You should never borrow if there is another way to pay for an important goal. If you're a college student, you should exhaust other sources of financial aid that you typically don't have to repay, including grants, scholarships, and work-study arrangements, before you apply for loans.
The reality, however, is that the majority of college students do borrow to help pay for school with federal student loans and sometimes with loans from the institutions they attend or private lenders.
BORROWING FROM THE GOVERNMENTTo borrow through the federal student loan program, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Learn more at www.studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa.
It's critical to complete the FAFSA for federal loans early in the calendar year you hope to enroll. Each institution sets its own cut-off dates for receiving applications. The reason it's so urgent to be on time is that all colleges and universities have a limited amount of money to disburse. You don't want to miss out because you apply late.
BORROWING FROM YOUR SCHOOLYour college or university may also offer institutional loans as part of a financial aid package. In that case, the college may require you to complete a separate application in addition to the FAFSA. Contact a Student Finance Professional at your college at the time you apply to determine if an institutional application is required and where to access the forms.
Remember, the terms of institutional loans will differ from the terms of federal education loans offered by the government.
For more information about institutional loans from your school, contact your Student Finance department.