Many students find that they will need outside funding to help pay for their college education. Student loans are one source of money for school, but you also should consider other options. Here are five important steps to take before you commit to a student loan:
1. Research and Apply for Scholarships
Whether you're an artist, an athlete or a mathlete, there may be a scholarship that's tailor-made to your skills and interests. Check online at Discover Student Loans Free Scholarship Search and other sites to find scholarships that are right for you.
2. Fill out the FAFSA®
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used by the U.S. Department of Education to determine if you are eligible for grants, federal education loans or work-study programs to help pay for school. While loans need to be repaid, other forms of financial aid do not.
3. Understand your Budget Needs
Before you decide whether you'll need to take out a student loan, you need to understand how much your college expenses are going to be. Use your school's Net Price Calculator or an online tool like the Discover Student Loan Calculator to get a better idea of costs, and research your desired career field to get an idea of the possible starting salaries. Having this information will help you approximate how long it might take to pay back your student loans.
4. Evaluate and Compare Student Loan Terms
If you still need a student loan, do your research and compare loan terms, features, interest rates and repayment options.
5. Don't borrow more than you need
Consider making payments while you're in school as this can reduce the total amount owed after graduation. Above all, familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions, and be sure that you understand what is expected of you before you commit to the loan.
FAFSA is a registered service mark of the U.S. Department of Education.