What the Application for Student Loans Looks Like

Find out how the student loan application process works and what you can expect.

What the Application for Student Loans Looks Like
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The student loan application process can be daunting, but it's essential for millions of students who need to finance their education. In this article, we'll walk you through the basics of the student loan application process and provide you with tips on how to make the process as smooth as possible.

Step 1: Determine Your Eligibility

The first step in the student loan application process is to determine your eligibility. Eligibility requirements vary depending on the type of loan you're applying for. In general, federal student loans require that you meet the following criteria:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.

  • You must have a valid Social Security number.

  • You must be enrolled in an eligible program at an eligible institution.

  • You must be making satisfactory academic progress.

  • You must not be in default on any federal student loans.

  • You must not have exceeded annual or aggregate loan limits.

Private student loans have their own eligibility requirements, which may include credit score and income requirements. It's important to research the eligibility requirements for the type of loan you're interested in before you apply.

Step 2: Fill Out the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in applying for federal student loans. The FAFSA is a form that collects information about your family's income and assets, as well as your own income and assets. This information is used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid, including grants, work-study, and loans.

The FAFSA can be completed online at fafsa.ed.gov. You'll need to create an account and provide personal and financial information. You'll also need to list the schools you're interested in attending, as the information on your FAFSA will be sent to those schools.

It's important to fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible, as some federal aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The FAFSA opens on October 1 of each year, and the deadline to submit the FAFSA varies by state and school. It's important to check with your school to find out their specific deadline. Also note that there are schools, such as Hillsdale College, one of the hardest colleges to get into in Michigan, that don't accept the FAFSA.

Step 3: Review Your Financial Aid Award Letter

Once you've submitted the FAFSA, you'll receive a financial aid award letter from each school you listed on the FAFSA. The award letter will list the types and amounts of aid you're eligible to receive, including grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans.

It's important to carefully review your award letter to understand the types and amounts of aid you're receiving. You should also review the terms and conditions of any loans you're offered, including the interest rate and repayment options.

If you have any questions about your award letter or the aid you're receiving, you should contact the financial aid office at the school.

Step 4: Apply for Additional Aid

If the aid you're offered doesn't cover the full cost of attendance, you may need to apply for additional aid. There are several options for additional aid, including private student loans, parent loans, and scholarships.

Private student loans are offered by banks and other financial institutions. These loans typically have higher interest rates and fewer repayment options than federal student loans. However, they may be a good option if you need to borrow additional funds.

Parent loans, also known as PLUS loans, are offered by the federal government to parents of dependent undergraduate students. These loans have a higher interest rate than federal student loans and require a credit check.

Scholarships are another option for additional aid. Scholarships are awarded based on a variety of criteria, including academic achievement, athletic ability, and community service. You can search for scholarships on websites such as BrokeScholar.

Step 5: Accept Your Loans

Once you've determined the types and amounts of aid you need, you'll need to accept your loans. To do this, you'll need to log in to the financial aid portal at your school and accept the loans you want to receive. You'll also need to complete any additional loan counseling or paperwork required by your school.

It's important to only accept the loans you need to cover the cost of attendance. You should also consider the interest rates and repayment options of each loan before accepting them.

Step 6: Complete Entrance Counseling

Before you receive your loans, you'll need to complete entrance counseling. Entrance counseling is a session that explains the terms and conditions of your loans, including the interest rate, repayment options, and grace period.

You can complete entrance counseling online at studentloans.gov. You'll need to provide personal and financial information, as well as information about your school and your loan. Once you've completed entrance counseling, your school will be notified that you're ready to receive your loans.

Step 7: Receive Your Loans

Once you've accepted your loans and completed entrance counseling, your loans will be disbursed to your school. Your school will apply the loans to your tuition, fees, and other educational expenses. If there are any funds left over after your expenses have been paid, you'll receive a refund from your school.

It's important to use your loan funds wisely and only for educational expenses. You should also keep track of your loan balance and repayment options.

Step 8: Repay Your Loans

After you graduate or leave school, you'll need to start repaying your loans. Federal student loans offer several repayment options, including standard repayment, income-driven repayment, and extended repayment.

Standard repayment is the default repayment option and requires you to make fixed monthly payments for 10 years. Income-driven repayment plans adjust your monthly payments based on your income and family size. Extended repayment extends your repayment term to up to 25 years.

Private student loans may have different repayment options and terms, so it's important to check with your lender.

Step 9: Manage Your Loans

Once you've started repaying your loans, it's important to manage them effectively. Here are some tips for managing your student loans:

  • Keep track of your loan balance and repayment schedule. Make sure you know when your payments are due and how much you owe.

  • Consider enrolling in automatic payments. Many lenders offer a discount on your interest rate if you enroll in automatic payments.

  • Communicate with your lender. If you're having trouble making your payments, contact your lender right away. They may be able to offer you deferment, forbearance, or other options to help you manage your loans.

  • Avoid default. If you don't make your payments on time, your loans can go into default. Default can have serious consequences, including damage to your credit score, wage garnishment, and loss of eligibility for future financial aid.

  • Take advantage of loan forgiveness programs. If you work in certain fields, such as education or public service, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness programs that will forgive a portion of your loans.

In the end, the student loan application process can be complex, but with careful planning and management, you can successfully finance your education and achieve your academic and career goals. It's important to understand the types and terms of loans available to you and to only borrow what you need. By staying on top of your payments and managing your loans effectively, you can avoid default and achieve financial stability after graduation. If you need help with your student loans, don't hesitate to contact your lender or your school's financial aid office for assistance.

Andrew DePietro

Author: Andrew DePietro

Senior Researcher, and Content Strategist

Andrew DePietro is a finance writer covering topics such as entrepreneurship, investing, real estate and college for BrokeScholar, Forbes, CreditKarma, and more.