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What to Know About Applying for Student Loans

Applying for a private student loan may seem confusing and intimidating, especially if you don’t have much experience handling personal finances. But with a bit of research and planning, you can make the process quicker and easier.

First, remember that you should utilize scholarships, grants, and federal student loans before turning to private student loans to cover your college costs. If you exhaust those options and still need additional help paying for college, private student loans are your next step.

The borrowing experience varies from lender to lender, but there are a few across-the-board items to keep in mind as you get started. Here we answer some common questions about getting a private student loan.

Is it hard to get a student loan?

It may be easier than you think! Start by researching lenders and the types of loans they offer, including their current interest rates. Not sure where to start? Ask your school if they have a preferred lender list, or view information for Student Choice partner credit unions with our Find My Rate tool. Review our blog post on comparing student loan options for more information, and then start the application process for a lender that meets your needs.

How do you qualify for a student loan?

Once you’ve selected a lender, you’ll need to gather some basic information and apply. Income and credit requirements are important pieces of the loan application. You’ll need to have ready:

  • Personal information (such as address, date of birth, and Social Security number)
  • Employment information
  • Income information, such as pay stubs and tax returns
  • School information (college name, expected graduation year)
  • Loan amount needed

If you have a co-borrower, they will also need to provide the same personal information. This brings us to another frequently asked question.

Do I need a co-borrower or parent to help me get a private student loan?

For Student Choice loans, you are not required to apply with a co-borrower. However, applying with a credit worthy co-borrower may improve your chance of meeting approval criteria and potentially help you qualify for a lower interest rate. In fact, 97% of our approved applications have a co-borrower.

Why? Lenders want to be sure you will be able to pay back your loan after graduation. If you do not have the employment or credit history to get approved for a loan, a co-borrower’s information could help. Learn more about co-borrowers and who may be a good option.

What if I have bad credit?

Often young adults think they have bad credit if they can’t qualify for a loan on their own. But there is a difference between bad credit and NO credit. Most high school and college-aged students have not yet built a good credit history, meaning lending to them is a bigger risk for financial institutions. They can’t look at your credit and payment history to be assured you will repay the loan. That’s where a co-borrower with a good credit history comes in. (But if you utilize a co-borrower, remember a private student loan will likely be in your own name, so you will still be responsible for repayment.)

Is it better to get a student loan through a credit union?

There are many benefits of doing business with a credit union, and that includes selecting one as your lender for a private student loan. Credit unions are not-for-profit, so they exist to serve their members, not big corporations. They focus on people, not profits, which means you’ll benefit from:

  • Lower interest rates
  • Lower/fewer fees
  • A community-focused organization
  • Greater flexibility to meet your financial needs

If you’re not already a member of a credit union, we can help match you with one for your student lending needs. Our network of credit union partners offers a variety of options to help you achieve your dreams of higher education!

Ready to learn more and apply? Get started now! 

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*APR = Annual Percentage Rate

In order to apply for a loan, you must first pick an individual credit union from which you wish to borrow. You can apply for the loan without being a member of the credit union you select, but you will need to become a member of that credit union in order to receive a funded loan. Therefore, it's important that you select a credit union that you will be eligible to join. Credit union membership requirements can include where you live, work, or attend school. Results are based on membership criteria provided by individual credit unions and do not imply a guarantee regarding accuracy or eligibility to join the listed credit union(s).

Calculations are based on the lowest possible rate and available repayment terms per lender. Rate estimates are based on credit information entered by the user and will not impact your credit. During the application process, a hard credit inquiry will be performed to provide exact rate information. Repayment calculations assume immediate full repayment. View the full range of rates and terms by visiting your credit union's website using links listed for each credit union above.

Using the free student loan refinance calculator does not constitute an offer to receive a loan and will not solicit a loan offer. Any payments and savings will depend on the actual amounts for which you are approved, should you choose to apply. This calculator is provided for educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as financial advice. Always consult your credit union or financial advisor when making your decision.

IMPORTANT NOTICE for refinance borrowers: By refinancing federal student loans, you may lose certain borrower benefits from your original loans. These may include interest rate discounts, principal rebates, or some cancellation benefits that can significantly reduce the cost of repaying your loans. Please review this important disclosure for more information.

Your actual rate within the range stated will be disclosed upon approval. Student borrowers may apply with a creditworthy cosigner which may result in a better chance of approval and/or interest rate.