How to Apply for Student Loans

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 a lot of information needed from students and their families, so we’ve created this guide to 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 is done in three steps. The first step is completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You can perform the entire process online at the FAFSA website. Some of the loans available are awarded based on your family’s financial need, so you’ll want to gather the following pieces of personal and financial information:

  • 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 student and parents (if student is a dependent)
  • Federal student aid PIN number, which will allow you to access the application and sign the form. You can get your PIN number at .
  • Name of school (up to 10 can be listed on the application)

Discover what you'll need to do to apply for student loans

Once you’ve completed the FAFSA you’re ready for step two, the research phase. After a few weeks you will receive your Student Aid Report, which outlines your expected family contribution. The form will also be automatically 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. If you only listed one school on your application, step two will be an easy one.


Step three is to accept the financial aid package from your chosen school, if you choose to receive aid. The award letter you receive will have an itemized list of all of the different types of aid available to you, 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

After you’ve accepted your financial aid award, there may still be a gap in financing that you and your family are responsible for filling. A private student loan like the Citizens Bank Student LoanTM will help cover additional expenses. While every lender has its own application process, they all require similar information from applicants. Here is a list of information you will likely need to provide when applying for a private student loan:

  • Name of school the student plans to attend
  • 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 (if applicable)
  • 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
  • Cosigner name and valid email address (if applicable)
  • Student borrower reference (name, address and phone number of someone who is not your cosigner)

Some private student loan lenders may ask you to submit documents to verify some of this information. Once approved, all lenders will 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 personal expenses, check with the financial aid office at your school to find out how they handle those funds.


For more information about applying for student loans call one of our Student Lending Specialists at 1-888-411-0266.


Helpful Tools & Information
Student Loan Glossary An easy-to-use guide for the terms you’ll encounter in the student loan process.
FAQs Answers to frequently asked questions about the student loans.
Student Loan Calculator Use our loan calculator to estimate payments and total costs of borrowing.