How Do I Apply for Student Loans?

Q: How do I apply for student loans? Is it easy to apply for student loans?

A: If you must take out a student loan, you need to start by completing the FAFSA form at

Most students will need help from a parent to complete the FAFSA, but this is the only way to get access to low-cost federal student aid.

So here are the basic steps to getting a student loan:

STEP 1: Apply for admission to the colleges you may want to attend. You must be enrolled to receive student loans.

STEP 2: Complete the FAFSA form at

STEP 3: Colleges that accept you will send you Award Letters that indicates what student loans you are eligible to receive. You can accept all, some, or none of the financial aid being offered.

STEP 4: Complete and sign the loan promissory notes. This step means you agree to repay your student loans. Your school will walk you through this process.

Keep in mind, there are three types of federal student aid:

Grants: This is financial aid that does not have to be repaid (unless, for example, you withdraw from school and owe a refund).

Federal Work-Study: This program allows you to earn money for your education. This aid does not have to be repaid.

Federal Student Loans: These loans (such as Perkins and Stafford loans) allow you to borrow money for your education. You must repay all loans, with interest. Federal loans come with fixed interest rates and are usually the cheapest form of student loans.

Beyond federal aid, there are also private student loans:

Private Student Loans: These loans are usually offered by banks to help you pay your education costs. Unlike federal student loans, private loans come with variable interest rates that can change monthly or quarterly. To qualify, most students need to apply with a creditworthy cosigner (such as a parent).

IMPORTANT: To save money, students should make use of all of their low-cost federal student aid options before considering a private student loan. Private loans should be used to supplement federal loans or in cases where the student does not qualify for federal student aid.

As with all federal student financial aid, you apply for a Perkins Loan or Stafford Loan by completing the FAFSA at

Once your FAFSA has been processed and you have received an Award Letter from your school, you will need to sign a Master Promissory Note (or MPN).

The Stafford Loan MPN is a binding legal contract that says you agree to repay your loan according to the terms of the promissory note. Read this note carefully before signing it and save a copy for your records.

For more information visit your Financial Aid Office or go to

Learn More about the Stafford Loan

How Do I Get a FAFSA PIN Number?

Which Student Loan Is Best?