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    How to Get a Student Loan

    By Cece Gilmore

    Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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    Reviewed by Caitlyn Cole

    Caitlyn Cole is a college access professional with a decade of experience in non-profit program and project management for college readiness and access organizations.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: September 26th, 2023
    How to Get a Student Loan

    Beginning your educational journey is an exciting time, but the cost of higher education can be daunting. Lucky for you, this guide will go over how to get a student loan to help make your dreams of academic success a reality. 

    Types of student loans 

    Federal student loans 

    Direct Subsidized Loans

    Direct Subsidized Loans are available to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. Interest does not accrue (increase)  while an undergraduate student is in school at least half-time, during the grace period, or during forbearance periods. 

    Direct Unsubsidized Loans

    Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students with no requirement to demonstrate financial need. Interest is charged during all periods and may be capitalized which means that unpaid interest can be added to your loan’s principal balance. 

    Grad PLUS Loan

    Grad PLUS Loans are available to graduate and professional students enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school in a program leading to graduate or professional degree or certificate. 

    Parent PLUS Loan

    Parent PLUS Loans allow parents or guardians of dependent students to borrow money to cover any costs not already covered by the student’s financial aid package. Parent PLUS Loans are the financial responsibility of the parents/guardians, not the student.  

    Private student loans 

    Private loans are made by private organizations such as banks or credit unions and have terms set by the lender. 

    Step-by-step instructions on how to get a federal student loan

    Submit the FAFSA

    The FAFSA is the beginning of your federal student loan journey! To begin, you will need to fill out the FAFSA in its entirety which includes providing personal information such as your Social Security Number and income information. If you are a dependent student, you will also need your parent’s financial information. Not only does the FAFSA give you access to federal student loans, it also is used by your chosen colleges to generate a financial aid offer. You can add your chosen schools to the FAFSA and your information will be shared with those schools once you submit your application. Remember, you have to complete the FAFSA each year you are enrolled in school. 

    Review your Financial Aid Award Letter

    Once your FAFSA has been processed, your selected schools will send you financial aid award letters. These letters will contain different types and amounts of federal student aid you are eligible for including grants, scholarships and loans. Be sure to compare your financial aid award letters to determine which is the best financial aid scenario for you! 

    Accept the Federal Student Loans 

    If you decide to accept any federal student loans found in your financial aid award letter, you will need to follow the instructions provided by the school. This will often involve logging into your selected institution’s financial aid portal to read and sign information about your loans and that you agree to pay them back. You can decide to accept all or part of the loans offered so make sure you are taking your time to make a well-informed financial decision! You will then be assigned a lender approximately three weeks after your loan is disbursed so you should keep careful track of your email and consider creating a folder to keep everything organized. 

    Step-by-step instructions on how to get a private student loan

    Choose a loan lender 

    It’s important to search for a reputable loan lender source. To begin, you should look at your intended institution’s website to see if they offer a lender list. Then, you should double check and confirm that the lender does indeed work with the school of your choice. In addition, make sure you are looking at the right private loan for your situation as there may be different loans depending on your level of education such as undergraduate or graduate. 

    Choose an interest rate type and repayment option

    After selecting your loan lender, you will then be asked to choose an interest rate type and repayment option. Here are some examples of these different types of interest rate types:

    Fixed interest rate

    A fixed interest rate stays the same for the life of loan. This means that you can have a constant interest rate that does not change overtime which means your monthly payments will be predictable. However, the cost of the loan may be higher than the starting variable interest rate. 

    Variable interest rate

    A variable interest rate may go up or down due to an increase or decrease in the loan’s index. This means that your rate can rise or fall throughout the months, so your loan payments may vary over time.

    Here are some examples of different types of repayment options: 

    Deferred repayment 

    A deferred repayment plan means that you do not have to make any loan payments while you’re attending school or during a grace period which is typically 6 months after leaving school. However, unpaid interest typically will be added to your principal amount at the end of your grace period. 

    Fixed repayment 

    A fixed payment plan means that you will pay a fixed amount every month while you are in school and during the grace period and then pay the remaining balance after the grace period similar to a deferred repayment plan. 

    Interest repayment 

    An interest repayment plan means that you will pay your interest every month you are in school and during the grace period. 

    Get approved and take out a private student loan! 

    Once you have selected your loan provider, interest rate type and repayment option you are ready to take out a private student loan! First, you need to get approved. Most private student loans require borrowers to have good credit and an income that can support loan payments. If you do not meet these requirements, you will need a co-signer who can. 

    Some helpful tips about getting a student loan

    Getting a student loan can be an intimidating  task, however it can be crucial in funding your academic journey. Before accepting any loans, you should ensure that you have exhausted all other options such as scholarships and grants. This is because these do not have to be paid back and do not accumulate interest of any kind. Once these options are used, you should then attempt to take out federal student loans instead of private student loans. However, private student loans are a viable last-resort option. Remember, student loans can be a powerful investment tool toward your education and they can also be a significant financial burden if you don’t explore all your options and borrow responsibly. 

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • There are two types of student loans, federal student loans and private student loans
    • In order to get a federal student loan, you will need to submit the FAFSA, review your financial aid award letter, and accept the federal student loans 
    • In order to get a private student loan, choose a loan lender, choose an interest rate type, a repayment option, and then get approved
    • Be sure that taking out loans are your last-resort option before scholarships, and make sure that federal student loans are prioritized over private student loans

    Frequently asked questions about how to get a student loan 

    Do I need a cosigner for a student loan?

    It depends on the type of loan and your credit history. Many private loans may require a cosigner if you have limited or poor credit. However, federal student loans typically do not require a cosigner.

    Can I defer my student loans if I’m facing financial hardship?

    Yes, you can often defer student loans if you’re experiencing financial difficulties. Private loan lenders may offer similar options, but they can vary.

    What happens if I can’t repay my student loans?

    Failure to repay student loans can result in consequences such as damage to your credit score and legal action. However, there are loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment options for federal loans.

    Can I consolidate my student loans?

    Yes, you can consolidate federal loans through a Direct Consolidation Loan. This combines multiple loans into one which can simplify your repayment.

    How can I find more information about student loans?

    You can get detailed information about student loans from government websites, your school’s financial aid department, and loan servicers. It’s important to research and understand the terms and conditions of your specific loans.

    How much can I borrow with a student loan?

    The amount you can borrow depends on your educational level, your financial need, and the specific loan program. Additionally, there are annual and lifetime limits for federal loans.

    How can I manage my student loan debt responsibly?

    Responsible management of student loan debt involves making on-time payments, understanding your loan terms, exploring loan forgiveness options, and creating a budget that accommodates your loan payments.

    Can I change my repayment plan after I start repaying my student loans?

    Yes, for federal loans, you can change your repayment plan if your circumstances change. There are various income-driven repayment plans and other options to explore.

    What can I use student loans for?

    Student loans are intended to cover educational expenses, but they can also be used for other costs associated with attending school such as room and board, transportation, and school supplies. 

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