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Paying for college is far from easy in today’s economy, and interest-bearing loans only weigh students down. Knowing you’ll need to surrender your savings to interest accrued in addition to what you borrowed often feels as if you’re walking around in wet clothes with rocks in your pockets.

Avoid that raincloud and those inconceivable interest rates by looking into these financially savvy alternatives to pay for a college education.

Fill Out the FAFSA

What’s more appealing to a college student than free money? The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the most important application to file when searching for financial aid. Every student should submit this application, from incoming freshmen to soon-to-be seniors.

After filing, each student receives a Student Aid Report (SAR), a formal documentation of the answers they submitted via the FAFSA. This document plays a key role in many aspects of receiving financial aid. Results from the FAFSA will inform students of how much aid both the Federal Government and state are willing to provide.

The Federal Pell Grant is the most popular type of grant utilized by undergraduate students in the United States. Students with greater financial need may also qualify for state grants to make paying for college much more feasible.

Apply for Scholarships

Organizations everywhere are helping students fulfill their education goals. Students can get scholarships for nearly anything—just do a little digging. Scholarships are awarded for countless reasons, for everything from excelling in sports to students’ ethnic backgrounds.

Some organizations award scholarships based on how well students can exhibit their educational talents, like writing lengthy essays or exhibiting their passion for graphic design.

When researching scholarship opportunities, students should visit their school guidance offices, ask teachers to recommend opportunities, and explore online resources like Scholarship America and FastWeb for even more scholarship options.

Apply for Interest-Free Loans

Just thinking about student loans can be daunting, but what most students don’t realize is that not all student loans come with astronomical interest rates. Nonprofit organizations like Lancaster Dollars for Higher Learning (LDHL) provide hundreds of interest-free student loans annually.

Approximately 95 percent of those who apply for LIFT loans provided by LDHL are accepted. In order for their applications to be considered, students must reside in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, have submitted the FAFSA, and have received acceptance letters to an accredited college, university, or vocational school. In order to complete their application, each applicant will also need their SAR that lists all answers they provided on their FAFSA.

Investing in a better future should be about making wise financial decisions. Don’t drown yourself in debt paying for college before even getting a degree. From filling out the FAFSA to finding scholarships, financial aid makes attending college a reality for thousands of students every school year. Apply yourself today for a more secure tomorrow.