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Student loans are one of the most common ways to pay for an education. And thankfully, getting a student loan is usually a straightforward process that’s quick for both undergraduate and graduate students.
How to get a student loan
If you need to know how to get a student loan, follow these three steps to get started:
- Fill out your FAFSA form and submit
- Decide which federal loans to accept
- Consider private student loans
1. Fill out your FAFSA form and submit
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the starting point for the federal student loan process. To fill out the FAFSA, you’ll need to provide information about your income, savings, and investments. If you’re an undergrad student, you’ll also need to include your family’s financial info. Your FAFSA results will then detail your federal student loan options, including how much you qualify for.
It’s important to complete the FAFSA accurately and on time to ensure you get the financial aid that you need.
Learn More: How to Apply for FAFSA
2. Decide which federal loans to accept
After your school’s financial aid office gets your FAFSA results, you’ll receive a financial aid award offer from your school. This could include scholarships, student loans, and work-study opportunities to help you pay for school.
Most undergrad students will have a choice of subsidized vs. unsubsidized student loans, as well as PLUS loans. Undergrad students have different student loan options from grad students. If you’re wondering how to pay for graduate school, on the other hand, your options will be a little different from undergraduate loans.
You’re not required to accept any of the loans you’re offered, though federal student loans often come with the best rates and protections.
Learn More: Federal Student Loans Guide
3. Consider private student loans
Federal student loans don’t always cover the full cost of attendance. Depending on your school and your family’s finances, you might need additional funds. That’s where private student loans come in. Private student loans can come in handy in these situations:
- If federal student loans don’t cover your full costs: If your federal student loans aren’t enough to cover your education, private student loans can make up the difference.
- If you (or a cosigner) have good credit: If you have a strong credit history (or find a cosigner with good credit), you could qualify for the best private student loans. A good cosigner could qualify you for lower interest rates than grad PLUS loans.
When shopping for private student loans, be sure to consider as many lenders as possible to find the best interest rate and repayment term for you. With Credible, you can compare multiple lenders at once without hurting your credit score.
|Lender||Fixed rates from (APR)||Variable rates from (APR)|
|4.25% - 12.59%9||1.13% - 11.23%9|
your credit score. 100% free!
Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available | 1Citizens Disclosures | 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 7EDvestinU Disclosures | 8INvestEd Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures
Find the right student loan for you
Every student has a different income and college savings. Your money situation is unique, and your student loan choices should reflect your specific needs.
When reviewing a student loan, look at factors like the repayment period, interest rate, and federal student loan forgiveness programs you might qualify for. This way, you can get the loan that’s right for you — without borrowing more than you need.