It is that time of the year. It is student loan season.

As fall semester tuition bills begin hitting mailboxes nationwide, many students and families may be in for sticker shock. The rising costs of higher education have forced more and more families to use student loans as a tool to pay for college. You may have seen a number of commercials, radio ads, and display banners advertising student loans recently. Using student loans has become common practice for many families and the many private student loan lenders have started marketing aggressively.

Keeping up with the rising costs of college is tough. But not everyone needs to take out student loans to pay for college. Student loan debt doesn’t need to be the new normal. There are plenty of financing options available for students and families. You just need to know where to look! So before you sign that promissory note, you should consider these options first!

Apply for Scholarships

The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that $49 billion in grants and scholarship money is awarded each year. Before applying for that student loan, consider spending some time on scholarship applications.