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These 8 Apps Can Help You Make It to Your Next Payday

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Financial emergencies have a habit of cropping up at the worst possible time — when you’re stuck in-between paychecks. Perhaps you need $250 for an emergency car repair, but you just paid your rent and won’t have the funds until your next payday in two weeks. You might want to turn to a credit card or a payday loan, but those could rack up onerous fees.

What if you could get a portion of your next paycheck early without paying hefty fees or interest? Several financial services companies make this a reality by helping workers make ends meet without taking on debt. Others offer short-term, interest-free loans based on a flat membership fee, which may be easier to manage and budget for than using a credit card or paying financing fees to take out and repay a loan.

1. Earnin

  • Available if you are paid via direct deposits into a checking account from an Earnin-supported bank
  • Withdraw up to $100 early per pay period, or up to $500 after continued use of the app
  • No fees or interest — Earnin makes money from voluntary tips

Earnin is an app-based service available on Android and iPhone smartphones. Once you download the app and create an account, you can connect your bank account (if Earnin supports your bank) and verify your paycheck schedule. You must have direct deposit set up and linked to a checking account.

How it works: In order to use Earnin, you need to upload your timesheet, either manually, by connecting a time-tracking account to the app or by using the Earnin app’s GPS feature if you have a single workspace. Using this information, Earnin estimates your average take-home hourly rate after taxes and deductions.

Earnin keeps track of the money you earn while you work, and you can withdraw a portion of your unpaid wages before your next payday. At the start, you may only be able to withdraw up to $100 each pay period. But based on your account balances and use, the pay-period maximum could potentially increase up to $500. The payment will arrive in your checking account within one business day, or even a few seconds, depending on where you bank.

Earnin doesn’t connect to your employer’s payroll. It connects to whatever bank account you use to collect your pay. The next time your paycheck hits your bank account, Earnin will automatically withdraw what you owe. There aren’t any fees or interest charges for using the service; however, Earnin does ask for support in the form of tips.

2. Branch

  • Available if you are paid via direct deposits into a checking account
  • Withdraw up to $500 in earned wages per pay period
  • No fee for standard (three-day) withdrawals, but $3.99 per instant withdrawals

Branch gives you access to money that you’ve earned already, but wouldn’t otherwise receive until your next payday. The company also offers more features if multiple employees at the same company use the app, or if your employer signs up. For example, employees can check their shifts using the app and make a request to swap shifts, ask for coverage or quickly pick up someone else’s shift.

How it works: To use the early pay feature, you’ll need to connect a checking account and debit card, and receive direct deposits into the connected account. You can request an advance of up to $500 using the app — the money will be deposited into your account, and then paid back with an automatic withdrawal on your next payday.

You’ll also need to upload images of your work schedule. However, if your employer has also signed up for Branch and you manage your shifts using the app, your schedule may automatically be in the system.

The early payments can take several days, although you may be eligible for same-day payments based on your direct deposit history and whether you generally have money leftover after your paydays or receiving an advance.

A standard withdrawal into your bank account is free and could take up to three days. There is a $3.99 fee if you want to request an instant payment.

3. Dave

  • Available if you’re employed, paid via direct deposit and have a checking account
  • Borrow up to $75 with an interest-free, short-term loan
  • $1 monthly membership fee and a small fee for expedited delivery. Dave also accepts tips

Dave is a membership service that connects to your bank account and will text you if you’re in danger of overdrafting. The service costs $1 per month. Qualified members can borrow up to $75 with an interest-free loan that helps them cover expenses until their next payday.

How it works: Once you’re a member, you’ll need to get approved before you can request an advance. To do this, you’ll need to connect a checking account where your paychecks are directly deposited and have an account history with several consistent paychecks. Your approval may also depend on whether Dave determines whether you’ll have enough money to repay the loan — so if you generally get paid and spend all your money the next day, you might not get approved.

Once you’re able to request a loan, you may be able to borrow up to $75 without paying any interest or fees. The loan can take up to three business days to reach your account. There is also an express funding option which will get the money deposited within eight hours for a “small fee” (though Dave doesn’t specify how much that is in the FAQ). You can also choose to give a tip when you take out an advance, but tipping is optional.

The due date may be your next payday, but some smaller advances will have a due date on the next Friday even if that’s before your next payday. You can repay the loan automatically from your connected checking account, or repay part or all of the advance early if you want.

4. MoneyLion

  • A personal finance platform
  • Borrow up to $250 with an interest-free, short-term loan
  • Free membership option. $29 monthly fee for extra features, but the fee can be offset

MoneyLion is an personal finance platform. Members receive a checking account, investment account and access to free cash advances. You can use the cash advance to help cover expenses until your next payday.

How it works: The basic MoneyLion membership is free, but there’s also a Plus membership available for a $29 monthly fee. However, you can earn $1 cash back by logging into the app each day and swiping through the daily cards, which have advice, tips and alerts. As a result, you can get the Plus membership essentially for free if you’re a daily user.

The free membership allows you to request up to $250 with a 0% APR cash advance. The money will appear in your MoneyLion account in seconds and will be repaid on your next payday.

To qualify for the cash advance, you’ll need to have your paychecks of at least $250 directly deposited into your MoneyLion account. Your cash advance limit will be 10 percent of your direct deposit amount. For example, you’ll need to have at least $2,500 directly deposited each pay period to qualify for the full $250 cash advance.

Plus members have another funding option, a personal loan for up to $500 that’s repaid over 12 months. However, the loan has a 5.99% APR.

5. Brigit

  • Available if you have direct deposit with average amounts over $400
  • Borrow $80 to $250 with an interest-free, short-term loan
  • $9.99 monthly fee

Brigit is another service that connects to your bank account and allows you to take out interest-free loans between paychecks. The amount you can borrow is based on your bank account activity rather than your work schedule.

How it works: You’ll need to connect a checking account that’s been active for at least 60 days, has a positive balance and has at least three recurring direct deposits from the same employer. Brigit says it looks for direct deposits of more than $400 per paycheck and $1,500 per month on average. You’ll also need to have a history of maintaining a positive balance the day of (and day after) your payday.

