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How to Pay for College

Figuring out how to pay for college can be difficult and confusing. Many worry about paying too much, being caught in a loophole or a large amount of debt — making the investment stressful.

When you complete your college search, start applying to scholarships far and wide, and saving money. Seek out federal financial aid, and then utilize private student loans to cover the cost of attendance. We have broken down these three options below.

Step 1: Scholarships & Grants

Apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible! The money you receive will go directly towards the cost of college, and you do not have to pay it back, which reduces the amount you take out in student loans and pay out of pocket. Check out our section on college scholarships for seniors. This page lists scholarship opportunities (updated daily) and has free download to help you on your scholarship search. Find more advice such as how to write scholarship essays and how to win scholarships in the HowToGetIn Scholarships section.

There are many places to look for scholarships. You can visit your guidance office to find local scholarships, or search on StudentScholarshipSearch.com for national and regional scholarships and grants. There are scholarships for literally everyone — for a student adept in soccer, art, math, calling ducks, or for just being tall (over 5'10"). Click to see weird scholarships, you will be surprised at what you find!

You do not have to be a writer, a star athlete, or over 5'10" — although these are great opportunities — to obtain scholarship money. There are programs you can join, such as ScholarshipPoints.com, that only require participation to be eligible. ScholarshipPoints is one of the only free rewards programs online that gives away over $100,000 dollars to students and prospective students each year. These scholarships are referred to as "free scholarships", and can be earned before and throughout college to supplement costs. Click here to learn more about how to win scholarships on ScholarshipPoints.com.

Step 2: Federal Student Loans

The next step in paying for college is securing the most federal financial aid as possible, in the form of federal student loans. Federal loans are the most abundant type of student loans, and usually have the best benefits and the lowest interest rates.

The Stafford Loan is the first federal student loan that you should apply for. The undergraduate Stafford loans have an interest rates as low as 4.66%, no application fee, and no payments until six months after you graduate. In order to be approved for this loan, you must file a FAFSA, a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Find out more about filing a FAFSA on FAFSAonline.com. Another federal student loan option to consider is the PLUS loan. This loan is taken out under the parent or guardian's name, and has many great benefits allowing a parent to borrow the entire cost of education at a low-interest rate.

Step 3: Private Student Loans

If scholarships and federal financial aid fall short of providing the funds you need for college, the next step is obtaining a private student loan. Private student loans allow you to borrow from $500 up to the cost of education, no repayment until after graduation, and you do not need to complete the FAFSA.

Some lenders will only offer private student loans for certain schools, and the provisions of each loan may vary. You can find and compare lenders on PrivateStudentLoans.com. To better inform yourself about the amount you will have to repay after school check out the student loan calculator. This will calculate monthly loan payments for a given loan amount and rate. If you have questions, visit the financial aid forum at financialaidforum.com to discuss options with students and financial aid experts.