Your college education can be one of the biggest expenses of your life, as well as one of the most rewarding experiences. After assessing how much you and your family can contribute, you might determine that additional funds are necessary. You have options, including scholarships, grants and student loans.

Apply for scholarships and grants

Getting scholarships or grants for college is a great option for students preparing for college because you don’t need to pay them back after graduation. Occasionally you might have to pay back part or all of a grant if, for example, you withdraw from school before finishing an enrollment period such as a semester. The government determines your eligibility to get grants for college based on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You’ll need to complete a FAFSA form if you plan on applying for grants, federal student loans, or federal work-study. There are several sources of scholarships - explore those offered through colleges and universities, employers, community groups and philanthropic organizations.  There are free on-line scholarship finders that you can help match you to scholarship opportunities. 

Apply for loans

Many students rely on loans to help fund their education. This can be a good way to get the funds you need, but be sure to understand what you’re signing up for. There are primarily two kinds/categories of loans: those issued by the Federal Government and those issued by private lenders like banks and other financial institutions. There are different types of government loans that differ based on who qualifies, what they cover, and how they charge interest.

  • Federal subsidized loans are awarded based on financial need, and recipients are not charged interest until the loan enters repayment. The government subsidizes the interest on the loan while the student is in school and during most deferments. Federal unsubsidized loans start accruing interest as soon as the funds are disbursed. Borrowers will be responsible for paying all accrued interest. Federal student loans generally are not awarded based on the credit of the borrower.
  • Private loans differ based on the financial institution that issues the loan. Private loans most often look at the creditworthiness of the borrower. The rates are different than Federal loans, so you should do your research. A cosigner, who is equally responsible for the private loan, is often required and may help you qualify for a lower interest rate.

In 2015, 38 percent of families borrowed to pay for college. When taking out loans, remember to:

  • Review your loan’s interest rates, conditions and repayment terms
  • Only take out as much money as you need
  • Create a plan to help you repay your loans as quickly as you can, even paying interest while you are in school, if possible.

Consider work-study

If you're interested in earning money for college while in school, working part-time and considering a work-study program is a great option. Federal Work-Study (FWS) programs let you earn money from a community service position or a job related to your field of study, with the funds going toward educational expenses. Work-study jobs usually require you to work 12-20 hours per week, and the pay starts at minimum wage with some positions earning higher amounts.

To help determine your funding needs, consider using an online calculator to assess your situation. College can be expensive but understanding the process for getting scholarships, grants and loans can help you pay for your education.

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