Once you’re set up, you can request an advance on your next paycheck. The amount will depend on your checking account’s history and can vary from $80 to $250. You can receive one advance at a time, which will automatically be repaid from your bank account on your next payday. However, you are also able to repay the advance early.

There’s a $9.99 monthly fee, which you’ll have to pay whether or not you take an advance during the month. Considering the fee and $250 cap, this may be a much more expensive option than the apps that give you early access to your wages. For example, if you pay the $9.99 monthly fee, are approved for the maximum $250 advance and have to repay the loan in 14 days, the loan has a 104% APR. If you’re only approved for a $100 advance, the APR increases to 261%.

6. DailyPay

  • Employer must sign up and offer DailyPay as a benefit
  • Get paid early for the work you’ve done
  • Pay $1.25 or $2.99 per transfer, but employers can choose to cover the expense

DailyPay connects with employers’ payroll systems to give employees early access to money they’ve already earned. Your employer will need to sign up with DailyPay before you can use the service. It’s free for employers and works as an add-on to ADP payroll systems.

How it works: Once your employer signs up, you can create your DailyPay account. As you work, you’ll accrue an “available balance” each workday based on the hours you’ve worked. You can then transfer money that you’ve earned to your bank account, prepaid debit card or a payroll card.

DailyPay charges a fee of $1.25 for every transfer that you make, with the funds being delivered the next business day. If you need your money before tomorrow, you can do an instant transfer that has a fee of $2.99. Employers can choose to pay for part or all of the fee.

7. PayActiv

  • Employer must sign up and offer PayActiv as a benefit
  • You can withdraw the greater of $500 or up to 50% of your earned wages
  • Fees range from $0 to $5 per withdrawal based on your employer

PayActiv is an employer-sponsored program that allows employees to withdraw a portion of their earned wages before payday. While you can’t sign up on your own, you can ask PayActiv to contact your employer about offering the service. There’s no setup or operating costs for employers.

How it works: Once your employer offers PayActiv, you sign up for an account online, with the app, via text or by calling the company. After creating your account, you can start withdrawing money as soon as you earn it rather than waiting for your payday.

You can withdraw up to 50% of your earned income (up to $500 max) during each pay period via an electronic transfer or withdrawal from select ATMs. The amount you withdraw will be deducted from your next paycheck.

The early payment comes from PayActiv, but it isn’t a loan and you won’t need to pay interest. Instead, your employer will automatically send PayActiv an equivalent amount of money from your next paycheck. PayActiv charges a $5 fee for each withdrawal, but some employers choose to cover part or all of the expenses.

PayActiv also offers a prepaid card where you can have earned wages deposited each day. It’s free to get the card and there’s no fee if you don’t use it. However, there’s a flat weekly $3 fee (if you’re paid weekly) or bi-weekly $5 fee (if you’re paid bi-weekly) during any period when you do use your card.

8. FlexWage

  • Employer must sign up and offer FlexWage as a benefit
  • You’ll receive a reloadable card tied where you can add earned pay to your account before payday
  • Fees vary depending on your employer

FlexWage is another employer-sponsored program that can give employees early access to money they’ve earned. As you work, your earned income accrues and you can then transfer money to a prepaid card.

How it works: With FlexWage, the employer determines how often you can make early withdrawals and the maximum amount you can withdraw. The money will be transferred to a prepaid card and then deducted from your next paycheck. You may have to pay a fee, but it will depend on your employer; FlexWage does not list a potential fee range on its website.

FlexWage also has a special program for restaurants that allows a restaurant to give employees access to their tips, bonuses or commissions at the end of each day. The money can either be added to a prepaid card or transferred to a bank account.

Need more money? You may consider a personal loan

While a cash advance or getting early access to your wages can help when you are in a small pinch, they often cannot cover a larger emergency expense. If you need more money, you might want to take out a personal loan.

Personal loans are often unsecured loans, meaning you’ll qualify based on your creditworthiness. You’ll receive the money, which can sometimes be deposited directly into your bank account the same day that you apply, and then repay the loan over a predetermined period of time. Many personal loans have a fixed interest rate, and you can know exactly how much your monthly payments will be and how much you’ll pay overall before accepting a loan offer.

The downside is that you may wind up paying fees to take out the loan and a lot of interest, especially if you take out a large loan and then spend several years repaying it.

However, if you have poor or no credit, watch out for online lenders that offer high-rate installment loans. These can seem like good options when the monthly payments are affordable, but the fees and interest can result in repaying several times as much as you borrow. You can explore bad credit loan options here.

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APR
Terms
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36 or 60

months

620

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36 or 60

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Not all applicants will qualify for larger loan amounts or most favorable loan terms. Loan approval and actual loan terms depend on your ability to meet our credit standards (including a responsible credit history, sufficient income after monthly expenses, and availability of collateral). Larger loan amounts require a first lien on a motor vehicle no more than ten years old, that meets our value requirements, titled in your name with valid insurance. Maximum annual percentage rate (APR) is 35.99%, subject to state restrictions. APRs are generally higher on loans not secured by a vehicle. The lowest APR shown represents the 10% of loans with the most favorable APR. Active duty military, their spouse or dependents covered under the Military Lending Act may not pledge any vehicle as collateral for a loan. OneMain loan proceeds cannot be used for postsecondary educational expenses as defined by the CFPB’s Regulation Z, such as college, university or vocational expenses; for any business or commercial purpose; to purchase securities; or for gambling or illegal purposes. Borrowers in these states are subject to these minimum loan sizes: Alabama: $2,100. California: $3,000. Georgia: Unless you are a present customer, $3,100 minimum loan amount. Ohio: $2,000. Virginia: $2,600.

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Fixed rates from 5.990% APR to 16.240% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.75% APR to 14.60% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of March 18, 2019 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.75% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 2.50% plus 4.28% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

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See Consumer Licenses.

SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Minimum loan requirements might be higher than $5,000 in specific states due to legal requirements. Fixed and variable-rate caps may be lower in some states due to legal requirements and may impact your eligibility to qualify for a SoFi loan.

If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you may apply for Unemployment Protection. SoFi will suspend your monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during your forbearance period. Interest will continue to accrue and will be added to your principal balance at the end of each forbearance period, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Benefits are offered in three month increments, and capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. To be eligible for this assistance you must provide proof that you have applied for and are eligible for unemployment compensation, and you must actively work with our Career Advisory Group to look for new employment. If the loan is co-signed the unemployment protection applies where both the borrower and cosigner lose their job and meet conditions.

Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi's underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publishing.

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Louis DeNicola
Louis DeNicola |

Louis DeNicola is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Louis at [email protected]

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College Students and Recent Grads, Reviews

Sallie Mae Student Loans Review for 2019

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mortar board cash

Most students who borrow money for their education should start with federal student loans. The federal loan programs offer borrowers a variety of repayment, forgiveness, cancellation and discharge programs that aren’t available from private lenders.

But if you reach your federal loan limits, or examine your options and find you might be better off with a private student loan, you can compare loan offerings from private student lenders. One of the largest private student loan companies, Sallie Mae, has more than a dozen education loan products you can consider.

What is Sallie Mae?

Started nearly 50 years ago, Sallie Mae has played a variety of roles in the student loan space, including lending federally guaranteed loans and private student loans, and servicing federal and private loans.

Sallie Mae spun off a portion of its student loan servicing business to form a new company, Navient, in 2014. And due to changes in the federal student loan programs, Sallie Mae no longer originates federally guaranteed loans. Now, Sallie Mae only offers and services private student loans, while also offering other banking products, such as savings accounts.

Types of student loans Sallie Mae offers

Whether you’re a parent of a grade school student or about to begin your doctorate, Sallie Mae may have a student loan that fits your needs. Its loans are designed for undergraduate students, graduate students and parents or sponsors of students. It also has loans to cover medical residency or bar exam costs.

  1. K-12: For a parent or sponsor of a child who wants to take out a loan to pay for a student’s private kindergarten-through-high school education
  2. Parent: For a parent or sponsor of a child who wants to take out a loan to pay for an undergraduate, graduate or certificate program
  3. Career training: For students at eligible non-degree granting schools
  4. Undergraduate: For students at degree-granting schools who are earning an associate or bachelor’s degree
  5. Graduate: For students at degree-granting schools who are earning a master’s, doctorate or law degree
  6. MBA: For business school students
  7. Health professions graduate: For graduate health profession students, including those in allied health, nursing, pharmacy, and other graduate-level health degrees.
  8. Dental school: For graduate dental degree students, including those in dentistry, endodontics and orthodontics programs
  9. Medical school: For graduate medical degree students, including those in allopathic, osteopathic and podiatric programs
  10. Medical residency and relocation: For medical residency students to help pay for board examinations and residency-related travel and moving expenses
  11. Dental residency and relocation: For dental residency students to help pay for board examinations and residency-related travel and moving expenses
  12. Bar study: For law students and recent graduates to help pay for bar review courses, registration and living expenses while you study
  13. Law school: For students studying for their law degree

Sallie Mae student loans in a nutshell

Most of Sallie Mae’s loans are identical when it comes to fees, cosigner release options and discounts.

Fees

  • Aside from the K-12 loan’s 3% disbursement fee, none of the loans have application, origination, disbursement or prepayment fees.
  • Late payments result in a fee that’s 5% of the amount due (capped at $25).
  • Returned checks carry a $20 fee.

Cosigner release

  • You can apply to release a cosigner after making 12 consecutive, on-time, full interest and principal payments. However, parent loans don’t offer a cosigner release option.

Discounts

  • With all but the K-12 loans, you can receive a 0.25% interest rate discount if you sign up for automatic payments.
 K-12 loansParent loansCareer trainingUndergraduate loansGraduate loansMBA loans
Fixed APR range*Not available5.49% -
12.87%
Not available5.49% -
11.85%
6.00% -
10.23%
6.00% -
10.23%
Variable APR range*9.49% - 16.14%5.74% -
12.37%**
6.49% - 13.83%**4.25% -
11.35%**
4.50% -
10.11%**
4.50% -
10.11%**
Loan termsThree years10 yearsFive to 15 yearsFive to 15 yearsFive to 15 yearsFive to 15 years
Loan amount$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of tuition
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
Repayment plans (both in-school and post-school)Full interest and principal paymentsFull interest and principal payments

Interest-only payments
$25 a month

Interest-only payments


12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends
Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends
Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends
Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends

**Variable rates are capped at 25%.

 Health professionsDental schoolMedical schoolMedical residencyDental residencyLaw school
Fixed APR range*6.25% - 10.23%6.00% - 9.99%5.99% -
9.98%
Not availableNot available6.00% -
9.99%
Variable APR range*4.50% - 10.11%**4.50% - 9.86%**4.50% -
9.86%**
5.21% - 11.67%5.21% - 11.67%4.50% -
9.86%
Loan termsFive to 15 years20 years20 yearsUp to 20 yearsUp to 20 yearsUp to 15 years
Loan amount$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to $20,000
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to $20,000
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
Repayment plans (both in-school and post-school)Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends
Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends
Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends
Full interest and principal payments

Two- or four-year interest-only repayment
Full interest and principal payments

Two- or four-year interest-only repayment
Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends

**Variable-rate loans have a 25% APR cap.

How Sallie Mae compares with other lenders

Sallie Mae finished first among MagnifyMoney’s top five private student lenders for 2019. We compared undergraduate student loan products and began with the nation’s 10 largest national lenders. The ranking focused on loans’ APR ranges, discounts, fees and repayment terms, as well as lenders’ policies for releasing a cosigner, deferring loan payments and their online applications.

In addition to having a top-rated undergraduate loan, Sallie Mae differentiates itself by offering its wide variety of different student loans. Many of these other loans share characteristics with the undergraduate loan, including the 12-payment cosigner release requirement, lack of a specific maximum loan amount and a 0.25% interest rate discount for auto debit.

