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When Should You Begin Applying for a Private Student Loan?

Key Takeaways

  • Submit your private student loan applications two months before your school’s tuition due date.
  • Every school has a different tuition due date. Check with the financial aid office to find yours.
  • The earlier you apply, the better.

By Stephen Sellner | Citizens Bank Staff

Are you worried about missing the deadline for your or your child’s first college tuition bill? The key is applying for private student loans as early as possible.

Did you receive the financial aid award letter from the school? Did you make your deposit? If you answered yes to both of those questions, you’re free to begin applying.

That way, you have the funding you need in plenty of time to make that first payment, as well as subsequent ones.

To be safe, apply for a private student loan roughly two months before the tuition due date. Most schools’ payment deadlines for the fall semester are in July or August of that academic year. That means applying in either May or June. Each school has its own tuition due date, so contact your financial aid office to find out your exact payment deadline.

Note: Don’t confuse your school’s tuition deadline with the date your deposit is due. Deposits for incoming freshmen are due on May 1 of that academic year.

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Did you receive the financial aid award letter from the school? Did you make your deposit? If you answered yes to both of those questions, you’re free to begin applying.

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Once you make your deposit, you’ll have received your financial aid award letter from the school. Therefore, you’ll know:

That will tell you what leftover cost you need to cover through federal and/or private student loans. Once you have that amount, you can begin researching private student lenders, find the one(s) you like, and apply.

What happens after you apply for a private student loan?

There’s some waiting involved as your application is being reviewed. Some lenders can take months to issue their decision on your application; other lenders need just a few days. That’s why it’s best to apply as early as you can so you’ve got enough time either way.

Once you’re approved, the money can be disbursed in one of two ways:

  • Directly to the school, which is the most common disbursement method, or
  • To you, and then you pay the school

Just like every school’s tuition deadline varies, so too do their payment preferences. The school’s financial aid office also provides this information.

What about sophomore, junior, and senior year?

Some private student lenders offer multi-year approval, which means you only have to submit one application — ahead of freshman year — and they give you a total amount that you qualify for over four years or however long your program is. Then, when sophomore year comes around, you request additional funds from that total amount you qualified for rather than submit a new application all over again. This cuts down on how long it takes to get the money you need to make your payments and gives you peace of mind knowing the money is available when you need it.

Only a few lenders offers this service. So you should give yourself the same two-month buffer period when applying for a private student loan.

Note: You can apply for funding more than once per year if needed. That can come in handy if, for example, you underestimated how much you needed to cover living expenses for the year. If your lender offers multi-year approval, that means you can request more funds from your total prequalified amount.

What to remember

The biggest thing to remember is this: When you apply for a private student loan, get as ahead of the game as you can once you know how much you need to borrow.

Give yourself enough time so you’re not sweating on a decision from the lender the same week as your tuition bill’s due date. Then you can get your funds in plenty of time to make your payment and focus on enjoying the summer before you or your child darts off to college.

More information

Interested in applying for a private student loan with Citizens Bank? Learn more about our student loan options for students and parents.

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