First, it was those college entrance exams, then all the brochures from colleges around the country, then the long application forms and those weekend trips to campus interviews. Now, with high school graduation only weeks away, the long-awaited letter of admission has arrived and your teen-ager is suddenly a college student.

Your warm feeling of success soon becomes mingled with anxiety: College is expensive and, with each passing year, the cost goes higher. You begin to wonder how you're going to pay for the freshman year, let alone four years of higher education.

Don't panic. Help is on the way. Or at least available to those who qualify and don't mind filling out a few forms and divulging their financial circunstances. The help is available in the form of loans, grants, scholarships and federally financed work-study programs. By combining programs, some students have been able to finance 100 percent of the cost of their four-year studies.

Wherever you find the money, you'll need a lot of it. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that tuition and fees for the 1977-1978 school year averaged $575 at public institutions, $2,767 at private institutions. Tution plus room and board averaged $1,982 at public institutions and $4,363 at private institutions. A realistic budget total also includes $200 for books, $300 to $400 for long-distance transportation and $300 to $400 for personal expenses.

When the College Scholarship Service of the College Entrance Examination Board estimated the current school year's total costs for local higher educatin institutions, they found it ran $5,800 a George Washington, $6,100 at Georgetown, $4,043 at Howard University, $5,305 at Trinity and $135 at University of District of Columbia.

Further away, an education at Havard cost $7,650; Yale was $7,175, and Princeton was $7,495.

Lest you be dismayed by the propect of applying for educational assistance, be assured that you are not alone. It is a very popular thing to do. Cathy Henderson of the Policy Analysis Service of the American Council on Education says about one of every two undergraduates received some form of assistance this year.

Financial assistance officers suggest that any student or family desiring federal, state, private or local aid should apply for every program for which they have even the remotest chance of qualifying. If a student isn't a veteran, he wouldn't apply for funding under the G.I. Bill, of course. But on the other hand, you shouldn't let your income deter you from applying for other programs, even if the majority of them are based on need, rather than merit.

"Everyone has the right to apply for assistance," Joyce Dunagan, director of the student financial assistance program at George Washington University, pointed out. "I've had families with incomes as high as $90,000 apply; they're a little optimistic, but I'd rather see that than have a $20,000-a-year family not apply because they think they earn too much money to qualify. They're wrong and there are many factors beyond income which affect whether or not a student and his family qualify for aid."

If you are wondering what programs are available and if you qualify for assistance to pay for a college education, the District Weekly has compiled this guide to the federal, state and private programs - what they are, who qualifies for them and how to apply. Demonstrating Need

Almost all types of educational aid begin with the filing of a financial statement. Based on what you report on your application, the U.S. Office of Education will determine of you are eligible for college assistance and, if so, how much.

To begin, fill out a Financial Aid Form (FAF), a Family Financial Statement (FFS) or a Basic Education Opportunities Grant (BEOG) form. The FAF, published by the College Scholastic Service, is the most commonly used form in the East and can be used to apply for all assistance programs. The BEOG form, however, can only be used when applying for the federal BEOG program.

FAF forms are available at high schools, at community agencies or at the financial assistance offices of colleges in the area.

The FAF form asks for details on income, assets, number of children in the family, number of children enrolled in tuition-paying schools, the family's debts (including mortgage), whether the student earned money by working during the summer and the cost of the college the student will be attending.

Based on the answers, a computer will determine how much of college costs the student and his parents should pay ("the family contribution") and the amount of money required in aid.

Because other children enrolled in college are considered in determining needs, a family that doesn't qualify for assistance one year when, for instance, only one child is in college, may qualify the next year when other children are enrolled. Similarly, a family that has spent most of its money over the years for trips to Europe etc., and has little savings might qualify for assistance more easily than a family with the same income which lived less luxuriously and saved its money.

An important point to remember is that even if the Office of Education doesn't consider you needy, you may still receive loans or participate in a work-study program.

If your college plans depend on whether or not qualify for aid, fill out a form on page 4 of a College Scholarship Service booklet called "Meeting College Costs." This form will let you estimate if you qualify for aid and, if so, how much.

The booklet is available through guidance counselors at high schools, at financial assistance offices of higher education institutions or by writing the Editorial Office, College Entrance Examination Board, 888 Seventh Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10019. Grants and Scholarships

The federal government will have $2.16 billion to distribute in 1978-1979 through its BEOG program. The funds are earmarked for low-income students. Rarely does a student whose family earns more than $16,000 a year qualify, although extraordinary family size, medical bills or the cost of schooling can help a family with a higher income qualify.

