Congrats, you’re a college kid now. You may be surprised to discover that your 18-year-old college fund only has enough money to pay for your textbooks. College is expensive, but tuition doesn’t have to keep you from the best years of your life. The Federal Student Aid (FSA) empowers millions of students to fund their education through grants, scholarships, and loans each year. Because there are typically more student applications than grants and scholarships, you may not land each one you apply for. There are steps you can take to qualify for student loans that you don’t want to miss.
Start With the Basics
Begin the journey of funding your education by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FSA will use your information to determine financial aid eligibility. The basic requirements for student loan eligibility include U.S. citizenship, a high school diploma or GED, and enrollment/acceptance into an eligible university or program. The FSA will send your completed application to the universities to process and extend award offers. Review the conditions of each loan offer for details regarding its eligibility requirements and see how you qualified. Not all loans are created equally, and you’ll want to know the differences.
Know Your Loans & Lenders
As if the differences between federal loans and private loans are not particular enough, there are various specifications of each that you’ll want to pay close attention to. Differences among lenders account for differences among loans, so you’ll want to compare lender credibility and reliability in addition to the numbers. The interest rates, payback time, and forgiveness opportunities differ for each and play a crucial role in your decision to invest in one over the other. The FSA partners with a handful of lenders for federal loans, so you’ll want to take advantages of their resources and compare private loan offerings on your own.
Build & Maintain That Credit Score
This may be your first go around with your credit score, but it won’t be the last. Higher scores equate to lower interest rates, meaning you’ll want to build and keep that score up. Your score is primarily based on how well you steward over your financial responsibilities. Take the brave step of putting your bills in your name and be consistent in paying them. Then watch the loan rates go down. We won’t tell you how to spend your money, but we will encourage you to beware of rates that exceed those set by the FSA themselves.
Ready, Set, Borrow!
Borrowing doesn’t have to be as complicated as its pegged to be. Between the various types of federal and private loans, you’re bound to find one that works best for your wallet and your education. We wouldn’t be surprised if you qualified for more than you expected. Cha-ching.
By researching carefully, following the instructions provided by the various lending organizations, and listening carefully to your heart and whatever good advice is available, your college experience should not be limited by a lack of funds.