RE: applying for student loans before applying to college?
You can apply for financial aid (private), but you can only apply for federal aid through the Free Applicatioon for Federal Student Aid. To apply for federal financial aid go to www.fafsa.ed.gov. The deadline to apply for financial aid this Fall 2008 has already passed (the priority deadline). The priority deadline every year is March 1st. Scholarships and grants that come from the federal or state government will be delegated once you apply for federal financial aid by the school you choose to attend.
For example, let’s say you only want to go to UofL. You fill out the fafsa and add UofL to your list of schools. You also say you want loans and scholarships. Uof L accepts you. You accept. UofL then pulls your fafsa application and applies your rewards according to what you filled out.
As for Federal Student Loans it gets a little more complicated then that, but once you get to that juncture your school will (or should) explain all of this to you. (By the way the Federal Pell Grant is income based and there is the FSEOG as well (I believe it is income based too it has been a while since I got that)).
[What may happen if you apply for fed. aid now… Those that applied before you will get the choice of all the available scholarship and grant money, which may leave you with less or no money. In addition, you may receive your money late and may not be able to buy your books, therefore if you depend on the aid it could effect you.