With the rising costs of colleges, you may find it necessary to get help in paying for it. This help can come in many forms -- from loans to grants and scholarships.
The first step to take is to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This form is sent to the federal government to determine if you're eligible for need-based financial aid. Depending on your income level, you may qualify for federal grants or subsidized or unsubsidized federal loans. Even if you don't qualify for federal aid, there are other options available to you.
Federal loans take on many different forms, and what you're approved for will depend on your need and what is still available at the time you apply. There are limits to how much you can take out under each loan, and when you get the results of your FAFSA, you will be told how much you qualify for, and under which loan type:
- Subsidized Stafford Loans: With a subsidized loan, the federal government pays the interest for you while you're in school. As long as you're at least a half-time student, you don't have to pay interest.
- Unsubsidized Stafford Loans: With an unsubsidized loan, you are responsible for the interest while you are in school. While deferment may be possible, you still have to pay that interest once the deferment period ends. Unsubsidized loans may be available for students who don't qualify for need-based loans.
- Perkins Loans: These need-based loans are also subsidized, so the government will pay the interest for you while you're in school. They also tend to have the lowest interest rates.
- PLUS Loans: These loans are credit-based (not need-based), and, unlike the loans above, are taken out in the name of the student's parent(s), not the student.
If you don't qualify for a government loan, or you don't get approved for enough, and you need help financing your education, you may want to look into private loans. Many banks and financial institutions offer private education loans, but the necessary qualifications vary widely. To apply, visit your local branch or apply online at the bank's website.
Important to note is that many banks will only offer loans for four-year colleges. Community colleges or local colleges that only offer Associate's Degrees or lower will likely not qualify, since the cost to attend is so much lower than that of more traditional schools.
As with loans, you may qualify for grants through the federal government, local government, or various organizations. Unlike loans, however, grants do not need to be paid back. Many grants are need-based while others are on a first-come, first-served basis. Here are some sites to get you started with your search for grants:
Scholarships are simply an organization's way of giving you money toward your education. Amounts vary widely, as do the eligibility requirements. Many organizations, both public and private, offer scholarships to students. These scholarships are usually based on academic performance. Some may be available only to students entering a particular field, or to students who were involved in a particular club or activity during high school. Here are some sites to get you started with searching for scholarships you may qualify for: