Federal loans are a type of student financial aid that’s guaranteed through the U.S. government. The vast majority of students depend on one of more of these loans at some point in their college careers.

Perkins: These low-interest loans are given to students with proven financial need.  While there isn’t nearly as much money allocated for this loan when compared to other federal lending programs, the financial administrators at participating schools have a lot of leeway in determining how much funding each approved student gets. And if you secure a job in certain sectors—teaching, for example—you may be eligible to have these loans forgiven. You must wait until you’re out of school or attending less than half-time to consolidate a Perkins Loan.

Stafford: One of the most popular federal loans, the Stafford comes in unsubsidized and subsidized versions. Subsidized Stafford Loans are given to financially needy students, who don’t accumulate interest while they’re in