Figuring out how to pay for college can be tricky. Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there—blogs on financial aid, scholarship search sites, governmental and private sources, and more. It can be difficult to know what resources are trustworthy and most helpful.
Here’s a list I’ve compiled of the best resources on the web for information about paying for college.
This is the U.S. Department of Education‘s financial aid portal for students and parents. Use it to access resources like FASFA forms and deadlines, information about parent and student loans, loan repayment calculators, and details about public service loan forgiveness. You can also find resources about ways to supplement student loans, like scholarships, work-study programs, and grants.
This site was also developed by Federal Student Aid, a branch of the U.S. Department of Education. It mainly focuses on student loan debt for undergraduates, graduate students, and parents, offering detailed information on both obtaining and repaying student loans.
The CFPB provides this helpful portal that includes a wide range of tools and guides to help consumers understand financing college. They have guides that clearly explain financial aid offers, as well as general banking information for students. The site features a helpful tool that allows students to compare financial aid offers from different schools.
Formerly known as the FAFSA Pin, the FSA ID is the username and password both students and parents will use to access government financial aid websites, such as fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov, and the myStudentAid mobile app
This IRS site outlines the two tax credits available to help offset the cost of higher education: the American Opportunity Credit (AOC) and the Life Learning Credit (LLC).
College Board Resources
CSS (College Scholarship Services) is the financial aid branch of College Board. The CSS profile is similar to FAFSA, but it’s solely for non-governmental financial aid. Many private colleges and universities require the CSS Profile to determine a student’s eligibility for non-governmental sources of aid, including scholarships, grants, and loans.
Big Future is a College Board site dedicated to providing information about both federal and private financial aid for students and parents. The site features a helpful tool to calculate “net price” of attending college—what students are likely to pay—as opposed to the published “sticker price.”
For students who qualified for fee waivers for the SAT or SAT Subject Tests, College Board has a searchable database of more than 2,000 colleges that they can apply to for free.
This annual College Board report provides information on the average cost of college, including tuition, room and board, fees, and other expenses related to college attendance for both public and private institutions. The report also provides information on financial aid awards.
General Financial Aid Websites
Founded in 1994, this exhaustive site is a first stop for many students and parents on their search for financial aid and was one of the first websites of its kind. The information is reliably up-to-date, although the appearance of the site may be dated. FinAid.org aggregates financial aid resources and tools for scholarships, loans, savings accounts, and other types of aid.
This site, which began decades ago as a magazine and book series, features information on both applying to college and paying for it. It offers more than 800 ranked lists about college in general, including dozens of lists relating to college affordability and financial aid. The site also features a robust scholarship search tool, which you can use to filter for categories relating to your interests.
CSPN is a non-profit focused on 529 plans, tax-advantaged savings plans that families can use to save for higher education. The site provides tools for comparing various 529 plans across different states.
Financial Aid Calculators
From the U.S. Department of Education, this calculator provides families with estimates of their eligibility for federal student aid. Families who are not ready to apply for federal aid can use this tool to plan ahead. It provides helpful information like estimated federal Pell grants, work-study amounts, loan eligibility, and expected family contribution.
This expected family contribution calculator from College Board offers both general estimates and estimates based on specific colleges. It has calculators for both the CSS (Institutional Methodology) and the FAFSA (Federal Methodology).
FinAid.org offers an extensive array of financial aid calculators, including those for projected college costs, savings plans, loans, expected family contribution, budgets, and even trust funds.
Mapping Your Future is a non-profit organization focused on helping families and students navigate the financial aspects of attending college. The loan repayment calculator estimates bothy your monthly payment and the minimum salary required to comfortably handle these payments.
SLOPE stands for Student Loans Over Projected Earnings; in other words, the ratio of student loan debt to projected earnings. This calculator from Colorado’s Department of Higher Education allows you to calculate student loan repayment amounts compared to salaries for various careers.
Scholarship Search Sites
Note: Many scholarship search websites require you register to access the complete information. This may cause you to be inundated with emails. Consider creating a separate email address to use for these websites.
From the College Board, this tool allows families to search for scholarships, grants, internships, loans, and federal aid programs that meet their qualifications and needs.
Founded by the same person as FinAid.org, Fastweb matches students with scholarships and other financial aid sources. However, it offers many more resources than just a search engine and functions as a basic project management tool, allowing students to track which scholarships they qualify for, those they’re interested in applying to, their application status, and upcoming deadlines. It also allows to students to add notes and reminders for specific scholarships.
Along with Fastweb, Scholarships.com is one of the most popular scholarship search tools on the web. Like FastWeb, it provides personalized scholarship recommendations based on information provided by students. This site also provides “relevancy ratings” based on how well the scholarship fits your needs and qualifications.
Updates on Financial Aid
The NAICU (National Assoc. of Independent Colleges and Universities) is an organization representing accredited, private, non-profit colleges and universities. This database lists initiatives and programs aimed at keeping the cost of attending private institutions low, including tuition matching plans, tuition freezes, loan repayment assistance, and accelerated degree programs.