Whether you apply for federal or private loans, there are several student loan requirements you’ll need to meet. Those requirements can vary depending on what type of loan you want.
It’s important to know exactly what the requirements are before applying because while student loans can help you pay for college, getting approved isn’t a given. Read on to learn the requirements for different types of federal loans as well as private loans.
Federal student loan requirements
There are four different types of federal student loans available to college students and their parents. In general, the requirements for you or your student may include:
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- You’ve demonstrated financial need (for most programs)
- You’re a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen
- You have a valid Social Security number
- You’re enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an eligible degree or certificate program
- You’re attending or planning to attend school at least half-time
- You maintain satisfactory academic progress
- You complete and sign the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form
- You agree to use the loan for educational purposes only
- You’re not in default on a federal student loan and don’t owe money on a federal grant
- You have a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate, you completed a high school education in a homeschool setting approved by your state, or you’re enrolling in an eligible career pathway program and meeting an “ability-to-benefit” alternative
Depending on the type of loan, though, there may be additional requirements that you or your student need to meet. Read on for a quick breakdown of some additional requirements by loan type.
Direct subsidized loans
With direct subsidized loans, the federal government covers your interest costs while you’re still in school. To qualify, you need to be an undergraduate student enrolled at least half-time at a participating school that will lead to a degree or a certificate, and you must show financial need through the FAFSA form.
Direct unsubsidized loans
With a Direct unsubsidized loan, you do not need to demonstrate financial need, and you are responsible for paying interest on the loan during all periods. To qualify, you must be an undergraduate, graduate, or professional student who is enrolled at a participating school at least half-time. Typically, the program must result in a degree or certificate.
Direct PLUS loans
You can apply for a Direct PLUS Loan if you’re a graduate or professional student, or a parent of an undergraduate student. You generally can’t have an adverse credit history, which means, as stated by the office of the Department of Education, that you may not qualify if you have any of the following on your credit report:
- Accounts with a total outstanding balance over $2,085 that are 90 or more days delinquent, or that have been placed in collections or charged off within the last two years
- Default determination within the last five years
- Bankruptcy discharge within the past five years
- Repossession during the last five years
- Foreclosure within the last five years
- Charge-off/write-off of federal student loans during the last five years
- Wage garnishment within the last five years
- Tax lien within the past five years
That being said, if you do have an adverse credit history, you may still be able to receive a Direct PLUS Loan if you meet either of the following requirements and also complete credit counseling:
- You get an endorser who does not have an adverse credit history
- You demonstrate to the Department of Education that you have extenuating circumstances relating to your adverse credit history
Direct consolidation loans
A Direct Consolidation Loan allows you to consolidate multiple federal loans into one loan. To qualify, you must have one or more eligible loans and meet other requirements, including:
- The loans must be in repayment or in the six-month grace period after you leave school.
- In general, you must have at least one loan that isn’t already a consolidated loan.
- If one or more loans are in default, you must make at least three consecutive monthly payments or agree to repay the Direct Consolidation Loan under one of the available income-driven repayment plans.
- If your wages are being garnished to make payments on a defaulted federal loan, you can’t consolidate it until the wage garnishment order has been lifted or the judgment has been vacated.
Private student loan requirements
While federal student loans often have the same requirements across the board because the Department of Education is the lender on all of them, that isn’t the case with private student loans. With private student loans, requirements can vary by lender, which means you may qualify for a loan from one private student loan company and not with another.
The requirements for a private student loan can also depend on what type of student loan you’re applying for, such as undergraduate loans, graduate loans, or specialized loans.
In general, all private student lenders require a credit check and a minimum annual income. This means that if you don’t have a credit history, you may need to get a cosigner with an established credit history and a solid income to apply for the loan with you.
Each lender has different requirements when it comes to lending student loans. Common requirements among major private student loan companies include:
- Being a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or international student.
- Having a Social Security number (some don’t require this for international students).
- If you’re an international student, you generally must have a cosigner.
- Attending an eligible school.
- Being enrolled in a degree program and attending at least half-time (some allow you to be less than half-time).
Depending on the lender, there may be other student loan qualification requirements and limitations, so it’s important to shop around to compare lenders and read the terms to make sure you qualify. Also, look for private student lenders that allow you to get prequalified with just a soft credit check. This can give you an idea of your approval chances and show you possible loan terms you might qualify for without dinging your credit score.
As you can see, there are a number of varying requirements you may have to meet in order to qualify for a student loan. The requirements for different types of federal student loans tend to have more overlap, as they all have the same lender, while requirements for private student loans can vary from lender to lender.
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