Q: I am 18 years old and have been accepted into college for the fall. My parents do not make much money and will not be able to help me pay for college. Is it possible for a young student to pay for college without help from their parents?
A: It is certainly possible for a student to pay for college without financial help from their parents or legal guardians. Students in need of money for college should start by applying for scholarships, and by completing a FAFSA. College scholarships are a great source of money for college, and unlike students loans, the money awarded in scholarship funds never needs to be repaid. Students can visit the Scholarship section of our site to learn more about college scholarships, and utilize our free scholarship search to begin locating scholarships they qualify for.
After free money for college resources such as scholarships, federal financial aid will typically provide the next best source of money to help pay for college. Federal financial aid is comprised of federal student loans, federal grants, and work-study. All federal financial aid programs are applied for by completing a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Nearly all federal financial aid programs are based upon a students financial need, so depending on what the students financial need is, the student may be eligible for federal grants (which like scholarships will never need to be repaid), federal student loans (low, fixed interest rate loans with more repayment options than private student loans), or a combination of both. Generally, all students who complete a FAFSA will qualify for some amount in federal student loans.
For students who are still in need of more money for college after they have exhausted the above resources, they may consider a private student loan to cover the additional costs. Unlike federal student loans for college, private student loans for college will be based upon the borrowers credit profile. For students with little or poor credit history, it will be difficult to obtain a private student loan without the help of a creditworthy cosigner (such as a parent).