The average annual cost of attending a public, state college is $7,605, and for a private school, the annual cost jumps to $27,293, as of 2010. Most families do not have this much money available. You and your son should work together to find all the sources of funding you need to pay for his college education.
Grants are the best types of help for college costs because they do not need to be repaid at all. The federal government offers many different types of grants to students based on financial need. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to apply for federal grants. Your son's college also uses information on the FAFSA to award grants with the school's funds, although you should check with the financial aid office to see if they need supplementary information or forms.
Although they have the disadvantage of needing to repaid, loans are one of the easiest types of college funding to secure. Your son should apply for federal student loans by filling out the FAFSA. All students are offered Stafford student loans at 6.8 interest as of 2010, which can greatly reduce the immediate burden of paying for college. You, as a parent, can apply for the PLUS loan which requires credit approval but offers a competitive interest rate of 7.9 percent, as of 2010. The maximum amount of the PLUS loan is the total cost of college attendance minus the amount of other financial aid received.
Your son should apply for scholarships to assist in paying for college. If he is still in high school, have him ask his guidance counselor about scholarship opportunities sponsored by the school or community organizations. Contact your state's higher education agency to find out about scholarships offered in your state. Consider if the local organizations your family is involved with, such as churches, community groups and businesses, might offer scholarships. Many websites offer scholarship searches to find scholarships for which your son could qualify, but watch out for scams and do not pay to find scholarships.
The sooner you start looking for funding, the more chance you have of getting scholarships and grants rather than having to take out loans. Federal and state money often runs out before all applicants have received funding, so getting your FAFSA in earlier increases your chances of getting all the money for which you qualify. Submit the FAFSA as early as January 1 of the year in which the school year begins. For example, submit the FAFSA for the 2012 to 2013 school year as early as January 1, 2012 for the best chances.