Being accepted to a college is often the highlight of a High Schooler’s dreams. Going through the testing and applications process, and then waiting for replies on those applications often make up a great part of a senior year in High School. Then comes the day that the letter arrives in the mail, and everyone gathers around to see whether you’ve been accepted or not.
You’ve been accepted! Great! Congratulations are offered, celebrations held, and then, suddenly, reality settles in. What’s this college education going to cost and how are students, their parents, or other relatives going to help finance it? Today, more than ever, students entering college, as well as returning college students, are opting to obtain one or more student loans for college. While this may take some of the stress off Mom and Dad as far as tuition costs are concerned, it’s an entirely new ball game for everyone.
A college loan is just like any other private loan, with one major exception. A student loan doesn’t have to be repaid until the student has graduated from college. A student may also have several student loans from several different lending institutions. One of the most common lenders for any kind of loan is your local bank. Beyond that, there are Federal loans such as FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. These loans are eligible for those who meet certain requirements, so make sure you do your homework beforehand.
The best time to start applying for loans is after you’ve received your letter of acceptance to the college of your choice. Forms need to be filled out and turned in as soon as possible after the first of January every year, but can also be completed throughout the course of the year, though processing time may increase. The FAFSA form is the most common approach to student loans after local banks and lenders, and is an application that determines how much a family is able to contribute to a student’s financial obligations while in college, based on household income.
A FAFSA student loan application will need to be filled out for every school year that you would like to receive financial aid. Most forms are available every November for the following school calendar year. Applying early will increase your chances of receiving a student loan through FAFSA, though it is by no means guaranteed. Keep in mind that while such federally supported loans often offer lower interest rates than private student loans received from a private lender, they are also more difficult to obtain.
When looking for any kind of student loans for college, take the time to thoroughly research your options and check interest rates, repayment terms and more than anything else, be prepared to be patient. Don’t stop with one student loan request, which is like putting all your eggs in one basket. Fill out several different student loan applications from various private and government lending sources, and keep your fingers crossed. While you’re waiting, start looking for scholarship money as another source of financial aid.