Student loans have always been popular, but in recent years, their ubiquity has exploded. The economic downturn of the late 20-aughts led many students to explore auxiliary methods of paying for college. Student loans are at the forefront. As of the first quarter of 2017, American college students owe a combined $1.3 trillion dollars in student debt, with over 40 million Americans taking some sort of loan out to pay for college. These statistics are striking and can lead to anxiety among those of us who tend to worry a lot about the future. However, never fear: as long as you manage your time correctly, you can submit your student loan app and acquire your loan without breaking a sweat.
Where’s your student loan coming from?
The first—and possibly most important—aspect of student loans to consider is simple. Where’s your loan coming from? There are myriad opportunities for you to explore that provide loans, from local community centers to your chosen college to the federal government. Depending on your preferred source, your deadline will be different. For instance, the 2017 FAFSA deadlines—the government’s Federal Aid program—depend on your state. Some states, like Maine (March 1), are already no longer accepting FAFSA forms. But for others, like Ohio (October 1), you have months to prepare. This website will provide you with a laundry list of deadlines for each state so you’re well prepared by the time it’s your turn to press SUBMIT.
FAFSA, in this sense, is easy; the deadlines are easy to find and their expectations are clearly outlined. For other loan programs, such as those coming from private companies, this process can be more difficult. If you choose to become one of the millions of students that go through a private loan company instead, you need to be vigilant when reading over the terms and services of your application. Find out if the loans roll, meaning lenders accept students as they apply, or if there’s a fixed deadline. Some companies and organizations award loans first-come-first-serve. Obviously, in this case, it’s best to get your applications in as soon as possible. No one ever, in the history of the universe, has received a first-come-first-serve award by waiting until the last minute.
Take the time to read through and be thorough with your applications.
The most important advice anyone can give to college students taking out a loan: READ. Read your applications thoroughly, read the expectations of the program, read your contract and statement and make sure you understand. Although some of the legalese can be complex, a parent or guardian can often help you make sense of it. It’s vital to the loan repayment process that you know exactly when you should apply, as well as what’s expected of you.
So when’s the best time?
In a nutshell, there’s no direct answer for students wondering when they should submit their student loan app. The variety of programs and sources makes the answer conditional, dependent on each student’s experience. However, a good rule of thumb, generally, is to turn in anything you have due as early as you can. That means reading through the material given to you. Or, conversely, contacting the source directly to find out the earliest date you can apply for a loan. That way, you kill two birds with one stone; by turning in your application early, you can put your parents’ (and your own!) mind at ease, as well as finalizing an option for yourself. The early bird (that wasn’t killed by your one stone) gets the worm, right?
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