Unfortunately, college students often have a remaining financial need, even after they’ve maximized all their financial aid. That means turning to the last resort: student loans. Here’s our full guide on how to borrow for college, without getting screwed over.

And here’s a quick summary in 3 easy steps:

(1) First, max out all free money – that’s FAFSA and financial aid, state grants, and scholarships.

(2) Then, max out all government Direct Subsidized & Direct Unsubsidized loans. They’re the cheapest kind of loans, though unfortunately there’s a limit to how much you can take out of each type.

(3) Finally, if you still have a financial gap, then compare interest rates from as many loan companies as possible, to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. This is like a “price check” that does NOT impact your credit and is NOT a loan application.

Here’s one example from our partner Earnest. (Bonus: If you complete a “rate check” before the end of September, you’ll be automatically entered into a $100,000 sweepstakes.)

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