Attending college can be costly. Between tuition, books and living expenses, many students need financial assistance. Although scholarships and grants may be available for some students, not all students will qualify. In addition, grants may not completely cover school costs. Another financial option available to cover the cost of attending college is student loans. Student loans, unlike grants, need to be paid back. There are a few different types of student loans available. Follow the steps below to get started.
Apply for a direct student loan through the Department of Education. Stafford and Perkins loans are the two types of federal student loans available. They are available for both undergraduate and graduate students. The Perkins loan is given based on financial need of the student and usually has a lower interest rate than the Stafford loan.
Understand the difference between a subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loan. Students who meet income requirements may qualify for a subsidized loan, which means the interest on the loan is paid by the government while you are in school. In an unsubsidized loan, although the principal does not have to be repaid until after you graduate, you must pay the interest during school.
Fill out the free application for student aid (FAFSA). This application will need to be completed for any federal student loan applied for and for many private student loans. The Department for Education runs the Federal Student Aid Office, which can provide information on filling out the FAFSA, or you can go directly to the FAFSA Website and fill out an application online.
Consider private loans. Although federal loans may have lower interest rates, there are limits on the amount borrowed. Private loans may be needed to cover additional expenses. Private loans can be obtained through banks and credit unions. Visit Finaid.com for a list of private lenders.
Get a co-signer. If you are tying to get a student loan from a private lender such as a bank, your credit report will be a factor. For students who have poor or no credit, a co-signer may help you get the loan. A co-signer is the person who will be legally responsible for the loan if you fail to pay it back.
Ask your parents to apply for a PLUS loan. This type of loan is for parents to help their dependent children with school costs. The loan is through the Department of Education, therefore a private lender doesn’t need to be found. Parents are responsible for repayment and a credit check is required. Applications can be found at the Parents PLUS Loan Website.
Be aware of repayment polices. Some student loans, such as Stafford loans, have a six-month grace period. This means you don't have to start paying the loan back until six months after graduation or when you stop attending schools. Not all student loans have a grace period.
MaryAnn DePietro has been a professional journalist since 2000, specializing in health, fitness and medical articles. She is also a certified respiratory therapist. Her work has appeared on websites such as eHow and ModernMom and in publications including the “Sacramento Bee, “Press Tribune“ and “Succeed.” DePietro holds a Bachelor of Science in rehabilitation from Penn State University and a degree in respiratory therapy.