Whether you need to choose one of the most recognized universities in the country such as Harvard, Stanford, or Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or to decide to go somewhere more local, college is expensive. The average student spends $99,417 throughout his schooling, which very few people would be able to handle without some form of borrowing.
For the majority of Americans, the path to a brighter future requires excellent financial sacrifices.
Student loans explained
Student loans are long term loans meaning that it will likely take you years to pay them back rather than weeks or months. If you are interested more about this topic, check out Loanza.
In the United States, there are two types of student loans: federal and private. Although both of them represent a form of borrowing, they do have some key differences.
Federal student loans are loans from the government.
Private student loans, on the other hand, are loans offered by private organizations such as credit unions, banks, or other state-affiliated organizations.
Eligibility for federal loans
To get a federal loan, you must meet the following criteria:
- need to have a financial aid
- US citizenship
- valid social security number
- be registered with Selective Service
- enroll as a regular student in an eligible degree program
- be eligible for Direct Loan Program funds
- get satisfactory grades throughout your course
- sign the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) certification statement, and
- prove that you are capable of getting a degree.
Federal loans vs. private loans
The most significant difference between federal and private loans is lending rules.
The terms and conditions of federal loans are dictated by the law, whereas the rules for private loans are determined solely by the lender.
As a result, federal loans are usually a lot cheaper and have more benefits.
Some of the best benefits of federal loans, as opposed to private loans, include:
You won’t have to repay the loan until after you graduate. That gives you peace of mind during your studies, so you’ll be able to focus on studying instead of worrying about missing a payment. It could also mean that you do not need to work as many hours in a part-time job to meet your living costs and can, therefore, dedicate more time to the degree and qualifications.
Because the law governs federal loans, these loans have fixed interest rates. If you calculate the total cost of what you have to pay in total, federal loans are often cheaper than private ones.
Federal loans are flexible. If you can’t pay your mortgage, there are options available to help you. These include temporary postponement (you won’t have to pay for an agreed amount of time) or reduced repayment (you’ll pay less).
If you miss a payment, you will not be charged any extra fees by opting for a federal loan. On the other hand, some private loans may issue a fee if a payment is late or missed, and if this happens often, the total amount owed could soon see an increase.
On the other hand, there are some potential upsides to opting for a private loan, including:
- It will usually be a more natural application process – typically without the need for a FAFSA form
- Loans are generally made available upon approval
- Some applicants may be able to qualify for a higher limit of borrowing
- Those with excellent credit ratings could be eligible for lower interest rates
Are there alternatives?
Applying for a student loan should be your last resort if you can avoid it.
Because you will still need to repay the loan, and because both federal and private loans charge interest – it’s better to find other ways to fund your college degree if possible, which could work out cheaper for you in the long-run.
The best alternatives are grants and scholarships – these are better than loans because you won’t need to repay the money. In other words, grants and fellowships are entirely ‘free.’
Grants are given either by the federal government or state governments, colleges, or non-profit organizations.
Like federal loans, grants are need-based. So, it would be best if you met their criteria to be eligible to receive an award. Standards vary depending on the college and scheme, so the best thing to do is to have a look at different websites of organizations and colleges to see if they offer student grants and if you qualify.
To give you some ideas, here are a couple of colleges offering student grants:
- University of Michigan
- Penn State University
- Stanford University
- University of Southern California
- Princeton University
For federal grants, you’ll have to submit a FAFSA form to see if you’re eligible.
Most US colleges have scholarships available. These are mostly merit-based, meaning you must earn the award.
The scholarship requirements differ from institution to institution, but being a straight-A student or a top athlete should boost your chances. If you’re lucky enough to receive one of these sorts after places, but still find yourself a little short, you could apply for a payday loan to top your money up. Visit Mr. Lender for more information.
As for minorities – African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Asian Americans, and the LGBTQ, to name a few – there are special scholarships potentially available to you.
Like with grants, the best way to do your research is to look at your chosen college`s website. They should have all the information you need. However, feel free to contact the universities individually if you still can’t find something specific you want to know.
Some of the colleges offering student scholarships include:
- Harvard University
- Yale University
- Brown University
However, if you decide to fund your college degree, it’s essential to do your research. There is plenty of information on each college’s website and a host of online materials (including student experiences), which can help you decide how best to fund your college degree.
You’ll need to find an option that’s best suited for you. With a wealth of opportunities available, college is a time for fun and learning – the least you’d want to think about is student debt.