When people thinking “how do I pay for college?” oftentimes the first thing that comes to mind is student loans. It makes sense, considering how often student loan discussions come up in the news. But is getting a private student loan really step one? Or should you wait until you see your college offer letter before getting a loan?
Your College Offer Letter
When you file the FAFSA, your information is sent out to the schools you’re applying to. Based on your financial info, the schools that accept your application will put together a customized financial package. This is sent out to you along with your acceptance letter.
This offer letter details the total cost of attending that school and how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive. This will give you a good idea of how much you are falling short of and how much you will need to borrow to meet the total cost of education if you choose to attend that school.
When to Get a Student Loan
Ideally, it is a good idea to apply for a student loan only after you see your offer letter. If the school offers you a more generous package than you were expecting, you may not need to borrow as much as you thought you needed to. The problem with borrowing more than you need by way of student loans is that you still have to pay the interest on the entire amount.
Many private lenders provide credit decisions immediately but could take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months to transfer the proceeds to you or to your college. That still gives you sufficient time. What you can do to get a head start however is to start looking into private student loans in advance, read up on the terms and conditions, and shortlist favorable lenders that you can apply to after going through your award letter.
Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!