However, as with any lender, there are pros and cons to consider before taking out a loan from Sallie Mae.

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Advantages of Sallie Mae Student Loans

You may be able to choose a repayment plan. Depending on the loan product, you may be able to choose from up to three different repayment plans. A plan that requires you make payments while you’re in school could help you save money in the long run; however, deferring your full payments can give you more money to cover education and living expenses now.

12-month payment requirement for cosigner release. With most Sallie Mae student loans, you can apply to release your cosigner once you make 12 consecutive, full, on-time payments. Other lenders may let you apply for cosigner release, but it could take longer to qualify, in some cases requiring 48 full monthly payments before you can apply.

In addition to the payments, you’ll need to pass a credit check and meet Sallie Mae’s requirements for releasing a cosigner.

Discharge due to death or permanent and total disability. Similar to the federal student loan guidelines, Sallie Mae will waive a borrower’s current balance if he or she dies or becomes permanently and totally disabled. The benefit may be especially important to borrowers who have a cosigner or dependents, such as a spouse or child(ren), who could be affected if the debt isn’t waived.

No preset loan limit. While some federal student loans and private student loans set dollar-amount limits on how much you can borrow, most Sallie Mae student loans allow you to borrow up to your school’s certified cost of attendance.

Loans for less-than-half-time students. Some private school lenders require borrowers to have at least a half-time course load to qualify for a student loan. Sallie Mae’s loans for students don’t have this requirement.

Forbearance and deferment options. Putting your loans into forbearance or deferment lets you temporarily stop making payments without getting charged late fees or hurting your credit. Forbearance is generally for when you have trouble making payments, perhaps due to losing a job or a medical emergency. Deferment, meanwhile, may apply to other circumstances, such as returning to school.

Sallie Mae could approve up to 12 months of forbearance in three-month increments and up to 60 months of deferment in 12-month increments. Interest continues to accumulate, and your long-term costs may increase, but forbearance or deferment are still better options than missing a payment or letting a loan go into default.

Extra perks. Many of Sallie Mae’s student loans also come with the Study Smarter benefit. With it, borrowers can get four months of free study tools or 30 minutes of live online tutoring through Chegg Tutors® or a combination of the two.

All of Sallie Mae’s loans also give borrowers and cosigners quarterly access to a FICO® credit score.

Drawbacks of Sallie Mae Student Loans

No additional interest rate discount. Sallie Mae’s 0.25% interest rate discount for auto debit is standard for most federal and private student loans. But other private lenders offer borrowers opportunities to get an additional 0.25% to 0.50% interest rate discount by having other financial products from the same lender or making auto debits from an account with the same lender.

Sallie Mae assigns loan terms. Many Sallie Mae student loans have a repayment term that ranges from five to 15 years. Most other lenders that offer a range of terms let borrowers choose their term, along with the corresponding monthly payment and interest rate. Sallie Mae, however, will assign you a term.

No loan pre-approval. Private student loans require a credit check. Some lenders will do a soft credit pull, which doesn’t hurt your score, to determine if you can qualify for a loan or need a cosigner and to show you estimated interest rates if you qualify. Sallie Mae will only show you rates after a hard credit inquiry, which could hurt your score slightly.

What it takes to qualify with Sallie Mae

All Sallie Mae student loans have the same basic requirements:

Minimum credit score: Sallie Mae doesn’t disclose a minimum credit score requirement. In 2016, applicants that were approved for a Sallie Mae student loan had, on average, a 748 FICO score at the time of approval.
Minimum age for borrowers: Borrowers must be the age of majority in their state (often 18 years old). Younger applicants will need an eligible and creditworthy cosigner.
State residency requirements: Sallie Mae student loans are available in every state.
Eligible schools: Sallie Mae doesn’t publish a list of eligible schools, but you can search for the name of a school at the beginning of the loan application to see if your school qualifies.

 K-12 loansParent loansCareer trainingUndergraduate loansGraduate loansMBA loans
Additional requirementsThe student you’re taking the loan out for has to be enrolled in a private school.The student you’re taking the loan out for has to be pursuing a certificate or an associate, bachelor’s or graduate degree at a degree-granting school.You must be enrolled at a non-degree-granting school and pursuing professional training or a certification.You must be a enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a certification or an associate or bachelor’s degree.You must be enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a master’s, doctorate or law degree.You must be enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a masters of business administration degree.
 Health professionsDental schoolMedical schoolMedical residencyDental residencyBar studyLaw school
Additional requirementsYou must be enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a degree in one of the eligible areas of study.You must be enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a degree in one of the eligible areas of study.You must be enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a degree in one of the eligible areas of study.You must either have a half-time course load and be in your last year at an eligible school, or graduated from an eligible school in the previous 12 months.

If you didn’t already earn your medical degree, you must expect to earn the degree in the current academic program year.
You must either have a half-time course load and be in your last year at an eligible school, or graduated from an eligible school in the previous 12 months.

If you didn’t already earn your dental degree, you must expect to earn the degree in the current academic program year.
You must either have a half-time course load and be in your last year at an eligible school, or graduated from an eligible school in the previous 12 months.

You must take the bar exam within 12 months of graduating.
You must be enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a J.D. degree.

What borrower is Sallie Mae best for?

Sallie Mae offers a variety of student loan products that could be a good fit for parents or students. If you, or a student you’re supporting, can’t take out additional federal student loans but need more money for school, Sallie Mae’s lack of a predefined loan limit could make it a good option.

The medical and dental residency programs and the bar study loan do have a loan limit. But even then, it’s higher than the limit of some competitors who offer similar types of loans.

You also may want to consider Sallie Mae if you think you’ll need a cosigner and would like to release the cosigner later. Although you still may not qualify, depending on your creditworthiness, the 12 months of consecutive full payments is shorter than what some other lenders require.

Taking a closer look at the online platform

You can learn a lot of details about Sallie Mae’s student loans on its website. There are specific pages for each loan product that have a lot of the basic information you’ll want to know. And there are pages with generally helpful information, such as how to make a loan payment or options if you’re having trouble making payments.

