As a student, you may be trying to find the best ways to pay for your college tuition,
books, room & board, travel, food, lab fees and other college expenses. Paying for
college doesn't have to be complicated, as long as you understand the financial
aid process. Before you think about your financial aid, you’ll need to know your
school’s Cost of Attendance. You can generally find this information on your school’s
website, at the financial aid office, or in your award letter.
In order to qualify for federal, state and generally school specific financial aid,
you need to complete your
FAFSA (Federal Application for Student Aid) every January 1st at
www.fafsa.ed.gov. Your school will send an
award letter every Spring detailing all of the college financial
aid you qualify for, which may include
college scholarships and grants,
federal student loans. If you have questions about your college
financial aid award package, you'll want to work directly with the financial aid
You may receive college scholarships directly from your school, based on your academic
history, financial need, athletic or school program participation. Not everyone
will receive scholarships from the school. You may need to start your own scholarship
search. Work with your school's financial aid office and the office of your specific
major (i.e. English, Business) to identify any scholarships that you can apply for.
Scholarships specific to your school may have less applicants than regional or national
scholarships you find on the web. You can also check with your job, community, church
and organizations you participate in to see if scholarships are available. Once
you have exhausted those options, you can start a scholarships search on the web.
After you exhaust all of your free money options, such as scholarships and grants,
you may need to use student loans to pay for your remaining college costs. Your
award letter will show how much you can borrow in federal student loans. The
Direct Stafford Loan is the most widely used, low-cost borrowing option
for college students.
Graduate students can also qualify to borrow up to the total cost of attendance
minus any other financial aid received with the
Grad PLUS Loan. Parents can use the
Direct PLUS Loan to pay for the entire cost of attendance (minus other
financial aid received), or supplement part of the costs.
Some students find that after using free money and federal student loans, they still
do not have enough to cover all of their school costs. If this is the case, you
may want to explore private student loans to pay for your school expenses. A
private student loan is a credit-based loan made in the student's name,
generally backed by a credit-worthy co-signer (like a parent or relative).
If you are in need of private student loans to pay for school, make sure you do
your research before you apply. Use our tool to the right to find and compare private
loan options for your school.
Get more information on private student loans.
Use our calculators to create monthly budgets, total your financial aid figure out
how much to borrow in student loans.