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How to Apply for Student Loans

Key Takeaways

  • Fill out the FAFSA form to apply for federal student loans and grants.
  • The financial aid award letter will outline any federal aid your family has received.
  • All private lenders require the same core information to apply.

Whether it’s completing the FAFSA to get federal student loans or submitting an application to a bank for a private student loan, applying for student loans can seem like a complicated process. There are a lot of steps and information needed from students and their families, so this guide can help you prepare for and navigate through any student loan application process.

Applying for federal student loans

Receiving federal student loans like the Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans starts with completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You can perform the entire process online at the FAFSA website. Some loans are awarded based on your family’s financial need, so you’ll want to gather the following pieces of personal and financial information when applying:

  • Name, date of birth, and address
  • Social Security and driver’s license numbers
  • Federal tax returns, including W-2 tax forms and other recent records showing the income earned by you, your spouse, and your child (if the child is a dependent)
  • Federal student aid PIN number, which will allow you to access the application and sign the form
  • Name of school (up to 10 can be listed on the application)

Next, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report, which outlines your expected family contribution. The form will automatically be forwarded to the schools listed on your application. The financial aid offices of those institutions will send you a financial aid award letter outlining the aid package they will offer. It’s your job to compare those offers and choose the school that best fits your future goals and family budget.

Lastly, accept the financial aid package from your chosen school, if you choose to receive aid. Your financial aid award letter will have an itemized list of all available types of aid, including grants and federal student loans. Remember, even after you've accepted your award letter, you should check with your school's financial aid office to see what other forms or documents you will need to complete in order to secure your funding (for example, completing your Direct Loan Master Promissory Note, or MPN).

Applying for a private student loan

While every private lender has its own application process, they all require similar information from applicants. Here is a list of information you’ll likely need to provide when applying for a private student loan:

  • Name of school
  • Driver’s license number
  • Social Security number (or Alien ID number for permanent residents)
  • Gross monthly income and one most recent paystub
  • Employer name, phone number, and length of employment (if applicable)
  • Monthly rent or mortgage payment
  • Anticipated graduation date (MM/YYYY)
  • Loan amount requested
  • Loan period for which funds are needed (can be an entire academic year, or a single semester)
  • Co-signer name and valid email address
  • Student borrower reference (name, address, and phone number of someone who is not your co-signer)

Some private student loan lenders may ask you to submit documents to verify some of this information. Once approved, all lenders require you to sign a promissory note that details every aspect of the loan you’re taking out. Once you’ve accepted the loan and signed all your documents, the lender will typically send the funds directly to your school. If you requested additional funds for school certified expenses, check with the financial aid office at your school to find out how they handle those funds.

More information

Paying for college can feel like you’re assembling a puzzle. To learn more about student lending options, click here, call 1-888-411-0266 to speak to a Student Lending Specialist, or visit your nearest Citizens Bank branch.

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