Some of the informational pages, such as on the one about interest rates and interest capitalization, also have quick video explainers to help you understand the topic and why it’s important to student loan borrowers.

The actual loan application doesn’t have quite as nice of a design as the other parts of the Sallie Mae website, but it’s still relatively easy to navigate and fill out.

The fine print

The Sallie Mae product and informational pages give you a lot of the basic information you’ll want if you’re comparing student loans from several lenders. There are also loan application and solicitation disclosure forms for many of the loans online. In these, you can see fine-print items like the variable-rate loans’ interest-rate cap and late payment fees.

It’s more difficult to find fine-print information on some of the loans, though. The K-12, residency and bar loans don’t have application and disclosure forms on their pages, for example. We were only able to confirm these loans’ fees and interest rate caps by reaching out to a representative from Sallie Mae.

While you would have a chance to review your loan details after agreeing to a credit check but before signing the loan agreement, it would be nice to have that information up front.

We were also disappointed in how difficult it is to understand how loan terms work with Sallie Mae student loans.

Some private lenders only offer one term. Others offer a variety of terms and let borrowers choose their loan term. Most of Sallie Mae’s undergraduate and graduate student loans have a five- to 15-year term, but Sallie Mae chooses which term to offer you.

The loan-term range and the fact that Sallie Mae chooses the term rather than the borrower aren’t clearly disclosed on the loan’s main page.

What to expect during the application process

Sallie Mae has an online loan application system that makes the process fairly uniform for all its student loans. A few questions may differ, but you can expect the process to be similar to the following steps. Applicants with cosigners may need the cosigner’s personal information, including his or her Social Security number and date of birth.

Basic information

General information. Basic information about the student and borrower:

  • Your name, email address and phone number.
  • Your date of birth, citizenship status and Social Security number.
  • Your relationship to the student, if you’re taking out a loan for someone else.

Address. Your permanent address and a previous address if you moved in the last year. If you have a different mailing address you’ll have to fill that in, too.

Student and school information. If you’re taking out the loan for a student, you’ll need the student’s name, date of birth, citizenship status and Social Security number.

Enter the name of the school and your (or the student’s) academic information:

  • Degree type or certificate of study
  • Major or specialty
  • Enrollment status
  • Grade level
  • Academic period that the loan will cover
  • Anticipated graduation or certification graduate date

Loan application

Loan amount. The cost of attendance, which the application can help you estimate, as well as your estimated financial assistance.

You’ll automatically have a loan amount for the difference between your cost of attendance and financial assistance. You can choose to request less money, and even if you’re approved, Sallie Mae could offer you less than what you requested.

Employment info: Fill in information about your work, including:

  • Employment status
  • Employer’s name
  • Your occupation
  • Work phone number
  • Years with the current employer
  • Gross annual income

Financial info: You can list additional income and assets you have, such as:

  • Income from alimony, child support or a rental property
  • Investments
  • Disability
  • Social Security
  • Income from a household member, such as a spouse
  • Your current assets that could be in checking, savings, CD or money market accounts

You’ll also be asked about your expenses, including monthly housing payments (when applicable).

Personal contacts: Unless you’re taking out a loan for someone else, you’ll have to share two personal contacts that Sallie Mae can use as references. These could be a relative or family friends, and you’ll have to have their full name and phone number.

Submit application: Choose to apply on your own or add a cosigner. You’ll be prompted to read and agree to an electronic delivery consent form, and may then get a copy of the loan’s disclosure form and Sallie Mae’s privacy policy.

You’ll have to agree to let Sallie Mae review your credit history to submit your application.

Finalize the loan

Once you’ve completed an application, you may need to send verification information (such as pay stubs or tax returns). But generally, Sallie Mae will offer a quick response based on your credit.

If you’re approved, you can choose your type of interest rate and repayment plan before accepting the loan. Once you accept the loan offer, Sallie Mae will contact your school to verify that you’re eligible for the loan and loan amount.

The school certification process may take several weeks, and it could even be put on hold until about a month before your term begins. As long as everything checks out, Sallie Mae will send the loan to you or your school, depending on the type of loan.

Already have student loans and looking to refinance? Check out our top picks to refinance student loans.

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Louis DeNicola
Louis DeNicola |

Louis DeNicola is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Louis at [email protected]

Rebecca Safier
Rebecca Safier |

Rebecca Safier is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Rebecca here

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College Students and Recent Grads

The Ultimate Guide to Student Loans in 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Student loans are loans that you take out to help pay for educational expenses, such as tuition, fees, room, board, equipment and transportation to and from school. This guide covers the ins and outs of federal and private student loans, explains how to apply for student loans, discusses which option may be best for your circumstances and offers several alternatives to borrowing money.

PART I: Understanding student loans

As with other types of debt, you must agree to repay the money, plus interest.

However, student loans can differ from other types of loans. They may have less stringent credit or income requirements for students, and you may be able to delay making payments until after you leave school.

How do student loans work?

You can apply for a student loan from the federal government or from a private lender. The eligibility requirements and application process (discussed in detail later) are different for federal and private student loans, but the overall student loan process can be similar.

After applying and getting approved for a student loan, the lender will often send the money directly to your school. The school applies the money to your account to pay for tuition, fees and other expenses. If there’s money left over, the school will issue you a refund which you can use for additional educational expenses, such as off-campus housing and food. You can also return the excess funds.

With federal loans, you’ll need to reapply for financial aid once every year to remain eligible; the policies of private lenders vary. You may need to reapply each term, apply once for an academic year or apply once and fund multiple years. However, with both federal and private student loans, the loan will generally be split up and disbursed (i.e. sent) to the school at the beginning of each term.

Terms and repayment options

Your repayment term — the amount of time you have to repay the loan — and repayment plans can vary depending on the type of student loan. Many student loans, including federal student loans, let you defer payments while you’re enrolled at least half time in an eligible program, as well as during a six-month grace period after you graduate, leave school or drop below a half-time schedule. However, some private lenders require borrowers to make at least interest-only or $25 monthly payments once the loan is disbursed.

