Financial planning for college

As you think about paying for college, make sure to research all your options. Below are just a few ways to help you start thinking about planning and paying for college.

The federal government

From federal grants and student loans to employment through the federal work-study program, the U.S. Department of Education awards about $150 billion a year to more than 15 million students. Visit the to learn more.

Your state government

Similar to the federal government, your home state offers various types of financial aid. You might be eligible even if you’re not eligible for federal aid. To find out, contact your .

Colleges and universities

Many colleges and universities provide financial aid and scholarships from their own funds, sometimes for a particular field of study. To learn if a school offers this type of financial support, visit the financial aid section of their website or contact their financial aid office directly.

PRO TIP: College financial aid officers are more than willing to help you and your family understand the financial aid process, even before you’ve applied. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them. That's what they're there for.

Now that you know who is available to help you pay for college, it’s important to understand what you can do to make college more affordable.

Start saving

It's never too early to set aside funds to pay for college. There are even specific government-sponsored savings plans to help you do just that. To learn about savings opportunities and strategies, visit the and check out their .

PRO TIP: Wondering what a particular college might cost? Get an estimate using the U.S. Department of Education’s .

Apply for financial aid

Financial aid comes in many forms from many sources. Start by visiting the Office of Federal Student Aid to learn about the available (like grants, loans, and work-study). Then, when you're ready to apply, you'll need to complete the (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

PRO TIP: Get a head start on the process by using the . This tool provides an estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid.

Explore scholarship opportunities

Most scholarships are awarded by individual colleges in recognition of academic performance, athletic excellence, a commitment to community service, or other unique talents. You can learn about these opportunities by visiting individual colleges’ admission and financial aid offices (or websites). You can also find scholarship opportunities through local, regional, and national non-profit organizations.

PRO TIP: There are a lot of scams out there. The Office of Federal Student Aid can help you , prevent identity theft, and find true scholarships.

PRO TIP: Do your research on scholarships! Make sure you talk with the college or university in which you may enroll to understand how their financial aid packages are put together.

  • Call the financial aid office at the college or university of your choice before accepting scholarships.
  • Ask the college or university of your choice for information about how they treat outside scholarships, and what implications they might have for your total financial aid package.


If you are employed by a government or not-for-profit organization, you may be able to receive loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarships

The 's College Scholarship Program and Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship award high-achieving student with up to $40,000 per year for four years of undergraduate study. And now, students can apply for these prestigious scholarships using test exams . 


Additional scholarship resources

(formerly ScholarSnapp) is a free tool that helps you apply to scholarships by . Through a special integration with test exams , the College Board Scholarship Search allows students to apply to several scholarships by reusing application information. This is a free service that any student applying to college can use. 

Additional resources

It's never too early to set aside funds to pay for college.

Get estimates for a particular college or university.

Estimate your eligibility for federal student aid.

You may qualify for an application fee waiver.