Student Loans, Resources, and Free Money

Preparing for college is all about choices, be it filling in the circles on a standardized test or picking which school to attend. The most important choice, though, may be how to pay for college. Full scholarships are limited. They're usually reserved for outstanding athletes and a select few academic standouts.

What about the rest of us?

For most, paying for college is a search for funding through various resources. Thankfully, there are plenty of options. Unfortunately, there are many pitfalls, too.

Student Loans and Other Resources Are a Big Part of College Funding

Financial aid and scholarships can cover a good chunk of college costs, but most need student loans to fill the gaps. Many will borrow between $30,000 and $100,000 to cover the price tag of a four-year degree.

College graduates owe an estimated $1.3 trillion in outstanding debt and recent numbers from the federal government suggest many are working hard to pay it back.

The troubling trend of increasing forbearance, delinquency, and default should send a message to prospective students and their families: Do your homework.

If you or your child is considering college, consider educating yourself on higher education cost essentials. You can get started right now.

1. Figure Out the Cost of Attendance


Colleges across the nation are actually required to post their cost of attendance (COA) each year.

This COA accounts for the tuition and fees; books and supplies; room and board; transportation; and personal expenses the average student would pay in an academic year, or one fall and spring semester.

Look up the number and stare it down.

Now take a deep breath and let's get to work.

2. Fill Out The FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid unlocks your access to federal student loans and grants, the most practical college funding source you have.

Federal loans carry low, fixed interest rates that tend to make monthly payments a little more palatable.

As the name suggests, it's free. It's also relatively painless. So, grab the worksheet now and get your info together.

Deadlines are pretty strict, so the earlier you submit, the better.

3. Find Some Free Money for College

Whether it's for $50 or $50,000, scholarships help drop that COA in a hurry. The search will take a lot of work, but the paycheck you earn could be priceless.

To make the process a little more painless, write a general essay you can submit with applications as the opportunities arise. Many decision-makers simply want you to explain who you are, why you want to go to school, what you plan to do with your degree, and how the scholarship will help you achieve that.


Use that basic framework as a guide to write your template. Essay word counts vary, but be well aware of the limit. As a best practice, write long and learn to edit.

4. Find Even More Free Money for College

Every school has a financial aid office. Use it. Simple enough, right?

5. Use Special Credit Union Student Loans to Fill the Gaps

After you've gathered all your federal funds, scholarships, and financial aid, take another look at that cost of attendance. If you're like most, you're going to need more.

Student Choice Student Loans Offer Students and Parents Options

Visions Federal Credit Union offers many benefits to member-owners, including affordable student lending in the form of Student Choice.

These loans exclusive to credit unions offer competitive rates, in-school deferment, and a graduated repayment option.

Visions also dedicates itself to financial literacy when it comes to funding college. Find more information about paying for college, useful calculators, and money management tips at the Visions Student Choice website.


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