How to Apply for Student Loans

By Elliott Kuhn , last updated November 3, 2011

For many students around the world, the high cost of a good education would be insurmountable without loans. How do you go about applying for student loans? What information is required? Do you qualify for financial aid? Read on to find the answers to these questions. Student loans provide the student with the opportunity to get a degree and pay back their debt after they have graduated. This is your guide to securing student loans.

First Things First

The absolute first thing you should do if you are interested in securing student loans is to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. This is the first step in acquiring financial aid. It is difficult to know what kind of financial aid you are eligible for, but the FAFSA can help. Even if you do not qualify for federal financial aid, it’s still a good idea to fill one out, as many schools use the FAFSA to determine non-federal financial aid.

Filling out the FAFSA Form

You can complete your FAFSA in one of two ways. First, you can submit a paper copy for review. To receive a paper copy of the FAFSA form, you need to call 1-800-4-FED-AID. Second, you can visit the FAFSA website and fill it out online. This is by far the easier route. It cuts the process time in half and saves you possible irritation if the need for revisions occurs. The deadline for financial aid is dependent on your state and school, so make sure to check so you don’t miss it. Generally, there is a priority deadline in early February, so make sure to send it in on time.

You will need the following things to properly fill out your FAFSA form, if applicable: current bank statements, records of bonds, stocks, mutual funds, and other investments, income tax returns for the student, the student’s driver’s license and Social Security number, W-2 forms and any other records of money earned, current mortgage information, and records and documentation of other untaxed income. Not all of these things may apply to you, but make sure to be as thorough as possible.

Understanding the Student Aid Report

Once everything is complete, submit the application. In a few weeks you will receive a Student Aid Report. This is a summary of all the information you included, and it allows you the opportunity to correct anything. At this point, a financial aid representative at your university will construct a financial aid package that will tell you what financial aid you qualify for. Choose which option suits you best.

Looking Outside of the Federal Government and Universities

Instead of going through your university, you also have the option of looking for a loan directly through education finance companies, like Sallie Mae. Application for a loan through Sallie Mae requires information almost identical to the aforementioned FAFSA form. The application process can be completed entirely online and approval may take a few weeks. Loan payments are not made until after the student is out of school, but they have the option of paying off the interest while still in school to limit the amount of the payments later on.

Resources and References
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