College | September 26, 2018 | Rob Zodda
When it comes to deciding how to pay for college, there’s a lot of information out there. It can feel totally overwhelming—but it doesn’t have to. You’re already on the right track just by doing a little research. Here’s a high-level checklist to help you get started.
Maybe your family has money saved for college—or maybe not. That’s okay! Just have an honest conversation. Before you can decide how to pay for college, you need to know your family’s answers to these questions:
College scholarships are free money for college—you don’t need to pay them back. They’re offered by colleges, towns, states, religious organizations, companies, non-profits, and more. Scholarships can often range from $500 to more than $25,000. So yeah, scholarships are worth your time and effort. Your future self will thank you.
A few key facts about scholarships:
Grants for college are another free money option. The difference with grants is that they’re usually given out based on financial need, while scholarships can be awarded based on your skills, hobbies, interests, ethnicity, religion, and more. For example, Federal Pell Grants are the largest source of federally funded grants. They’re awarded solely based on your financial need.
To qualify for grants, your family needs to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), a form that determines how much federal financial aid you’re eligible for. You can submit the FAFSA as early as October of your senior year of high school. And federal aid is first come, first served, so don’t put it off!
If you need to borrow money for college (and most students do), start with federal student loans. Federal student loans are money you borrow from the U.S. government. The benefits of federal student loans are that they usually have lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options than private student loans.
To qualify for federal student loans, again, you need to submit the FAFSA.
FAFSA quick tips:
Private student loans are offered through banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. You’ll want to look for the lender that offers the lowest interest rates and loan repayment options that work for you.
Consider a Sallie Mae® private student loan
When taking out a private student loan, be sure you can answer these questions:
By talking to your parents about how to pay for college and by doing a little planning, you’ll feel confident and ready when it comes time to pay that tuition bill.