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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)|
|5.09% - 12.49%6||2.15% - 10.37%6|
|4.74% - 11.85%9||2.00% - 10.01%9|
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Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available | 1Citizens Bank Disclosures | 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 6Discover Disclosures | 7SunTrust Bank Disclosures | 8EDvestinU Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures
Citizens Bank Student Loan Rate Disclosure Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR") published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of April 1, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.92%. Variable interest rates range from 1.95%-10.28% (1.95%-10.13% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.40%-12.19% (4.40% - 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co- signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.
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.