Student Loans 101

By: Peter Kenny

There are many ways for students to finance a college education, but one of the most common ways is through taking out a loan. There are loans specifically designed to cover the cost of higher education.

Types of Student Loans
Federal student loans have terms and conditions that are determined by the federal government. Federal loans may come directly from the federal government. Banks can also issue federal student loans.

Private student loans and their associated terms are issued by private banks.

Applying for Student Loans
To apply for federal loans, prospective students need to complete a FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application will request personal information such as your name, address, and social security number. It will also require you to submit information about your plans for school attendance for the upcoming year, including the type of degree you are working to obtain and your grade level. Lastly, the application will request detailed financial information from you and your parents to determine the type of aid you will be eligible for.

When applying for a private student loan, the application process is less detailed. However, the requirement for loan approval are stricter than with federal loans. Private lenders will check your credit history and your income before approving you for a loan.

With both federal and private lenders, they will confirm that you will actually be attending school before granting you the loan.

Student Loan costs
The rate of interest applied to the loan determines the cost of the loan. The lower the interest rate, the less the loan will cost you.

Be aware that interest begins accruing on your loan as soon as you receive it. If you have a federal loan, the government may pay the interest whild you are in school. With other types of loans, you are responsible for paying the interest while you are enrolled in school. There are options for deferring interest payments until after graduation, but if you choose to defer these payments, the interest will be added to the balance of your loan, thereby increasing the total amount owed.

Repaying Student Loans
You usually have a six month grace period after graduation before you must begin making payments on your loan. Once the grace period ends, you must make regular payments on the student loan if you want to remain in good standing with the lender. You should contact the lender prior to the end of the grace period to determine the exact amount of your monthly payments and to learn what options are available to you.

Student Loans
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