Federal loans must be repaid. However, most loans will allow you to defer paying interest until you have completed your education. This gives students a chance to find a job and establish some income before they need to begin repaying the loan. To apply for federal loans, fill out the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Types of federal loans include:
- Stafford Loans: Students who are enrolled at least part time may be eligible for Stafford Loans.
- Students with financial need can apply for subsidized Stafford Loans. With subsidized loans, the U.S. Department of Education pays the interest while you are in school. Unsubsidized Stafford Loans don't require financial need. While you're in school, you can sometimes defer payment on the interest that accrues; however once you graduate, you have to repay both full interest and principle on unsubsidized loans.
- Perkins Loans: Not all schools participate in this program, but the ones that do can award Perkins Loans to students with financial need.
- PLUS Loans: If you are still a dependent, your parents may qualify for a PLUS Loan if they have good credit.
[source: Department of Education]
For more information on federal loans, take a look at the U.S. Department of Education's guide "Funding Education Beyond High School."
The Federal Work Study (FSW) program gives jobs to students with financial need who are enrolled at least part time. Students can use their earnings at their discretion. Most work/study jobs are with the school or nonprofit and public agencies. The FWS program encourages students to work in their fields of study or in community service jobs [source: Department of Education].
If you don't think federal aid will work for you or if you're hoping to supplement it with additional aid, there are still several other options. Next, we'll cover state aid, institutional aid and scholarships.