Federal student loans automatically enter a 10-year standard repayment plan. However, you can switch to a different loan repayment plan for free. Other repayment plans may give you more time to repay your loans, which can decrease your monthly payments but lead to paying more interest over the loan’s lifetime.

You may also be eligible for an income-driven plan that bases your monthly payments on your income, family size and where you live. An income-driven plan could even lead to $0 monthly payments, and the remainder of your loan balance might be forgiven after you make monthly payments for 20 to 25 years. There are also federal student loan forgiveness and cancellation programs.

Private loans aren’t eligible for federal repayment, forgiveness or cancellation programs, and often you’ll choose your loan’s term or be assigned a term when you apply. Some lenders have different repayment plans, but with others the only way to change your private loan’s term is to refinance the student loan.

Interest rates

The interest rate on your student loan can impact your overall cost of borrowing and your monthly payment amount. It’s important to understand how a lender determines your interest rate, how interest accrues on your loan and what your options are before agreeing to take out a student loan.

Congress sets the interest rate on federal student loans. All federal student loans have a fixed interest rate, meaning the rate won’t change once the loan is disbursed.

By contrast, private student loans’ interest rates can vary greatly. Lenders may offer different rate ranges, and the rate you receive will depend on your creditworthiness (or the credit of your cosigner). Private lenders also offer fixed- and variable-rate loans. Variable-rate loans are riskier because the interest rate can change in the future, but they can be enticing because they often offer a lower initial interest rate than fixed-rate loans.

Many federal and private student loans begin accruing interest as soon as the loan is disbursed. The interest will continue to accrue while your loans are in deferment or in a grace period, and then it will be added to your loan’s principal balance (i.e. capitalized) once you enter repayment. When this happens, more interest may accrue each month, as your interest rate will now apply to a higher principal loan balance.

PART II: Types of student loans

Student loans fall into one of two general categories: federal or private student loans.

Federal student loans

Federal student loans can offer borrowers simplicity and savings compared with private student loans. Although there are differences depending on the type of federal student loan or the degree the borrower is pursuing, federal student loans have uniform eligibility requirements, interest rates, loan terms, benefits and repayment options for every borrower.

Private student loans

On the other hand, private student loans — and their eligibility requirements, interest rates, loan terms, benefits and drawbacks — can vary depending on the lender. Carefully research different companies’ policies and the fine print on their loan agreements before agreeing to take out a loan.

Often, federal student loans are the best first choice for borrowers because of their standard terms and low barrier to entry. Even if you could get a lower rate with a private student loan, flexible repayment options, deferment and forbearance programs and eligibility for federal forgiveness can make federal loans a better option. Private lenders may not offer or guarantee similar options.

PART III: Federal student loan options

What is a federal student loan?

A federal student loan is a loan that’s funded by the federal government. There are currently three types of federal student loans available to new borrowers through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program: direct subsidized loans, direct unsubsidized loans and direct PLUS loans.

There are also direct consolidation loans, which allow borrowers to combine multiple federal student loans. Previous borrowers may also be repaying other federal student loans that are no longer available to new borrowers.

All three types of federal student loans have the same basic eligibility requirements, including being enrolled at least half time or accepted into an eligible degree or certificate program. In addition, the application process always starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

However, these loans are not identical. They may have different annual loan limits, aggregate loan limits and credit requirements. Loan details, such as eligibility for different repayment plans, can also vary depending on the borrower — whether they are an undergraduate, graduate or professional student, or the parent of a student.

The loans may have different interest rates and disbursement fees, a fee that’s subtracted from the amount that’s sent to your school. These fees depend on the loan type, the type of borrower and when the loan is disbursed.

The federal student loan interest rates in this guide are for federal loans disbursed from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. The disbursement fees apply to federal student loans disbursed from Oct. 1, 2018 to Sept. 30, 2019.

Direct subsidized loan

 

Interest rate

Disbursement fee

Annual loan limit

Aggregate loan limit

Credit needed

Direct subsidized loans

5.05%

1.062%

$3,500 first year
$4,500 second year
$5,500 third and subsequent year

$23,000

None

How does it work?Direct subsidized loans are only available to undergraduate students, and only if their school determines they have a financial need based on the school’s cost of attendance and their expected family contribution. The direct subsidized loan limit increases during your second and third years. However, your offer could decrease if your financial need decreases.

The subsidy part comes into play after your loan is disbursed. Although the loan starts to accrue interest right away, the U.S. Department of Education will pay the interest while you’re in school at least half-time, during your grace period and if you later put the loan into deferment.

Pros and cons. If you plan to take out a federal student loan, the direct subsidized loan’s relatively low disbursement fee and interest rate, as well as the interest subsidization makes it the best option in most cases. Of course, it’s only an option if you qualify — the biggest drawback is that you may not be able to borrow enough to pay for all your educational expenses.

Direct unsubsidized loan

 

Interest rate

Disbursement fee

Annual loan limit

Aggregate loan limit

Credit needed

For dependent undergraduate students

5.05%

1.062%

$5,500 first year
$6,500 second year
$7,500 third and subsequent years

The annual loan limits include Direct Subsidized Loans.

$31,000, including up to $23,000 in Direct Subsidized Loans.

None

For independent undergrads and dependent undergrads after a parent gets denied for a PLUS Loan

5.05%

1.062%

$9,500 first year
$10,500 second year
$12,500 third and subsequent years

The annual loan limits include Direct Subsidized Loans.

$57,500, including up to $23,000 in Direct Subsidized Loans.

None

For graduate and professional students

6.6%

1.062%

$20,500

$138,500, including up to $65,500 in Direct Subsidized Loans.

None

How does it work? Undergraduate and graduate students may be able to borrow money with direct unsubsidized loans, even if they don’t have a demonstrated financial need. The loans also have higher annual and aggregate loan limits than direct subsidized loans, and the limit varies depending on your degree type and dependency status.

