Your guide to financial aid.
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- Step 1: Search everywhere you can for scholarships and grants. The Internet is a great place to start.
- Step 2: Contact the admissions offices of the schools you're considering. Get all your admissions information and school applications.
- Step 3: Find out more about specific federal loan programs by reviewing our section on Federal Loans.
- Step 4: Get financial aid information from each of the schools you're considering -- and be sure to ask about deadlines for applying for aid.
- Step 5: Start the financial aid process by getting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Also, obtain financial aid forms from the college financial aid office. Complete the FAFSA as soon as you can after January 1.
- Step 6: File your FAFSA, or the needs analysis form your school requires to determine if you're eligible for financial aid. If you'd like, you can file and submit your FAFSA electronically.
- Step 7: After you file your FAFSA, you should get a Student Aid Report (SAR) in the mail. Make sure the information in the report is correct, and sign it. Then return it to the school or schools you're considering. You should get an award package from each school detailing the types of aid you qualified for - federal education loans, grants, and work-study programs.
- Step 8: Once you've selected your school and you've determined that you need a federal education loan, you need to follow the application steps for a Stafford Loan and/or a PLUS Loan, which are offered through the Federal Direct Student Loan Program. Note: Graduate students, once you have filed your FAFSA you have the option to choose between a Federal Stafford or Federal PLUS loan. Undergraduates, if your parents are helping you with a federal loan, they should fill out the Federal PLUS loan application. Regardless of the loan you select, make sure you understand every detail of the loan, especially the repayment process.
- Step 9: If grants, scholarships, and federal loans don't cover all your education costs, look into private loan options from SunTrust. Private loans can help bridge the gap - and you can even borrow money for a computer to use at school.