College is expensive and trying to find a way to pay for it can be stressful. So what can you do to receive a college loan that will help you get the education you deserve?

For some lucky individuals, parents start saving for college as early as birth, but college costs continue to rise, so even having some money in savings may not be enough. Yet, for those people who don’t even have a savings account reserved for college costs, getting a college loan is a necessity.

When it comes to college loans, there are three basic types:

  • Stafford loans. These college loans are provided by private lenders and guaranteed by the federal government, or they are direct loans from the federal government.
  • PLUS loans. Like Stafford loans, this type of college loan can be obtained through a private lender, backed by the government, or directly through the government. Parents can borrow as much money as they need for their child’s education. The parents are responsible for repaying the loan.
  • Private student loans. Applying for a private college loan is very similar to applying for other types of loans with a credit check and income requirements. The terms of these private loans are decided by the lender rather than the government.

The first step to getting a college loan is to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Do this as early as possible because many colleges have deadlines. You can find the application online at the Department of Education’s website.

You should receive a Student Aid Report, or SAR, in the mail about a month after filing your FAFSA. Check this paperwork to make sure all of the information is correct. Your Student Aid Report should list your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. This calculation will let you know how much financial aid you are eligible for, including a college loan.

Last, but definitely not least, you will need to speak with the financial aid administrators at the colleges you are considering. These colleges will then provide you with an award letter that will outline the amount of aid the college would be willing to offer you if you choose to attend the institution.

No matter what college you choose to attend, be sure you understand the ins and outs of your college loan.