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Smart Ways For U.S Students To Pay For Education

Are you thinking about seeking a college degree or advanced training and education, but aren't sure where you will come up with the money?

You aren't alone—millions of young adults and middle-aged folks returning to school find financing their education a challenging feat.

But if you know about the most common sources of financial aid, you'll have a head start. Here are some tips that college financial officers give to prospective students:

1. Know the rules for student loans

There are several kinds of federally-insured student loans for college and graduate school students. Each one comes with its own guidelines, interest rates and terms.

However, most of the federally-backed undergraduate loan programs allow for student loan deferment. That means you don't have to begin paying the money back until a few months after your graduate.

Deferment periods allow students to search for employment and get their financial affairs in order as they transition from academia to the working world.

If you read the fine print on a federal loan application, you'll see a section that specifically addresses deferments.

Standard deferments, also known as a grace period, typically allows six months from the time you receive your degree until you have to begin making payments. No interest accrues during the time you are in school or during the deferment period.

Another type of deferment is based on financial hardship. You have to apply for this kind of relief.

If you are approved for a hardship deferment of any length, it's common for interest to continue to accrue during this period, but it may be your benefit regardless.

Always ask your lender about the exact rules on any kind of arrangement made.

2. Consider applying for grants

Grants, as opposed to student loans, do not have to be repaid. They are harder to get but a few of the larger programs, like the Pell Grant system, are based primarily on your financial need and can cover a large portion of educational expenses.

When you apply for a grant, you'll have to fill out a federal form and give specific details about all your income sources.

Based on that data, grant organizations will determine whether or not you are financially "needy" enough to be included in their program. Award amounts differ greatly based on the organization.

3. Hunt for scholarship money

The scholarship market is a thriving sub-section of the economy. No matter what your area of study, age, background or living situation, there is scholarship money out there.

The trick is finding it. Consider speaking to a financial aid counselor at the institution you want to attend. The aid department usually keeps a significant list of scholarships you can apply for.

If you want to attend medical school, for example, speak with the aid officer of the med schools you're considering and ask about grants and scholarships.

You'll be surprised at the amount of money you have access to if you are willing to commit to work at certain hospitals or for charitable organizations for one or two years after getting your MD.

The same goes for most graduate degrees and undergraduate areas of study.