How To Apply for a Student Loan

If you’re heading off to college you probably need some financial help to pay for it.  There are several places to look for student loans.  The federal government has several programs to provide school financing.  Many states also offer assistance and you can also apply for a student loan from a private lender. 

One of the first things you should do is apply for the federal programs.  You will need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  You can find the form and all related information at the FAFSA website.  You will need some documentation including your social security number, driver’s license, tax returns, bank statements and investment records.  If you are considered a dependent of someone else for tax purposes, you will need to have their help and information.  Follow the directions to fill out the form.  Check early to see what your deadlines are so you don’t miss any important dates. 

There are four types of federal loans: the Federal Stafford Loan, the Federal PLUS Loan, the Federal Graduate PLUS Loan, and the Federal Consolidation Loan.  The loans vary in interest repayment length and amounts.  Students often have more than one type over the course of their education.  The Federal Consolidation Loan is generally used after you have finished with your education and brings all of your different federal loans into one loan with one payment.  Be aware that this may increase the amount of interest you will pay over the life of the loan.  Research your options carefully. 

If you are applying for state assistance, you will need to fill out the FAFSA for that as well.  They may also require additional forms unique to each state.  State deadlines may differ from the federal deadlines so make sure you check your state’s guidelines for that information. 

Often, even if you receive federal and state aid, you still need additional help to pay for your education.  Private lenders can help fill that gap.  They also often offer delayed payment.  That means you won’t have to make any payments until after you finish school.  This allows you to focus on your studies and not worry so much about how you’re going to pay for school. 

When applying for a private loan, you will usually be approved based on your creditworthiness.  That means that as a young adult with no credit history, you will probably need to have a co-signer apply for the loan with you.  However, private student loans usually offer lower interest rates than other types of loans such as credit card loans.  You should compare fees, minimum and maximum loan amounts and repayment terms.  A website such as can help you wade through the options.  They can even help you search for a loan provider. 

While the majority of these loans are used to pay for college educations, some of them are available to help pay for high school, or a trade or technical school.  And the fact that you are an adult, going back to school after working for a while, doesn’t disqualify you from all programs.  It does pay to search and find what your options may be.  You may be surprised.


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