There is a maximum amount of aid students can receive through the BEOG program: If their parents cannot afford to help at all, students may be awarded up to $1,600 or half the cost of a year at the College of their choice, whicever is less. (In 1979-1980, the maximum will be raised to $1,800.)

"In order to qualify for the maximum, the total costs would have to be over $3,200 because of the half-cost limitation," said Diane Sedicum, of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare's Basic Grant Program. "But when we figure the total cost of education, we include tuition, fees, room and board of students living on campus and, if they don't live on campus, $1,100 living expenses, plus $400 allowance for personal expenses. Even if a student is attending a community college at no cost and living at home, he would still have a $1,500 cost of education bill."

To apply for BEOG, you should file an FAF form with the the College Scholarship Service and ask them to forward the results to the BEOG program. Or you can fill out a BEOG form and send it to Basic Grants, P.O. Box B, Iowa City, Iowa 52240. When a favorable report on eligibility is received, the report should be sent to the school the student plans to attend. Copies of the report may be sent to more than one school. the school then awards the money.

There are other federal programs that pay all or part of a college education. Veterans can qualify for education benefits under the G.I. Bill. These benefits are not based on need but on years of service, number of dependents and number of courses being taken. For applications and information, call 872-1151.

There are college education benefits available under the Social Security Act. Awards under this program are based on a percentage of the Social Security benefits received by a family, not on any consideration of educational expenses.For applications and information, call 953-3600.

If you are a District resident, you can apply for a State Student Incentive Grant (SSIG). In order the qualify for aid under the SSIG program, a student must be a resident of the District for 15 continous months immediately prior to filing for aid, be enrolled full or part-time in an eligible institution (the school need not be in the District), be seeking a degree and be able to show substantial financial need as determined by a BEOG (or FAF) report.

"It's not exactly the same need standards, but we use the BEOG report to verify information and determine need by a simple formula," said Eloise Turner, chief of the state education services division of Department of Human Resources. "We subtract the student's resources from the cost of education, and if he balance exceed $400, then the student is eligible. Resources would include BEOG and family contribution."

The grants, which range from $400 to $1,500 a student, are available to college students as well as students in vocational schools. A student would be ineligible of he or she is in default on a student loan.

To apply, a student picks up an application form at his high school or financial aid office of the school he plans to attend. District SSIG forms are also distributed with BEOG applications. If the FAF is used, applicants should check the BEOG box and indicate they want the results forwarded to the District.

After completing the top half of the form, the students must have the form notarized and sent to the financial aid office of the school he plans to attend. The school fills out the lower half of the form.

The deadline for applications for the 1978-79 academic year is June 30. Awards are made on a first-come, first-served basis for as long as funds are available. No money is set aside for second semester or summer awards. "We never have enough money, so many applicants are disappointed," Turner said. "We've been receiving applications since March. Students shouldn't wait until the deadlinr to apply."

If neither BEOG funds nor state funds fill the gap between college costs and ability to pay, students can apply for programs given by the institutions themselves. Institutions often have SEOG (Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant) funds, which are federal monies earmarked for students with exceptional financial need.

Institutions also have their own scholarships or grants, which may be underwritten or endowed by a benefactor. Need is not necessarily a criterion for receiving one of these awards. At George Washington University, for instance, there is an endowed scholarship for a person who neither smokes nor drinks, whose parents never worked for a company that produced alcoholic beverages and who pledges to abstain from alcoholic beverages forever.

"If need is small and a student has high ability, he might get a Georgetown grant," said Richard Black, of the Georgetown University Student Financial Aid Office. "As a general rule, with BEOG and SEOG, we are talking about low incomes and with Georgetown institutional grants we are talking about need and other relative concepts."

The Public Health Service has an extensive scholarship program for students who want to study to become health professionals. There are scholarships in dentistry, osteopathy, nursing, social work, speech pathology and the like. Students who are awarded the scholarships are obligated to serve two to four years in a locality designated as an underserved health-care area. The scholarships pay all tuition and fees billed by the schools plus $429 a month in living expenses. The program is based on merit, not need. Application forms became available early this month. For further information on the program or to apply, call 436-6450 or write Public Health Service Scholarship Program, Center Building, Room 544, 3700 East-West Highway, Hyattsville, Md. 20782.

In addition, there are grant and scholarship programs for specific groups of students. For instance, the Department of Health Education and Welfare has a booklet called "A Selected List of Postsecondary Education Opportunities for Minorities and Women," which details financial assistance programs available for students in those categories. The booklet is available by writing HEW, Bureau of Postsecondary Education, Washington, D.C. 20202. It is free.

The National Science Foundation (Roo 234, 1800 G St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20550) has a free booklet called "A Selected List of Major Fellowship Opportunities and Aids to Advanced Education for U.S. Citizens."

