One of the most important steps to follow when you begin your college education is to secure financial aid. While you could certainly apply for all of the different types of financial aid, the most effective method is to choose those financial aid programs that suit your individual needs or for which you qualify. Potential students can discuss these options with their parents, high school guidance counselors or college financial aid advisors.
Dependent student loans are the best option for those students whose parents have good credit and financial stability. While the student's name may appear on the loan, in most cases the sponsor of the student loan holds the responsible for repayment of the loan. Having the backing of parents is likely to increase the student's success in obtaining the grants and loans he or she needs to complete college.
Older students who are attempting to complete college while working full-time or part-time may need to apply for independent student loans and other types of financial aid programs.
In most cases you do not need to begin making payments until ten months after graduation. You can also apply for deferments in the event that you are unable to obtain employment and income substantial enough to cover both living expenses and the payments on your student loans.
Those whose families fall into the low-income category can apply for a variety of federal and state supported grants. Unlike student loans, grants are money that does may not need to be repaid. Many state grants are targeted to specific groups such as Hispanics, African Americans, Women and Asian Americans. You will also find grants specific to career fields such as nursing and other medical and scientific professions. Any student who meets the income qualifications for a grant can find one to suit his or her specific needs.
Those students who have a difficult time obtaining grants and loans can apply with the college for the Federal Work Study Program. Under FWS the college places the student in a job on campus—the bookstore, for example—but instead of receiving a paycheck, the college uses the money to apply towards the student's tuition.
Scholarships are available from many sources and other many different conditions. Not all scholarships are academically based; some are specifically focused on those students who have the financial need. Some scholarships cover both tuition and books while others only pay a portion of the student's expenses. However, combining different scholarships can help even the neediest student obtain the funds to complete a college degree.
Banks and credit unions issue private student loans. These loans do not require the student or parents to fill out any federal financial forms. This means there is less paperwork for both the student and his or her parents.