Skip to content

How to Apply for Student Loans: Ultimate Guide for Application and Approval

Budgeting Student Loans

5 minute read

Congratulations on deciding to continue your education after high school! Attending college or a career school is an investment in your future, and, as with most investments, you’ll be required to put some money down first. Although figuring out how to pay for college can be challenging, the process is much simpler when you understand how to apply for student loans.

4 Steps to Apply for Student Loans

Here’s the information you’ll need to gather and some key facts you’ll want to know to apply for student loans successfully:

1. Understand different types of loans.

The first step when figuring out how to apply for student loans is to understand the differences between federal and private loans. Federal student loans are issued by the United States government — specifically the Department of Education — based on availability and need, along with other factors. Private loans come from individual lenders and may have different processes for student loan approval.

While there are limits to how much you can borrow in some federal loans, private loans aren’t bound by those limits. However, many private loans, such as the NC Assist Loan, are limited to the full cost of attendance at your particular college or university. It’s not unusual for students to take out private loans to supplement the limited federal loans.

In North Carolina, several forgivable loan programs are available to students who pursue degrees in certain majors, such as education or healthcare. Once a student completes their degree, they commit to working in a critical employment-shortage profession in North Carolina in exchange for having their state-sponsored loans forgiven.

2. Complete the FAFSA.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) uses your personal information to determine which federal grants and loans you qualify for and the amount you may receive. States and colleges also use information from the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for additional scholarships, grants, and loans. That’s why it’s important to complete the FAFSA as soon as it becomes available each year.

3. Consider future repayment.

A major part of knowing how to apply for student loans is remembering that you’ll have to pay back any funds you borrow. Make sure that’s feasible by thoroughly researching your college and intended major. Use a loan calculator to determine how much money you’ll need to borrow and to estimate your future monthly payments.

4. Be aware of deadlines.

There are deadlines regarding federal loan applications. Complete the FAFSA by June 30 of the current school year to qualify for federal loans and other financial aid. States and schools may have different deadlines for priority consideration of financial aid. In North Carolina, awards are made until funds are depleted. Check with your school to understand the specific deadlines you’ll want to follow. For private student loans, there are generally no deadlines as long as you’re applying for a loan that’s for the current academic period.

Private loans offer more flexibility on when and how much you can borrow. It’s possible to apply for a private loan mid-semester and use the funds to pay your current tuition bill.

FAQs About Student Loan Application Process

If you’re applying for a student loan on your own, you may have other questions about the process.

Are there qualifications for student loan approval?

To receive federal student loans, you must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen, have a social security number, show satisfactory academic progress, and consent to having your federal tax information transferred directly to your FAFSA application. Most federal student loans require no credit check.

On the other hand, private loans aren’t based on financial need, but they typically do require a credit check. If you need help applying for private student loans, most loan providers, like NC Assist, will have detailed requirements and instructions available online.

Do I need a co-signer?

A co-signer is someone (usually a parent, family member, or friend) who agrees to pay back your loan if you’re unable to. Federal student loans typically don’t require a co-signer, but private loans may, depending on the results of your credit check. If you don’t have an established credit history or have an adverse credit history, you’ll most likely be required to have a co-signer for your private student loans.

Do student loans affect credit score?

Having student loans (whether federal, private, or a combination of both) will affect your credit score. The amount you borrowed, how long ago you borrowed it, and your payment history all become part of your credit report. On-time payments can help you build a positive credit score, while delinquent payments can damage it.

NC Assist is Here to Help

Now that you know how to apply for student loans, it’s time to start putting that knowledge to use. If you find that your savings, scholarships, and federal financial aid won’t cover all your education expenses, NC Assist can help you bridge that gap.

Offered by a state-based non-profit lender, NC Assist Loans offer competitive fixed rates to North Carolina residents who attend in-state or out-of-state schools and to out-of-state students who attend eligible schools in North Carolina. Apply today!

Apply Now