I've really been trying to get a better understanding of the financial aid process for college before I solidify my plans for the application process. A very large part of my research concerns financial aid and how I'm going to pay for college. I've looked at a lot of sites online, but I feel better knowing the answers are coming from people who have been through the process. Here are my questions (probably stupid, but I'm just trying to educate myself):
How do loans work?
It seems like a silly question, but I honestly have no clue. I understand that there is usually a capped amount that you can take, and when you have to pay it back you must also pay back interest. I'm confused about how much I'm allowed to take out in order to pay for college. From what I understand, I can only take out a maximum of $27,000 in direct government loans for my four years at college. Is this true? If so, is that enough to pay off what my contribution is expected to be as a dependent student?
Also, how do the loans that my parents take out work?
Will I owe what they owe as well, or will that debt have nothing to do with me? (Not trying to be selfish. I will definitely not put my parents in a terrible situation.)
Finally, what is a reasonable amount of student loans to come out of college with?
I know this is different for everybody, but just a rough estimate or range would be helpful. I plan on being an engineer, so the expected salary is a little bit higher than average, but that obviously won't be much help at the beginning of my career fresh out of college.