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If scholarships and grants don’t cover your full cost of college, you might wonder what the requirements are for student loans. But don’t worry, we have your back. We’ll help guide you through the whole process.
Here’s what you need to know about qualifying for a student loan.
Federal student loan requirements
If you’ve maxed your scholarship and grant options (or don’t qualify), federal student loans are a good alternative to pay for college. Here are the main requirements for federal student loans:
- Demonstrate financial need: Financial need is calculated when you complete the FAFSA and is required to qualify for Direct Subsidized Loans. Financial need isn’t required to qualify for Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen: Some legal U.S. residents without citizenship might still qualify.
- Have a Social Security number: Outside of residents from a few U.S. territories, you must have a valid Social Security number.
- Enroll in an eligible degree or certificate program: You can’t use federal student loans unless you’re attending an accredited or recognized program.
- Make satisfactory academic progress: Each school sets its own academic standards. If you don’t maintain the minimum grades your school requires, you risk getting cut off from federal aid programs.
- Register with Selective Service: Men between ages 18 and 25 must sign up for the draft through Selective Service.
- Enroll at least half time for Federal Direct Loans: For most student loan programs, you must sign up for at least a half-time course load.
- Complete and sign the FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used to calculate your financial need, which is the difference between what your family is expected to contribute and your estimated cost of attendance.
- Have qualifications needed for your program: A high school diploma, GED, homeschool program, or equivalent is required.
What to do if you don’t meet federal requirements
If you don’t qualify for federal student loans, you’re not out of luck. There are other ways to pay for your education. Here are a couple of options:
Scholarships and grants
Make sure you’ve applied for all possible scholarships and grants. You don’t have to pay these back, so they’re like free money for school. You can also contact your school’s financial aid office to get advice for your unique situation.
Private student loans
If you’ve exhausted your federal options, private student loans could help fill any financial gaps left over. Although private student loans don’t come with the same borrower protections as federal student loans, they do offer some unique benefits. This includes:
- Can apply for a loan at any time: Unlike federal student loans that have strict application deadlines, you can apply for a private student loan at any time.
- Potentially lower interest rate: If you have excellent credit (or have a cosigner with excellent credit), you might be able to qualify for a lower rate than you’d get with a federal student loan.
- Higher loan limits: Private student loans sometimes have higher student loan limits than some federal student loans — meaning you might be able to borrow up to the cost of attendance of your school.
If you decide to apply for a private student loan, it’s a good idea to compare your rates from as many lenders as possible. This way, you can find the right loan for you — and potentially save money during the life of your loan with a lower interest rate.
Credible makes finding the right loan for you easy. You can compare your prequalified rates from multiple lenders in two minutes.
Check out: 8 Best Small Student Loans
Private student loan requirements
Unlike federal loans, there isn’t just one set of private student loan requirements. Instead, each lender has its own rules. Here are some common requirements to qualify for private student loans:
- Enroll in an eligible program: You can’t use private student loans if you aren’t a student, and you must be enrolled in an eligible program.
- Meet demographic requirements: Most lenders require you to be a U.S. citizen or legal resident with a Social Security number, be at least 18 years old, and hold a high school diploma or equivalent.
- Use the loan for education purposes: Lenders won’t watch where you spend every dollar. But you should generally use your loans only for school expenses since you have to pay everything back, including any extra funds left over after paying tuition, fees, and other direct costs.
- Have a good credit history: Unlike federal loans, private loans require a credit check. A low credit score, history of late payments, or bankruptcy could stop you from getting a student loan without a cosigner. But if you find a cosigner with a good credit history, you’re in good shape.
- Have an income: Lenders will review your income and debt-to-income ratio to determine if you’re able to repay what you borrow.
Most of these requirements are firm, but in some cases, you can get around the minimum credit or income history if you can find a cosigner with good credit who qualifies. Over 93% of student loans are taken out with a cosigner, so it’s actually a good idea to consider one even if you can qualify without. A cosigner can even help get you a lower rate.
Credible makes it easy to compare your prequalified rates on private student loans with or without a cosigner so you can see the difference it can make.
Choosing the best loan for you
Federal student loans are usually available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents with financial need who are enrolled in a qualifying program.
Private student loans have similar conditions but also require a credit check and minimum income.
Many people use a mix of both federal and private student loans to cover their education costs. So qualifying for student loans can be essential when it comes to paying for college — and continuing your education.
Keep Reading: How Student Loans Work
Credible is a multi-lender marketplace that helps consumers find financial products best suited to their unique circumstances. With Credible, you can easily compare accurate, personalized loan options — without affecting your credit score or risking your personal information.