Step-by-Step Guide

Paying for College

Before you look into paying for college expenses, it's important to know how much money you'll need, what your options are and how to avoid getting too over-burdened with debt before you've earned a degree. Here's a few helpful steps you may want to consider -

  • Step 1: Search everywhere you can for scholarships and grants. The Internet is a great place to start.
  • Step 2: Contact the admissions offices of the schools you're considering. Get all your admissions information and school applications.
  • Step 3: Find out more about specific federal student loan programs by reviewing our section on Federal Student Loans.
  • Step 4: Get financial aid information from each of the schools you're considering — and be sure to ask about deadlines for applying for aid.
  • Step 5: Start the financial aid process by getting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Also, obtain financial aid forms from the college financial aid office. Complete the FAFSA as soon as you can after January 1.
  • Step 6: File your FAFSA, or the needs analysis form your college or university requires to determine if you're eligible for financial aid. If you'd like, you can file and submit your FAFSA electronically.
  • Step 7: After you file your FAFSA, you should get a Student Aid Report (SAR) in the mail. Make sure the information in the report is correct, and sign it. Then return it to the colleges or universities you're considering. You should get an award package from each school detailing the types of aid you qualified for — federal education/student loans, grants, and work-study programs.
  • Step 8: Once you've selected your school and you've determined that you need a federal education/student loan, you need to follow the application steps for a Stafford Loan and/or a PLUS Loan, which are offered through the Federal Direct Student Loan Program. Note: Graduate students, once you have filed your FAFSA you have the option to choose between a Federal Stafford or Federal PLUS loan. Undergraduates, if your parents are helping you with a federal student loan, they should fill out the Federal PLUS loan application. Regardless of the loan you select, make sure you understand every detail of the student loan, especially the repayment process.
  • Step 9: If grants, scholarships, and federal student loans don't cover all your education costs, look into private student loan options from SunTrust. Private student loans, sometimes referred to as alternative loans, can help with college related costs including miscellaneous expenses such as money for a computer to use at school, transportation to school, etc.

Paying for college can be a challenge. SunTrust can help navigate the options.

  • Money Management

    Before you look into paying for your college expenses, it's important to know how much money you'll need. Our money management resources, tools, and budgeting tips can help.

  • Financial Aid Tools

    Use our college tuition guide and step-by-step guide to paying for college for planning advice on how to avoid getting too over-burdened with debt before you've earned a degree.

  • Scholarships & Grants

    Before you get a loan, we encourage you to try getting scholarships and grants first. Our list of online resources can help. You can also register for the SunTrust Off to College Scholarship Sweepstakes (see Official Rules for details).