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How To Get A Student Loan

Most students — 7 in 10 — borrow money to pay for college. If you're one, you have two types of student loans to choose from: federal or private.

If you're an undergraduate, always start with federal loans. They don't require a credit history or a co-signer and they offer more generous protections for borrowers, such as income-driven repayment and loan forgiveness, than private student loans do.

The U.S. Department of Education’s federal student loan program is the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. Under this program, the U.S. Department of Education is your lender. There are four types of Direct Loans available:

  • Direct Subsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need to help cover the costs of higher education at a college or career school.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans> are loans made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, but eligibility is not based on financial need.
  • Direct PLUS Loans> are loans made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. Eligibility is not based on financial need, but a credit check is required. Borrowers who have an adverse credit history must meet additional requirements to qualify.
  • Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine all of your eligible federal student loans into a single loan with a single loan servicer.

How to Get a Private Student Loan

There are private student loans for undergraduates, graduates, students pursuing certificates, dental, medical, and health professions students, as well as loans for graduates studying for the bar exam, or relocating for medical or dental residencies. There are also parent loans, taken out by a parent, relative, or another creditworthy individual (not the student) that can help you pay for college.

Private student loans are issued by a bank or financial institution, (as opposed to federal student loans, which are offered by the government).

What a private loan for college can be used for

Whether you're studying online or on campus, private education loans—as well as federal student loans—for college and grad school can be used to pay for your education expenses, which for full-time and half-time students may include:

  • Tuition
  • Room and board
  • Fees
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Transportation
  • Computer for school