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Paying for College

Senior year keeps you busy, and senioritis is real! You might be thinking, I’ve already applied to college or maybe already accepted into your dream college and that your all set. While certainly a congratulations are in order, be sure to still plan time in your schedule to prepare yourself financially for college.

Financial education and paying for college

Be sure to allocate time researching your options, as they could help you save money on your college education. A great place to begin looking is our SmartStuffEnrichBorrowing smart and preparing for higher education” course. You will learn how to effectively maneuver through the process of taking out federal student loans, with an emphasis on smart borrowing. Check out our page on applying for grants and scholarships to learn more about the process and to help you find scholarships.

FAFSAStudent working on laptop

Earning your degree is not cheap! You should start by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. Schools use the information on the FAFSA® form to determine your eligibility for financial aid and if so, how much you’re eligible to receive. You will have to fill out the FAFSA form every year you’re in school in order to stay eligible for federal student aid. Financial aid is money lent or given to you to help you pay for college. Grants and scholarships are kinds of financial aid that you don’t have to pay back, that’s why they’re called gift aid.


Some scholarships for college are merit-based. Merit scholarships might be awarded based on academic achievement or on a combination of academics and a special talent, trait, or interest. Other scholarships are based on financial need. Please review the general eligibility requirements and any specific requirements before submitting the application to the organization. This is important as some scholarships may have unique criteria or exceptions, so make sure to carefully review the scholarships and follow the application instructions, including deadline, and document requirements.

You can learn about scholarships in several ways, including contacting the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend and checking information online. But be careful - make sure scholarship information and offers you receive are legitimate; and remember that you don't have to pay to find scholarships or other financial aid.

A scholarship will affect your other student aid because all your student aid added together can’t be more than your cost of attendance at your college. So, you’ll need to let your school know if you’ve been awarded a scholarship so that the financial aid office can subtract that amount from your cost of. Then, any amount left can be covered by other financial aid for which you’re eligible.Textbooks and graduation cap

Don’t forget! Keep a look out for Credit Union of Denver’s Scholarship application, in mid-February. It will award 5 people $2,000 each to go toward their education.


The federal government provides grants for students, most types of grants, are sources of financial aid that generally do not have to be repaid. Grants can come from the federal government, your state government, your college, or a private or nonprofit organization. Do your research, apply for any grants you might be eligible for, and be sure to meet application deadlines!

Pell Grants

Federal Pell Grants usually are awarded only to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have not earned a bachelor's, graduate, or professional degree. A Federal Pell Grant does not have to be repaid, except under certain circumstances. How much money can you get? Amounts can change yearly. The maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $6,895 for the 2022–23 award year. The amount you get, though, will depend on your Expected Family Contribution, the cost of attendance, your status as a full-time or part-time student, and your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.

Federal Student Loans

If you apply for financial aid, you may be offered loans as part of your school’s financial aid offer. A loan is money you borrow and must pay back with interest. The U.S. Department of Education is your lender and has four types of Direct Loans available.

  • Direct Subsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need to help cover the costs of higher education at a college or career school.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, but eligibility is not based on financial need.
  • Direct PLUS Loans are loans made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. Eligibility is not based on financial need, but a credit check is required. Borrowers who have an adverse credit history must meet additional requirements to qualify.
  • Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine all of your eligible federal student loans into a single loan with a single loan servicer.Learning about student loans

Private student loans

If your grants, scholarships, federal direct loans, savings, and cash flow won’t cover as much as you need them to, private student loans are a possible option. Approach the private student loan industry with great caution and ensure that you understand the terms of the loans. You can find private student loans from financial institutions and private lenders. Be sure to only consider loans from reputable lenders and with competitive interest rates, as you won’t need to search very hard to find a predatory loan.

Getting ready for college can feel overwhelming but now you have a better understanding of what to do to pay for college. Don't worry, you got this and you're going to do great!


Sources and enhanced by Credit Union of Denver

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