Student loans are a form of financial aid that can assist in covering the costs of higher education. Both the federal government and private companies offer various loans to students, many which must be repaid over time with interest. The amount of assistance you receive depends on several factors such as your expected family contribution (EFC), eligibility for grants and scholarships, and personal financial situation.
Applying for a student loan can seem intimidating, but there are steps you can take to make the process smoother. Before applying, make sure all necessary documents are collected and understand how the loans operate.
First, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will determine your eligibility for both federal and private student loans, enabling you to compare different loan options available to you.
Once you complete the FAFSA, you’ll receive a financial aid award letter that outlines how much aid is available to you. This money can be used for tuition and other education-related costs like books, room and board. Additionally, your loan servicer will manage your loan once it has been disbursed and make payments on your behalf.
Once you’ve identified which loan type is suitable for your situation, you must choose a repayment plan. There are both standard and graduated plans available; select whichever makes the most sense in light of your individual circumstances.
Federal loans typically have a 10-year repayment schedule, though lenders can set up any length or frequency of payments for you. You also have the option to change your repayment plan if you’re having difficulty making payments.
When applying for private student loans, you’ll need to select a repayment plan. Some lenders offer fixed-rate options while others provide variable rates. If you select the former option, then your monthly payment will remain the same until your loan is fully repaid.
Some lenders can assist you in finding a cosigner for your student loan. This could be someone like a friend or parent with good credit who will stand behind you and contribute income and assets, helping you qualify for more affordable loans since your own credit score may not be as strong yet.
Once you’ve identified which student loans are ideal for you, it’s time to apply. Utilizing your FAFSA and financial aid award letter as guides, fill out the appropriate loan application and submit any required documentation.
Remember, your student loan will affect your credit history, so be sure to make all payments on time in order to preserve it for future education or other important purchases. A positive credit history can give you a competitive edge when buying a car, home or other large-ticket item.