How to Start Your Student Loan Search

If you’re looking to pay for your college education, student loans are a common way to go—after you’ve exhausted scholarships and grants, of course. But when it’s time to search for a student loan, where do you even start?

Students lining up at the starting line on a track.


The best way to start your student loan search is by filling up the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You can get this form from the Federal Student Aid website. Or, talk to your guidance counselor or your school’s financial aid office. When you fill out the FAFSA, you may qualify for federal student loans, as well as financial aid packages from colleges.

Institutional & Federal Loans

The college you are applying to will put together a financial aid package that is tailored to your financial need based on the information you submit on the form. This financial aid package will include details of the total amount you are awarded by way of federal student loans, grants, and institutional assistance.

If this financial aid package meets your needs, you do not need to look anywhere else. However, if the financial aid package falls short of your requirements, you will need to explore other sources to borrow from.

Private Student Loans

If you cannot get the funds you need from the college, scholarships, and government, you will have to borrow from private financial institutions. Taking private student loans should be your last resort. Their higher rates of interest means the accrued interest can add up substantially over the life of the loan, and they tend to be less flexible than federal options.

Do your research with private loans. Understand the different elements—interest rate, repayment plan, deferment options, etc.—and look into the various lenders.

College Raptor can help you in this regard. With our free Student Loan Finder, you can discover loan options by comparing lenders and interest rates side-by-side.

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