However, the loan limits include debt from both Direct Subsidized Loans and direct unsubsidized loans loans. You also might not be offered the maximum amount, as your offer depends on several factors — these can include your school’s cost of attendance, your family’s expected contribution and how much money you’ve received from other sources of financial aid, such as scholarships.

Pros and cons. The higher loan limits and lack of a financial need requirement may make it easier to qualify for a direct unsubsidized loan; for undergraduate students, these loans have the same interest rate and disbursement fee as the subsidized version. However, the biggest drawback may be the lack of the subsidy. Without the subsidy, you could leave school with significantly more debt than you initially borrowed, unless you make interest payments while you’re in school and during the grace period.

For graduate and professional students who aren’t eligible for direct subsidized loans, the direct unsubsidized loans offer a lower interest rate and disbursement fee than grad PLUS loans. However, graduate and professional students may have already established their creditworthiness, and so they might be able to save money with a private student loan.

Parent PLUS loan

 

Interest rate

Disbursement fee

Annual loan limit

Aggregate loan limit

Credit needed

Parent PLUS loan

7.6%

4.248%

Your child's cost of attendance minus other financial aid

No limit

No adverse credit history

How does it work? Parent PLUS loans are direct PLUS loans that a parent borrows to help a dependent child pay for school. Parent borrowers must meet many of the same basic eligibility requirements as student borrowers; however, parent PLUS loans also require a credit check. The credit check looks for an adverse credit history in your credit reports, such as a recent bankruptcy or outstanding delinquent debts.

If you don’t pass the credit check, you may still be able to take out a parent PLUS loan if you have a creditworthy endorser (i.e. cosigner) or appeal the decision. Your child may also be able to take out additional direct unsubsidized loans if you’re unable to qualify for a parent PLUS loan.

Loan payments begin immediately after the parent PLUS loan is disbursed, unless parents request a deferment. If you request a deferment, you may not have to make payments as long as your child is enrolled at least half time and for the six months after they leave school or begin taking a less-than-half-time schedule. However, interest will accrue during the deferral period.

Pros and cons. As with other federal student loans, parent PLUS loans are eligible for different federal repayment plans, and forgiveness and cancellation programs. However, parent PLUS loans are only eligible for one of the four income-driven plans: the income-contingent plan — notably, this is only an option after the parent PLUS loan is consolidated with a direct consolidation loan.

Direct PLUS loans, including parent PLUS loans, also have the highest interest rate and disbursement fee of the federal student loans. The interest rate and fees may still be lower than what you could receive with a private student loan, but you should compare your options.

Another potential con is that parents can’t transfer the loan to their children, although a child may be able to take over the debt if they can qualify to refinance student loans with a private lender. The debt from the parent PLUS loan could also increase your debt-to-income ratio, which may affect your eligibility for other loans or financial products.

Grad PLUS loan

 

Interest rate

Disbursement fee

Annual loan limit

Aggregate loan limit

Credit needed

Grad PLUS loan

7.6%

4.248%

Your cost of attendance minus other financial aid

No limit

No adverse credit history

How does it work? Graduate and professional students can use grad PLUS loans to pay for educational expenses. They have the same fees, limits and credit-check requirements as parent PLUS loans (both loans are direct PLUS loans), but there are a few differences.

Grad PLUS loans are eligible for all four income-driven repayment plans, and unlike parent PLUS loans, grad PLUS loans are automatically placed into deferment until six months after you drop below a half-time schedule, graduate or leave school. However, you can make early payments if you want.

Pros and cons. Grad PLUS loans don’t have preset annual or aggregate loan limits; you can also borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance, minus your other financial aid awards. This means you may be able to fund all your educational costs with grad PLUS loans — but that doesn’t mean a grad PLUS loan should necessarily be your first choice.

Direct unsubsidized loans will have a lower interest rate and disbursement fee than grad PLUS loans, and they offer the same access to federal repayment plans and programs. You may also want to compare private student loans offers to your grad PLUS loan rates to determine which will save you the most money.

If you want the best of both worlds — greater federal loan protections but lower private loan rates — keep in mind that you could always refinance your student loans down the road. You might borrow PLUS loan for its safeguards but decide later that they’re worth trading for a lower APR as you ramp up your repayment.

PART IV: Private student loans

What is a private student loan?

A private student loan is an educational loan issued by a non-government lender. As with federal student loans, borrowers must use the money for educational expenses.

Some federal laws apply to both federal and private student loans. For example, lenders aren’t allowed to charge you a fee for paying off your loans early — however, it can be difficult to discharge a federal or private student loan during a bankruptcy.

There are also important differences between federal and private student loans, and several pros and cons to consider before taking out a private student loan.

Pros:

  • High loan limits. The federal student loans with the lowest interest rates also have preset annual and aggregate loan limits. By contrast, private student lenders may let you borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance.
  • Potentially lower interest rates. Creditworthy borrowers may qualify for a lower interest rate with a private lender than with a federal student loan.
  • No funding fee. Federal student loans often have a disbursement fee; private student lenders generally don’t charge a disbursement or origination fee.
  • Variable-rate options. Private lenders may offer variable-rate loans. Currently, many of these start with a lower interest rate than fixed-rate loans, but there’s a risk the rate will increase in the future.
  • Interest rate discounts. Federal and private student loans often offer a 0.25% interest rate discount if you sign up for autopay. Private lenders may offer additional discount opportunities.

Cons:

  • Credit requirements. Your income, credit score and other factors could impact your eligibility, interest rate and maximum loan amount.
  • No access to federal benefits or programs. Private student loans aren’t eligible for federal repayment plans or subsidies. They also aren’t eligible for the government’s forgiveness, cancellation, discharge, forbearance or deferment programs.
  • Fewer hardship options. Private lenders might not offer borrowers forbearance or deferment options when borrowers have trouble making payments.
  • Quicker defaults. Private student loans may default sooner than federal student loans if you stop making payments. When a loan defaults, you’ll immediately owe the entire loan balance. Federal student loans also offer ways to get your loan out of default and back onto a repayment plan, but private lenders may not give you similar options.
  • Limitations with loan repayment assistance programs. Some government and private student loan repayment assistance programs won’t help you repay private student loans.
  • Varied discharge policies. Private lenders may not discharge your loan balance if you become permanently and totally disabled or die. As a result, you may leave your estate or cosigner with a loan balance to pay. Federal student loans can be discharged when the borrower, or student in the case of parent PLUS loans, is permanently and totally disabled or dies.

