How to Apply for Federal Student Loans
Applying for federal student loans is good way to help finance your education. The process can take a while, but being prepared and knowing what to expect can help you navigate the process more easily.
Applying for Federal Student Loans
In order to receive federal student loans, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The application forms can be completed on paper and mailed in, or they can now be completed online at fafsa.ed.gov. Here are a few things to keep in mind when going through the application process for federal student loans.
- Know your timeline. To get federal student loans you should complete the FAFSA the spring before the fall semester in which you intend to enroll in a college or a university. You should not apply for federal student loans any earlier than that, such as during your junior year of high school, because your financial information may change and you will not actually be attending a college program the following fall. When completing your FAFSA, it is not necessary to be certain of which school you will be attending, though you may need to know which schools to which you applied and their school code.
- Get your PIN. When completing the FAFSA, it is helpful to get a PIN, or Personal Identification Number. Your PIN will help you access your information online at the U.S. Department of Education website. You will also be able to use your PIN as a signature when completing forms online. Your PIN can expedite the processing of your application for federal student loans for the duration of your education, so be sure that you can remember it or keep it in a safe place. Also remember that your PIN is personal and should not be shared with anyone.
- Have tax information handy. On the FAFSA forms, you will also need to submit some tax information as well as other financial data that is critical to calculating how much you can get in federal student loans. If your taxes or your parents’ taxes are not complete when you submit the FAFSA, so you can use last year’s information for an estimate. If your taxes are complete, you should keep that information handy so you can use it on your FAFSA. You and your parents will also be asked questions on the form about income and other dependents in your household.
If you are having trouble completing your FAFSA forms, there is free help available. You can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID. There are also websites that can help you navigate the federal student loan application process, but you should not use a service that requires you to pay.