If you need help paying for college, technical, or career school, check out the options you may be eligible for from the federal government and other sources. Learn why federal student loans are generally preferable to private loans, and how to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
What help is available?
Am I eligible?
- Financial need
- Being a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen
- Being in good standing on any federal student loans you may have
- Being in or accepted for an eligible degree or certificate program
- Maintaining adequate academic progress
Note: This is not a complete list. Review all eligibility requirements.
How do I apply?
- Know the deadlines for submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The federal deadline for the 2018–19 school year is June 30, 2019. Many states and colleges use the FAFSA for their financial aid programs. Those deadlines vary.
- Create an FSA ID account if you’re going to submit your FAFSA online or track its status online. If you’re going to submit a paper FAFSA by mail and won’t be tracking its status, you won’t need an FSA ID.
- Complete and submit the FAFSA.
- Know what happens after you submit the FAFSA. This includes:
- Learning how to correct or update information on it.
- Finding out how and when you’ll get your aid.
How do I check the status of an application?
You can check the status of your FAFSA:
- Right after submitting it online
- Seven to ten days after mailing a paper FAFSA
You can check by:
- Going to fafsa.gov and logging in. (You must have an FSA ID.)
- Contacting the Federal Student Aid Information Center.
How do I complain?
- File a complaint or share feedback online through the FSA Feedback System.
- Learn how to handle loan disputes. For more help with disputes, contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group.
Who do I contact for extra help?
- Visit the FSA Contact Us page for a detailed guide listing phone numbers and other ways to reach experts about federal student aid, FAFSA, loans and loan consolidation, and more.
Get a Student Loan
Types of Student Loans
When you are exploring ways to pay for college, career, or technical schools, you may consider taking out a student loan—money you borrow to help you cover your education expenses and that you must pay back with interest.
Student loans originate from the federal government (called “federal student loans”) or from private sources, such as a bank, credit union, state agency, or school.
Federal Student Loans
If you need to borrow money to pay for college or career school, start with the more affordable federal student loan:
Types of Federal Student Loan Programs – The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program offers four types of Direct Loans:
- Direct Subsidized Loans are made to eligible undergraduate students based on financial need.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans are made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, and are not based on financial need.
- Direct PLUS Loans are made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students.
- Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine all of your eligible federal student loans into a single loan with a single loan servicer.
The Federal Perkins Loan Program is administered through the schools, and awarded to undergraduates and graduate students with exceptional financial need. If you are eligible, you should take this loan first.
Eligibility – You must be enrolled at a school that participates in the school loan program, and meet the general eligibility requirements.
How to apply – Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA.
Private Student Loans
Before taking a private loan, make sure you need it. These loans generally are not as affordable as federal student loans, and offer little repayment flexibility.