Paying for college can be daunting. The average cost to attend a public college for the 2021-22 school year was $10,740 for in-state residents and $27,560 for out-of-state residents, according to a CollegeBoard report. Room and board tacks on an additional $12,000, and you can expect to spend money on fees, textbooks, and supplies. But the good news is, you can afford a college education even if you have no money saved.
Private student loans are one option to help fund your college education. Credible lets you compare private student loan rates from multiple lenders, all in one place.
- Apply for scholarships and grants
- Complete the FAFSA and apply for financial aid
- Get a work-study job
- Take out federal student loans
- Consider private student loans if you need additional funds
Scholarships are monetary awards given to students who qualify. Some scholarships cover your entire tuition, while others offer a few hundred dollars. Schools, employers, and a variety of organizations offer scholarships, and you can apply for as many as you like. Some scholarships are merit-based, awarded to students who meet academic or talent requirements, while others are based on financial need.
To find out about available scholarships, ask your high school counselor, contact the financial aid office of the school or schools you’re interested in, research scholarships at a public library, or search CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Grants are free money awarded to students with financial need. The federal government, state governments, colleges, and private organizations offer grants. To find out about available grants, search CareerOneStop or submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You don’t have to repay grants or scholarships, so turn to these first when trying to cut down on college costs.
If you have no money, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can help you pay for public college, private schools, community college, or vocational schools. After you submit the form, you’ll know which scholarships, grants, and financial aid you’re eligible for.
You typically don’t need to pay back scholarships or grants. But if you get financial aid in the form of student loans, you’ll need to start repaying them with interest, typically six months after you leave college or if you drop below half-time enrollment. You can keep your student loan debt to a minimum by only borrowing what you need.
To fill out the FAFSA, you’ll need to provide the following:
- Social Security number
- Driver’s license number
- Alien Registration Number (for non-U.S. citizens)
- Tax returns
- Records of any untaxed income
- Checking and savings account balances
- Any investments, such as stocks, bonds, and real estate (doesn’t apply to your primary residence)
- Any business or farm assets
If you’re a dependent student, you’ll also need to provide the above information for your parents. You’ll need to have at least one school in mind to include on the FAFSA. The schools you list will receive your information from the FAFSA to determine which types of aid you might receive.
If you find you need to take out private student loans to help cover your education costs, visit Credible to compare private student loan rates from various lenders in minutes.
The federal government offers the Federal Work-Study Program, which funds part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need to pay for college. Jobs are typically community service work or work that’s directly related to your field of study. You’ll earn at least the minimum wage, and you could earn more, depending on the job and your skill level. Your Federal Work-Study award determines the amount of hours you’ll be allowed to work.
After you submit the FAFSA, the federal government might offer you student loans. The amount you can get varies. For example, undergraduate students can typically receive between $5,500 and $12,500 per year. Graduate students can typically borrow up to $20,500 per year.
The U.S. Department of Education offers three main types of federal student loans:
- Direct Subsidized Loans — These loans are for undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to be used for college or vocational school. The government pays the interest that accrues while you’re in school at least half-time, during deferment, and for six months after you graduate.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans — Undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for these loans, and they don’t have to demonstrate financial need. You pay all the interest that accrues.
- Direct PLUS Loans — These loans are for graduate students and parents of dependent undergraduate students.
If you don’t want to fill out the FAFSA or you need additional money to pay for your college costs after receiving a federal student loan, you can apply for a private loan from a bank, online lender, or other financial institution. Private student loans are available for undergraduate, graduate, and vocational students. Once you know how much you’ll need to borrow, you can apply for private student loans directly from the lender you choose.
Private student loans are based on your or your cosigner’s credit. You can choose a fixed- or variable-interest rate loan. Interest rates and loan amounts vary by lender, so it’s a good idea to compare multiple lenders. Keep in mind that private student loans might come with higher interest rates than federal loans.
If you need private student loans to fill in any college funding gaps, you can compare private student loan rates with Credible, and it won’t affect your credit.