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College Student Loans - How To Apply

Updated on May 9, 2011

Planning For College?

As a parent of a recent high school grad, I know that finding a way to pay for college can be a very stressful proposition. After all, the cost of higher education just keeps growing higher while the extra dollars in our incomes keep falling lower. Still, so many are affording college. How are they doing it?

Two words ... loans and grants. Now, grants are great because they never need to be paid back, but they are also rare. Your student's senior year is the best time to look into grants, as there are often deadlines that need to be made for submitting the paperwork. However, the number of students who have all of their education paid for by grants is very low. In most cases, you will need to find money elsewhere.

We Need A Loan

For most parents, a loan will be needed to meet the costs of college. Of course, all loans must be paid over time and the best way to keep those payments down is to get a loan with a low interest rate.

It sounds so easy when written on a screen, but it's actually a lot of work. You see, a whole industry has been created to make a substantial living off of those gaining an education. The concept is that these students graduate on to high paying jobs that will allow them the money to afford the payback later. However, for most graduates, this just isn't the case. Many go on to become waiters and waitresses as they struggle to find a job in their field, and trying to work a low paying job while trying to make high loan payments can be enough to make anyone wonder why they ever attended college. This places the financial burdens on the parents who are often strapped by their own need to financially survive.

To get a low interest college loan you need to plan early, be well informed, and know the process. That's why you are here reading this article.

FAFSA To The Rescue!

FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Please note, this is not an application for free college loans, but a free application for college loans There is a distinct difference.

Typically, within several weeks you will get a report back telling you which federal loans you can apply for. Be certain to read each offering thoroughly as some exclude others and some have lower interest rates than others ... and those are the ones you are looking for.

The best part is you can apply only. If you haven't already filled out this form you can bookmark this article, go fill out the form, then return here, as I have more information to share with you.

Still Need More Money?

By now you may have found loans to help pay for your student's education, but you still might need another loan to cover the rest of the cost. So, what next? Borrow from the college? As colleges tend to charge high interest rates it's not the best place to turn, but it's at least worth a look. Another place to turn is your local bank.

If you have held an account with a bank for a long time then it's possible they might offer you a low interest loan. However, a better alternative is to look at lenders who have given you loans in the past - especially those who you have already paid off. After all, they should know better than others that you pay of your debts and they should be willing to work a deal more to your liking, knowing that you were an upstanding customer in the past.

One Final Option

If your credit is poor, your options for a low interest college loan are very small. However, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Do you have a relative that has a better credit history? Good! Allow them to cosign the loan. Their good credit should push the interest rate down. 

Yes, we hate turning to relatives for favors like this, but you'd be surprised how many would be willing to give their good name to see their favorite niece or nephew have a chance at a good education.

And if all else fails ... get as low of a rate as you can. Remember, loans are all about making a bet that you can pay off the debt over time. As such, you have to ask yourself ... am I willing to gamble over my child's future? A good education gives your child a chance to become more than a waiter, a waitress, a factory worker, or a fast food employee. As such, can you afford not to give them a chance at a better life?

Turn over every rock in your search for a low interest college loan and read everything before signing. Quite often, finding what you are looking for is a refusal to quit looking. May your search prove to be a fruitful one!

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