Congratulations—you’ve been accepted to college! Now it’s time to map out a financial plan to make the college dream a reality. Here’s a look at the types of financial aid available and an overview of what to expect.

Know Your Aid

Grants are financial aids that may not need to be repaid. They’re usually need-based and can come from the federal government or your state government, but you can also find grants at your college or from private or nonprofit organizations. The first step in obtaining grants from the state or federal government is to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA

Scholarships are another type of financial aid that you don’t need to repay. Some scholarships are merit-based, which means you may need to show that you meet the criteria set by the scholarship-giver. Some may ask you to show that you’re a good student; others may reward scholarships based on athletic abilities or good deeds like volunteer work. You can find scholarships from all kinds of organizations. High school counselors are great resources for scholarship information.

Federal student loans are backed by the U.S. Department of Education, with limits on how much a student can borrow. To qualify for these loans, you must submit the FAFSA in time for the eligible school year. Some federal loans require students to show financial need to qualify, while others don’t. With federal student loans, you have flexibility when it comes time to repay them, including arrangements based on your income.

Work-study programs are offered at many schools. These programs may help you pay for school through community service work and work related to your course of study. Work-study also requires that your employer be considerate of your class schedule when assigning hours. Students who demonstrate financial need can qualify to work either on campus or off (at a participating organization). These programs are usually on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to contact your school’s financial aid office early to apply.

Private student loans can be a useful way to bridge the gap between other forms of financial aid and the total cost of attending college. However, it’s important to be selective when choosing a private student loan to ensure you find the best rate with features that meet your individual needs. Private student loans are a great way to supplement any gap you have after exploring federal loans and scholarships.

Still have questions? Read more tips for managing the cost of college and loan basics.