan provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
Many colleges use the information on your application to determine your eligibility for grant money.
If you are lucky with your FAFSA application, you may not even need to look anywhere else for additional loans. However, if the loan you receive is not enough to cover your whole tuition, you will have to explore other avenues.
Other types of loans available
Completing a FAFSA application serves as an automatic gateway to various other loans offered by the U.S. Department of Education.
These four loan products are the most popular.
- Direct subsidized loans – These are intended to help students who can demonstrate financial need. You are eligible to apply for this loan if you attend school at least part-time and are struggling to pay the tuition. You only repay the principle amount of the loan. The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on the loan.
- Direct unsubsidized loans – You are not required to demonstrate financial need to avail of this loan but you do need to be attending school at least part-time. All students who fill out a FAFSA form are eligible for this loan unless they are over the borrowing limit.
- PLUS loans – These loans are intended to help needy students who are working on an advanced degree and who are no longer eligible under the direct loan program. To be eligible for this loan you must be enrolled in an advanced degree program at least part-time and you must not have a poor credit history.
- Federal Perkins loans – These loans are designed to help students who demonstrate a significant level of need. The interest rates on these loans are pretty low as they are meant to help students who may not be able to afford repaying at standard rates. However, getting approved is not easy.
Only after you have explored all financial aid offered by the U.S. Department of Education should you then start looking into private student loan institutions.