When to Get Student Loans: Important Deadlines and Other Important Tips

Student loans are an option to help finance your education when scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid are not enough to cover the full cost of college tuition, books, and living expenses. There are two main types of student loans that you can apply for – federal and private student loans. Both of these work differently. They both also have different requirements, loan processing procedures, and application deadlines. 

Understanding the various deadlines associated with student loans is important. Missing application deadlines can have significant consequences, from missed opportunities to get financial aid to paying higher interest rates.

Important Deadlines To Keep In Mind For Student Loans

These are some of the most important deadlines you need to keep in mind when taking to student loans. 

FAFSA Deadline

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a common application for receiving financial aid from the federal government, colleges, and universities. You must complete and submit the FAFSA by the designated deadline to maximize your eligibility for all types of federal and institutional financial aid. This includes grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and federal student loans.

When it comes to the FAFSA, there are three deadlines you need to look out for. 

  1. The FAFSA application deadline – FAFSA applications open on October 1 every year for the following academic year and the application deadline is June 30. To maximize your financial aid, it’s best to submit this application as early as possible as some aid is issued on a first-come, first-served basis. 
  2. Institution deadline – Schools set their own deadlines for receiving financial aid applications. Most times, these deadlines are before the FAFSA deadline. You must confirm the application deadline with your school’s financial office. If it’s before the FAFSA deadline, then your school’s deadline takes precedence. 
  3. State deadline – Every state also sets their own FAFSA deadlines, which can often be a few months before the June 30 deadline. Some states set the deadlines as early as March or even February. Make sure to check so you don’t lose out on any low-cost loans that you may qualify for. The FSA website has a detailed list of all state deadlines

Remember, you must meet the earliest specified deadline for submitting the FAFSA. Also, the FAFSA is valid for one year only, so you must file it every year to receive federal aid for that academic year. 

Private Student Loan Deadlines

Private student loans work differently from federal student loans. These loans don’t have any application deadlines. You can apply for student loans from private lenders at any time throughout the year. 

However, it’s important to know that the approval process for private student loans can take time. While a few lenders may approve your application in a few days, some approvals can take weeks or even months depending on the lender’s review process. If you are depending on these funds to pay your college tuition, you must check with the lender about their loan approval process and how long it would take to receive the funds. 

As a general rule, it’s best not to wait until the last minute to apply for private student loans. Should there be any hold-up for whatever reason, you could miss your college payment deadline. Having to pay a late payment fee will only make your student loans even more expensive. 

Promissory Note Deadlines

Once you’ve been approved for a student loan, you will need to sign a promissory note. This is a legal document outlining the terms and conditions of the loan. Lenders require you to sign this document, which acknowledges that you’ve understood the terms under which you are borrowing money. 

You must take time to review the promissory note thoroughly and sign it promptly before the specified deadline. Failure to do so may result in delays in disbursing the loan funds or even cancellation of the loan altogether.

When a Student Loan Is a Good Option For You

With the potential for lower interest rates, more repayment flexibility, and other benefits, federal student loans could be a good option when you need money to cover your funding gap. These loans have easier eligibility criteria too. To qualify, all you need is to be enrolled in an approved college in the U.S.

You will need to exercise more caution when taking private student loans. These loans tend to have higher interest rates and fewer repayment options. Moreover, these loans have more stringent eligibility criteria. Private lenders will almost always check your credit score to determine whether or not to approve your application and to set your interest rate.  A strong credit profile may enable you to secure loans with lower interest rates, potentially saving you money in the long run. Good credit demonstrates your ability to manage debt responsibly, making you a favorable candidate for lenders.

If you don’t have a solid credit history or are just starting to build credit, having a cosigner with good credit can increase your chances of loan approval and help secure more favorable terms. 

You should consider taking a private student loan only if you have good credit or if you have a creditworthy cosigner. 

Student Loan Red Flags: When a Loan Option Isn’t for You

After you’ve applied for student loans, both federal and private, you’ll likely receive quite a few responses and offers. Some may be enticing, but it’s important to investigate it carefully to ensure it’s right for you. 

Here are a few red flags you should be on the lookout for:

Interest Rates Are Too High

high interest rate may be the most obvious red flag when it comes to student loans. However, you’ll only need to worry about this for private loans; federal loans have fixed interest rates. To avoid accepting a loan with high interest, do your research into the average rates for similar loans. 

It’s just as important to ask the lender why the interest rate is so high. It could be that your credit score or your cosigner’s credit score isn’t high enough to qualify for a lower rate. If every private loan offer you receive comes with a higher-than-average interest rate, this is most likely the reason why. In this case, you’ll have to make the difficult decision on whether or not you really need to take the loan. 

Repayment Options Are Not Acceptable

When taking a private loan, it’s important to talk to the lender about the repayment options that will be available to you. Most lenders offer you a range of repayment terms to choose from. However, some may only offer you one option, which could involve making higher monthly repayments. Would you be able to afford that amount straight out of college? That’s something you need to give serious thought to. 

Make sure to check with the lender about other financial aid options also. Some lenders will offer defermentsincome-based repayment, and grace periods. These can be tremendously useful if you’re struggling financially at any time during the repayment period. Federal student loans have these protections for borrowers, but private lenders are not required to offer any.

To make sure you are getting the best student loans for you, make sure you consider the important deadlines and always read the fine print of any offer you are considering. And, it’s a good idea to compare loan offers from several different lenders and do your research. If you know what to expect, you can steer clear of many problems down the road.

Use College Raptor’s new Student Loan Finder to discover personalized private loan options that work for you. Compare lenders and interest rates to find the ideal student loan.


Lender Rates (APR) Eligibility
Citizens logo.
6.98%-15.04%* Variable
5.99%-14.00%* Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Sallie Mae logo.
6.37% - 16.70% Variable
4.50% - 15.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Credibe company logo.
4.98% - 16.85% Variable
4.07% - 16.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Lendkey company logo.
6.07% - 11.31% Variable
4.39% - 10.39% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Ascent company logo.
6.24% - 15.85% Variable
4.29% - 15.76% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
6.54% - 11.08% Variable
3.95% - 8.01% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Earnest company logo.
5.62% - 16.85% Variable
4.39% - 16.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
4.98% - 12.79% Variable
8.42% - 13.01% 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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