A new academic year is about to begin. You’ve calculated the total cost of tuition, fees, and other costs, and you’ve worked out how much you can cover from income, savings, and other sources. Now all that’s left to do is get a loan to cover the remaining amount. But like every new student, you’re wondering: how do student loans work?
In this article, we’ll explain the difference between private and federal student loans. Then, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to apply for student loans from private lenders and the federal government.
Private student loans are offered by private lenders such as banks, credit unions, and online lenders. They cover up to the full cost of admission, including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. Interest ranges from 1.04% to 12.40% for variable-rate loans and 3.49% to 12.99% for fixed-rate loans. A credit check is required, and it is generally recommended to bring a cosigner with good credit.
Federal student loans are student loans funded by the federal government. They can be broken down into these categories:
The most important factor in getting approved for a student loan is your (or your cosigner’s) credit score. Virtually all private student loan providers allow cosigners. If you have no credit or poor credit, then bringing a cosigner is essential to getting a private student loan with a good interest rate.
Applying for a private student loan is similar to applying for any other type of unsecured private loan, such as a personal loan. We recommend beginning the process by comparing multiple lenders and finding the one with the best rates, terms, and conditions for your needs.
So, where to apply for student loans from private lenders? The simple answer is online, although some lenders also accept applications over the phone. The initial application process typically takes 10-15 minutes, after which you’ll receive conditional approval for your loan.
To be eligible for a private student loan, you usually must be:
During the process, you’ll need to provide information about yourself and your cosigner, as well as details about your school and degree. This will include:
Finally, the lender will ask your school to certify your loan, which can take up to 30 days to complete. The lender may also contact you for additional supporting documentation during this period. For these reasons, most lenders recommend applying at least one month before the start of the academic year.
Applying for federal loans is very different from applying for private student loans. The process is also highly dependent on the type of federal loan you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a direct subsidized or unsubsidized loan, then credit isn’t a consideration, although you will need to show financial need for a subsidized loan. If a parent is applying for a PLUS loan, then they will need to show good credit.
To apply for a federal loan, you must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Only the person submitting the FAFSA form (the student, in the case of most federal loans, or the parent, in the case of a PLUS loan), may create the ID. Next, select the form for the year your degree begins/began. To complete the form, you or a parent will need to provide the following information:
We hope this guide has helped you understand how student loans work and how to apply for student loans.
Before going ahead and applying for a loan, we recommend the following:
1. Calculate your required loan amount (cost of tuition, fees, and other costs minus the amount of money you have from other sources).
2. Based on the above, work out whether you need federal loans or a combination of private and federal loans.
3. Finally, compare private lenders to find the best rates and loan types.