Welcome to the student loan center

Pursuing higher education is an exciting time in your life. It's filled with promise and opportunity. It's a time to think about all the possibilities that lie ahead: greater knowledge, a new career path or higher earning potential. In other words, it's all about your future.

And it's also all about right now. Because you need to figure out how you're going to pay for it today. As we all know, being a student is expensive. The good news is there are plenty of ways to get a student loan - from federal student loans to private student loans - and even some alternative options.

Your education is one of the biggest purchases in your life. It's important that the student loans you choose are right for you. This page is chock full of valuable information to help you navigate your student financial life so you can make the wisest decisions.

Top five reasons for student loans

  •   Your parents can't afford to send you to college
  •   You have other financial obligations
  •   You have poor credit or no credit
  •   You have no income of your own
  •   You need to consolidate all your monthly payments

You're not alone! Most people take out student loans. The process doesn't have to be difficult. Just be patient and use the resources on this page to help you find the student loan that's right for you.

Students borrowing irresponsibly 65%

Unfortunately, about 65% of students misunderstand the terms of their own student loans. That means they aren't comparing option, reading the fine print or asking questions about one of the most important financial decisions they'll ever make. Don't be one of them.

Glossary Terms

Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)
Debt-to-income ratio – also referred to as DTI, back-end ratio or bottom-end ratio. It’s the total of all monthly debt payments including the proposed... <a href='/glossary/what-is-debt-to-income-ratio-dti' title='See the full definition of Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)'>read more</a>
Loan Program
A loan program is the interest rate feature and the terms of your loan. <a href='/glossary/what-is-loan-program' title='See the full definition of Loan Program'>read more</a>
Borrower
A borrower is a buyer who does not pay cash, but instead finances some or all of a purchase. <a href='/glossary/what-is-borrower' title='See the full definition of Borrower'>read more</a>
Lender
A lender is an entity that makes funds available for borrowing. <a href='/glossary/what-is-lender' title='See the full definition of Lender'>read more</a>
Annual Percentage Rate
The cost of credit, including the interest and fees, expressed as an interest rate. APR was created to make it easier for consumers to compare loans... <a href='/glossary/what-is-annual-percentage-rate' title='See the full definition of Annual Percentage Rate'>read more</a>
Interest Rate
Interest rate is the percentage of the loan that will be paid annually as the interest. <a href='/glossary/what-is-interest-rate' title='See the full definition of Interest Rate'>read more</a>
Monthly Payment
The monthly payment is how much a borrower will pay each month toward principal and interest on a loan. <a href='/glossary/what-is-monthly-payment' title='See the full definition of Monthly Payment'>read more</a>

Getting a private student loan

Most students get a combination of loans, usually federal and private. Federal loans are great but they don't usually cover everything. Private student loans can offer you that extra money you need to cover all of your expenses, including tuition, books, fees, supplies, transportation, housing and meal plans. Keep in mind that private student loans usually cost more and can be harder to get than government-backed financing.

Know your credit score

Unlike most federal student loans, one of the key criteria for qualifying for a private student loan is a credit score. If you don't know yours, now is the time to check your credit score. The higher your credit score, the better your loan options will be.

You may need a co-signer

If your credit history is negative or non-existent, you may have difficulty getting approved for a private student loan. If you have a co-signer with a good credit score and history, that will increase your chances of qualifying. Even if you think you can qualify on your own, a co-signer can save you money on the interest rate or fees. A very important thins to keep in mind is that missing a payment or paying late will hurt not just your credit score, but also theirs, too.

Shop around

Many private student loans come with variable interest rates. Always shop for student loans the way you'd shop for any large and important purchase, because interest rates and terms can vary widely between lenders.

Don't borrow too much

One last thing: make sure to minimize what you borrow so you keep your debt load manageable after you graduate. If your post-graduate financial life does take a bad turn, one of the advantages of a private loan is that it can be discharged or restructured in a bankruptcy (if you qualify), unlike government-backed student loans, which can only be canceled only under a very narrow set of circumstances.

Compare private student loan offers

More about financial aid

The financial office at your school can help you with a financial aid package. In the meantime, there are generally two types of loans available:

  • Federal
  • Private

Most people are familiar with federal student aid, which is supplied by the government in the form of loans, grants and tax credits. Federal loans are provided under a variety of programs, including Stafford, Perkins and PLUS loans. If you are interested in any federal student aid program must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

In the event your financial aid package doesn't cover all of your expenses, there are alternative scholarships or loan options to consider. If a parent or family member is willing, they could take out a PLUS loan to help you. Or a private student loan or personal loan can help you to cover the other expenses you need.

Should I get a federal student loan?

Getting a federal student loan can be great solution to help you cover your college tuition. It can be quick and easy to apply and get approved. But there are limitations to federal student loans, too. For example, a federal loan may not be enough. That's where a private student loan can help you bridge the gap.

How do I get a federal student loan?

When you apply for a federal student loan, you'll need to complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Based on the results of your FAFSA, your college or career school will send you a financial aid offer, which may include federal student loans. Your school will tell you how to accept all or a part of the loan.

Paying back a federal student loan

Paying back your student loans is a big deal. Like another other type of loan - like a car loan, or mortgage loan, a student loan needs to be paid in a timely manner to your loan servicer. The good news about paying back your student loans? It's the perfect time to set a strong foundation for your financial life.

Life is unexpected, though. You might not get the education you expected or the job you want. You might experience financial hardship. That's why there are options to help you through this, like loan deferment or forbearance, loan consolidation or even debt forgiveness in certain situations.

Make sure you know all you need to know about repaying your student loans. The more proactive you are, the better. Remember: student loans are real loans. Don't ignore them. If you pay them when they're due, your credit score will thank you.

Types of Federal Loans
58%
of Americans don't know
their credit score.
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Other ways to pay for college

Don't worry and don't give up if a federal or private student loan isn't for you. Now's the time to get creative.

Have you looked into college grants, tax credits, deductions and work-study programs? What if you qualify for a scholarship? Do a little research. You might be surprised. Also, check out these 8 loans to pay for college, consider all your options and look for unconventional ways to pay for college.

Remember, where there's a will, there's a way.

Build your credit with a credit card

Most students don't have much credit, if they have any credit at all. That's why it's the perfect time to establish credit and start building a solid credit history. It'll help you get low interest rates and great deals on auto loans, home loans and much more.

We partner with some of the biggest and best credit cards, some of which offer extra perks like rewards programs, cash back and even bonus offerings for good credit behavior. If you use your credit responsibly, never miss payments and always pay in full and on time, you can be in control of a successful financial future. Just remember, if you're under the age of 21, you may need a cosigner.

Find my credit card