If you have a question about how to pay for college, the internet has an answer. You might not even have to search very long if you know where to look on the federal student aid website or what’s offered here at Student Loan Hero.
But sometimes you need a living, breathing human who can listen and respond. After all, figuring out how to pay for college isn’t solved just by scrolling and clicking.
Here are five people to nag, plus how they could help you, free of charge.
Yes, Mom, Dad or someone else inside your household will have pearls of wisdom about paying for college. They might also motivate you to save up money or help you raise more among relatives.
Most importantly, however, your family member is also your ticket to grants and scholarships. If you’re a dependent student, you’ll need a parent’s income tax return and other financial information to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA spits out your EFC — or Expected Family Contribution, the amount you and your family could anticipate putting toward your school’s cost of attendance.
You and your parents could estimate your EFC in advance using the College Board’s handy calculator. Going through an exercise like this one allows you to start receiving help from your loved one. Who knows, you might need them to cosign a student loan down the road.
2. High school (or community college) guidance counselor
If you’re college-bound but haven’t stepped on campus yet, the best person to nag is at your current school. High school or community college guidance counselors are typically responsible for helping you apply for and choose your next school, but they’re also knowledgeable about the costs.
If you’re still shopping around for the perfect college, ask your counselor to help you compare options by their cost of attendance. They can show you how to access information, such as the percentage of each school’s students who receive financial aid.
Although they’re more concerned with your college applications, counselors can also assist you with racking up gift aid. You might bug them to help with any of the following tasks:
- Finding scholarship opportunities
- Writing recommendation letters
- Proofreading your writing samples
- Preparing for scholarship interviews
3. College financial aid representative
Whether you’ve applied, been admitted or enrolled, it’s never too early to pester your college’s financial aid office — every college has one.
School aid representatives could walk you through your financial aid options. If you’ve been offered admission, for example, they can explain your college award letter. They will even hear your appeal for a better aid package.
Your aid office can also review additional financial aid opportunities on campus, including scholarships, vouchers and emergency loans.
They may also help you plan your next step. For example, your aid office might connect you with a federal financial aid administrator if you’ve yet to exhaust your funding options.
4. A certified financial professional
If you get only so far with high school guidance and college aid counselors, you might consider spending a couple hundred dollars or more on a private scholarship consultant. Similarly, you might be tempted to plop down a flat rate for the services of a student loan counselor who can explain the ins and outs of borrowing.
Instead of opening your wallet for help, however, consider these free alternatives:
- Contact a nonprofit credit counseling agency like American Consumer Credit Counseling that offers college financial advice.
- Attend a “Financial Planning Day” hosted by certified financial planners working on a pro-bono basis in your area.
- If you work, ask your employer’s human resources department if they can help, too.
Just ensure you’re receiving advice from professionals who are certified and have a background in college financial planning.
5. Student loan lender, servicer and ombudsman
If scholarships and other gift aid aren’t enough to cover your college costs, you might eventually resort to student loans. Before borrowing, it’s worth at least getting a non-automated voice on the other end of the line.
Top-rated private student loan companies typically have dedicated customer service departments. For federal student aid, there are a couple of different ways to find the right person to chat with, including:
- Federal Student Aid Information Center: For questions about the FAFSA or your FSA ID, call 1-800-433-3243.
- Student Loan Support Center: For questions about your loan agreement, PLUS loan applications and entrance counseling, call 1-800-557-7394.
Once you’ve taken out a federal student loan, meanwhile, you might need to address your questions to one of the nine federal loan servicers that actually manage your loan. Each servicer has a customer service department and, while some of them are the subject of customer complaints, it’s worth phoning them to get on the same page. You can find your servicer via the National Student Loan Data System.
For federal loans, if you’re unable to resolve a dispute with your lender or servicer, it’s time to talk to an ombudsman. They could help with a few in-school scenarios, including troubleshooting grant awards and demystifying federal loan intricacies.
Figuring out how to pay for college isn’t a one-person job, so there’s no shame in asking for help. You might start your search online, but it helps to talk it through with someone, too.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
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1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.54% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of March 18, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 0318/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.5% effective February 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.54% – 7.12%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.54% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.67% – 8.96%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.23% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.69% – 7.43%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.98% – 9.72%6||Undergrad & Graduate|