Columbia University Press publishes "The Foundation Grants Index," which is available at libraries and details various grants available to students.

BPW Foundation administers four scholarships available to "mature women," including the Clairol Scholarship Program for women at least 30 years old who are continuing postsecondary educations to achieve career goals. Scholarships of up to $1,000 are available for full- or part-time study. For more information on this program and for a list of other programs available to women, write Clairol Scholarship Program, 345 Park Ave., New York, N.Y. 10022 or Scholarships Department, BPW Foundation, 2012 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.

A helpful reference booklet is "Need a Lift?," published by the American Legion Education and Scholarship Program, P.O. Box 1055, indianapolis, Ind. 46206. It costs 50 cents. Loans

The federal government loan program is based on a fly-now, pay-later theory. Through one of the federally sponsored loan programs, a student and his family can borrow money for a college education and pay it back after the student is graduated.

Students who can demonstrate need (see FAF forms) may qualify for a 3 percent loan (National Direct Student Loan program) administered by higher education institutions or for federal assistance in paying the interest on a 7 percent loan arranged through a bank.

NDSL monies are available to students who are enrolled at least half-time in a participating institution. They may borrow a maximum of $5,000 in four years. Up to $10,000 is available for students in graudate schools.

Repayment begins nine months after graduation; the student may be allowed up to 10 years to repay. (If the student leaves school without graduating, the loan is repayable within nine months of leaving school.)

NDSL money generally is reserved for students from lower-income families.

The federally guaranteed student loan program allows students to borrow money at 7 percent. The rate is only 7 percent because the federal government pays the difference between 7 percent and the prime interest rate.

If the student can show need, the federal government will pay the interest on the loan while the student is in school. If the student doesn't qualify for this assistance, he may still qualify for a 7 percent loan, but the bank will probably require interest payments while the student is in school.

"The loan program was established for the middle class," said a higher education administrator. "There are no strict income criteria as in the grant or scholarship programs; they just want to be sure the student has good intentions."

Students from families with adjusted incomes that are as high as $25,000 a year automatically qualify for this assistance. Those with higher incomes may apply and request that the school complete an analysis of need. If the school finds there is need, it can recommend to the lender that the family qualifies for the interest benefit.

There is a formula for determining your adjusted gross income: gross income minus 10 percent minus number of exemptions (which first are multiplied by $750).

Undergraduates may borrow up to $2,500 an academic year. Total loans to students are limited to $7,500 for undergraduates, $15,000 for graudate students.

Repayment begins within a year of graduation or on leaving school and can extend over 10 years, although monthly repayments must be a minimum of $30.

One problem with loan assistance is that a student graduates in debt. One medical student estimated that by the time he was ready to practice, he would owe $30,000.

Another hitch is finding banks or other financial institutions willing to lend the money. "Remember," said an aide at the financial office of a private institution, "that the banks are being asked to loan money to people they ordinarily consider high-risk applicants. Students don't have jobs, have never worked and have no collateral."

Although the State Guranteed Student Loan program is defunct, a new federal Guranteed Student Loan program will be available in June. The program will be run by a consortium of banks. The loans will be guaranteed by the U.S. Office of Education.

To apply, a student picks up an application from the financial aid office at the school he or she plans to attend. The form is completed by the student and the school and then submitted to the operations office of the consortium of banks.

The consortium will review the application, and if it is approved, the student will be notified and given an appointment for an interview. No loan will be granted until after the interview. College Work-Study Programs

"The advantage to a work-study program is that a student pays his way as he goes and isn't facing debt when he graduates," said Black of Georgetown.

Pay as you go may not suit everyone. "We always ask a student if they'r prefer a work-study program to a loan," said Dunagan of George Washington. "But if they are in a difficult pre-med program they may not have the time to work, so they may prefer to borrow and pay back. The kind of job available also influences people. If it's crummy, the might feel they'd rather study."

The popularity of the work-study program is attested to by figures from Georgetown, which show that 150 to 200 students participated in the federal work-study program in 1974, and 800 to 900 students are working in it now."

Under the College Work-Study program, students earn the minimum wage at on-campus jobs such as faculty aid, receptionist, table setting in the dining hall. The federal government pays 80 percent of the program costs.

Some students manage to find stimulating jobs that enhance the educational experience. For instance, George Washington junior Diane Yuhasz, a Chinese major, worked as a secretary in the university Chinese department.

Students are supposed to have financial needs to qualify for the work-study program, but the amount of need required varies from school to school.

In addition, many schools have student employment offices which help a student find an off-campus job regardless of need.