Families who are bracing for the expense of a college education often start thinking about how they will pay for their child’s education even before getting accepted to a college or university.

It’s important to look at all options for financial aid in order to not have too much debt that could follow a student or parent for years come even after graduation. In-state tuition at public colleges can cost up to $30,000 or even more.

Without knowing any of the options, it is important to first file a FAFSA form with a school’s financial aid department. According to the organization Next Student, the FAFSA form allows students to give the federal government all of their financial information. Once the government has that in hand, they can determine what the best financial aid options are.

One option often used by students entering college is a loan. Loans, like the federal PLUS loan, Perkins loan, Stafford loan and FFEL loan, can help you pay for college without putting a dime down to do so. Familes are required to pay back some or all of these loans (depending upon the student’s financial status and the financial status of their parents), but loans can be an effective way to paying for college.

Another option is grants, which can be obtained through the government (like the Federal Pell grant, for example) or through a particular school. Grants pay for college tuition and do not need to be repaid once you graduate. These grants are usually only “granted” to those who are in need of financial aid, but all students who think they might be eligible should be sure to apply for them.