How Do I Get A Federal Student Loan?

Knowing how to go about getting a federal student loan is a crucial step in the college application process. College tuition fees are out of reach of most families in America. The only way most families can afford to send their children to college is by taking some type of loan. When it comes to student loans, taking federal loans is far better than taking private loans for several different reasons.

A gray brick building with two statues on either side of the entrance.

Basic Steps To Getting A Federal Student Loan

Applying for a federal student loan starts with completing and submitting the FAFSA—Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This form collects your family’s financial information in detail. After submitting the form, they then calculate how much financial aid you qualify for, based on the information provided.

The financial aid package offered to every student typically includes a combination of student federal loans, grants and financial assistance from the school. This package is different for every student. Your financial aid package and federal student loan offered will be tailored to your unique circumstances.

The most important thing to keep in mind when filling the FAFSA is to make sure that the information you provide is accurate down to the smallest details. Submitting the wrong information will void your application and you risk losing any loan that you may be eligible for. If your circumstances change any time after you submit the application, which is entirely possible, then there is a provision for you to provide your new details.

How To Receive Your Loan Funds

After submitting the FAFSA, you will receive a financial aid award letter either by email or post. The individual’s financial aid office usually sends this. It includes details of the various types of financial aid offered to you. If you are happy with the package put together, inform the financial aid office that you accept.

Before you can receive any of the funds awarded to you, you will have to complete a mandatory entrance counseling session. Entrance counseling educates student borrowers about how the loan works and their obligation to pay back the loan.

After you’ve completed the entrance counseling, you will then sign a Master Promissory Note or MPN, agreeing to the terms of the loan.

Understand The Different Types Of Federal Student Loans

There are a few different options when it comes to federal student loans, and it’s important to know the details of them.

  • Direct Subsidized Loans – Undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need can pursue these loans. The federal government pays interest while the student is still in college. Perkins Loans and Stafford Loans, both come under this category.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans – All undergraduate and graduate students can look into Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Demonstrated financial need is not a criterion. Unsubsidized Stafford Loans come under this category.
  • Direct PLUS Loans – These are slightly different in that they are not available to undergrad students. Only graduate students, professional students, and parents of dependent undergraduate students can apply for these PLUS Loans to help pay for those education costs not covered by other financial aid. Another difference is that the borrower’s credit history is a factor in getting approval.

Before taking any student loan, federal or private, it is important to do your research and understand the terms and conditions of the different types of loans as well your payment obligations in order to prevent disastrous debt-related problems later.

And if federal student loans and scholarships don’t cover the entire cost, you need to find the right private loan. Use College Raptor’s Student Loan Finder to compare lenders and interest rates—for FREE!


Lender Rates (APR) Eligibility
Citizens logo.
5.99%-16.61%* Variable
4.24%-15.61%* Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Sallie Mae logo.
5.37% - 15.70% Variable
4.15% - 15.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Credibe company logo.
5.37% - 17.99% Variable
3.79% - 17.99% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Lendkey company logo.
5.98% - 13.74% Variable
3.99% - 12.61% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Ascent company logo.
5.99% - 15.85% Variable
3.79% - 15.41% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
6.54% - 11.08% Variable
3.70% - 8.24% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Earnest company logo.
5.62% - 16.85% Variable
4.17% - 16.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
6.00% - 14.22% Variable
4.50% - 14.22% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
College Raptor is not a loan lender and does not assume responsibility for suggesting a loan to a user who may not be eligible for it. Rates, terms, conditions, eligibility, approval, and other considerations are the decisions of the lenders and may vary depending on which lender or marketplace the user selects. We urge users to carefully consider and review all loan options and terms before committing to taking out a loan.

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