Where can you find private student loans?

Banks, credit unions, online lenders, schools and states all offer private student loans to students, and sometimes to students’ parents. Your school’s financial aid office may be able to recommend several options, but you can also look online or speak to friends and family members to get recommendations.

There’s no single best private student lender, and you should compare different lenders’ loan types, loan terms, repayment options, fees, discounts and fine-print restrictions, like if they let you release a cosigner. You could also read reviews and recommendations to determine which private student lenders might be best for your situation.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, you can then apply for a student loan with several lenders and compare your offers to determine which loan is best.

Who are private student loans best for?

Federal student loans are the best place to start for most borrowers, but there are some students who may want or need to take out private student loans. For example, if you’ve reached your annual or aggregate loan limit with federal student loans and you still need more money for school, you may want to consider a private student loan.

Parents and graduate or professional students who have established their creditworthiness may also want to consider private student loans as an alternative to federal student loans. Their federal loans have a higher interest rate and disbursement fee than those for undergraduates, and older applicants may be able to qualify for a lower interest rate with a private lender. However, consider the big picture as there may be other drawbacks, such as lack of access to federal forgiveness programs and repayment plans.

Finally, private loans could be a last resort for students who aren’t eligible for federal financial aid. This cohort includes part-time and international or immigrant students.

PART V: How to get a student loan

Applying for federal student loans

You must complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year to apply for and remain eligible for federal financial aid.

MagnifyMoney has a detailed guide on filling out the FAFSA. You can also find a PDF guide from the Education Department and free phone support at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

Submitting your FAFSA early can help your financial aid situation, as some schools and states offer financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis based on information in your FAFSA. Even if you don’t plan on taking out loans, the FAFSA is a requirement for some grant and scholarship opportunities.

To begin the FAFSA process online, go to fsaid.ed.gov and create your FSA ID. The FSA ID will be your username and password for signing into your account and you’ll also use it to sign loan documents. Dependent students also need a parent to create an FSA ID, which the parent will use to sign the child’s FAFSA.

After you’ve created your FSA ID, you can start the online application at fafsa.gov. To complete the application, you’ll need:

  • Your Social Security number or alien registration number
  • Income-related forms, including recent W-2s and federal income tax returns
  • Copies of your bank, brokerage and other financial account statements
  • Documents related to other income
  • If you’re a dependent student or you’re married, you may also need your parents’ or spouse’s Social Security number and income-related forms.

It generally takes under an hour to complete the FAFSA. Returning students will send the form to their school, while first-year students can send their FAFSA to the schools they’re considering.

After submitting your FAFSA, you will get a Student Aid Report (SAR) by mail or email; you should review this document to ensure all your information is correct. The SAR will list your expected family contribution amount, along with your FAFSA information. Schools and state agencies use this data to determine your financial aid eligibility and award amounts, and a mistake could lead to less aid being offered.

Your school, or the schools you’re considering, will then send you an aid offer that lists the financial aid types and amounts that you can accept. Your aid package may include a combination of grants, scholarships, work-study funds and/or several types of student loans.

You can choose which aid package offer to accept and how much money to borrow if you’re taking out a loan; the process can vary depending on your school. If you’re accepting a federal student loan offer, you will have to sign a promissory note, or loan contract. Keep in mind that you do not have to accept the full amount of federal loans you’re eligible to borrow — do the math to avoid unnecessary debt.

Applying for private student loans

Private student lenders may have different applications, and the application processes could vary. However, you can find some lenders that have a fairly simple and straightforward online application.

You won’t need to complete the FAFSA to apply for a private student loan, but you may want to gather similar personal and financial documents — you’ll likely need information from these documents during the application process, and you might have to submit copies for verification purposes.

You may also need personal and financial information from a cosigner if you’re adding one to your application; in some instances, the cosigner may be able to log in and submit their information directly.

If your application is approved, you might be able to pick from several loan terms with varying interest rates. Or, the lender may make you an offer and you can choose to accept or decline it.

At some point during the application process, the lender could contact your school to verify your eligibility and the school’s cost of attendance, which can determine your maximum loan limit. Alternatively, you could be asked to self-certify these numbers.

Alternatives to student loans

A loan shouldn’t necessarily be your first choice when it comes to financial aid. Scholarships and grants can offer money for school that you don’t need to pay back. Graduate or professional students may be able to get “free” money via fellowships. And you could look into different work opportunities.

If you submitted a FAFSA, you may receive a work-study award as part of your financial aid offer. The federal work-study program pays a portion of work-study recipient’s wages, which could make it easier for you to find a job while you’re at school. However, only certain employers are eligible, such as the school, nonprofits and some for-profits if the work you’ll do aligns with your major.

Graduate and professional students may have opportunities to get an assistantship at the school. Depending on the program, you could receive a stipend, tuition waivers or even benefits in exchange for working part time.

You can also look for work opportunities that aren’t part of a financial aid program. A part-time job while you’re at school, or a full-time job during the summer, might not earn you enough to cover all your educational costs — but every dollar you earn and put toward your education is one less dollar you need to borrow (and pay interest on).

If working an in-school job isn’t feasible, you could also avoid borrowing by using an Income-Share Agreement (ISA). Available at schools and through private companies, ISAs help you cover your tuition in exchange for a percentage of your income when you leave school and find employment. Of course, consider ISAs or student loans only after racking up as much gift aid and savings as you can.

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Louis DeNicola
Louis DeNicola |

Louis DeNicola is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Louis at [email protected]

Andrew Pentis
Andrew Pentis |

Andrew Pentis is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Andrew here

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