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Ascent Blog

How to Get a Student Loan

Student loans provide essential financial support to help you achieve your academic goals and invest in your future. While they are a great resource, approaching them with caution is necessary. It’s important to make an informed decision about how much to borrow and which loans to choose.  

By researching and understanding all the terms, conditions, and options, you can make an educated financial decision to set yourself up for success.  

We know tackling the world of student loans can be daunting (especially if you’re a first-time borrower). We want to share tips and advice on how to get college loans, including where to start your search, what to consider, and how to navigate the process.

Types of Student Loans

There are two primary types of student loans to fund your education: federal and private.  

You can check to see which federal student loans you qualify for by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Private student loans are available through private lenders if you don’t qualify for federal student loans, or your federal loans cover only some of your college costs (such as books, room and board, tuition, etc.)  

Federal Student Loans

A federal student loan has many benefits, like fixed interest rates, flexible payment plans, and loan forgiveness opportunities. Some of the different types of federal loans include: 

  • Direct Subsidized 
  • Direct Unsubsidized 
  • Direct PLUS 
  • Direct Consolidation 

Private Student Loans

Private student loans often have less flexible repayment terms and variable interest rates. But you’ll likely have more flexible borrowing limits and a faster approval process. You can get private student loans at various institutions, such as: 

  • Banks 
  • Credit unions 
  • Other lenders (like Ascent) 
  • State loan agencies 
  • Educational institutions 


Tips on How to Get a Federal Student Loan

Our tips below will help you make the most of federal student loan programs and achieve your educational goals while minimizing your debt burden.  

Here’s what you should consider getting a federal student loan. 

Eligibility Criteria

Federal student loans have the following eligibility criteria: 

  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen 
  • Have a Social Security number 
  • Be accepted to (or enrolled in) an eligible program and accredited institution 
  • Be at least a half-time student 
  • Show Satisfactory Academic Progress 
  • Must not be in default on any other federal loans 
  • Submitted the FAFSA 

For some federal loans, such as subsidized and unsubsidized, you’ll also need to demonstrate financial need, which comes from your FAFSA information. 

Applying for a Federal Student Loan

The first step to getting a federal student loan is to complete the FAFSA by the June 30th deadline. 

Next, you’ll receive a financial aid award letter from your intended school that tells you the types and amount of aid you can receive.  

The last thing to do is accept any loans you’re interested in and complete additional requirements, like entrance counseling or signing a promissory note. Remember, taking on a student loan is a big responsibility. Ensure you understand the pros and cons of student loans and how to avoid overborrowing. 

How to Get Approved for a Federal Student Loan

There are things you can do to improve your chances of approval when you want to take out federal student loans. Here are some tips: 

  • Complete your FAFSA accurately and on time. 
  • Research and apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible before taking out loans. 
  • Understand all the loan terms and conditions, including interest rates and repayment options. 
  • Only borrow what you need (and can plan to repay). 
  • Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress each year. 
  • Tell your loan servicer if your contact information or financial status changes. 

You may get approved for federal student loans if you meet the eligibility requirements. 


Tips on How to Get Private Student Loans

After exploring your federal student loan options, you may still need more funds. If that’s the case, private student loans are a great option to cover the difference.  

Here are some tips to remember when getting a private student loan. 

Eligibility Criteria

Student loan eligibility for private student loans differs for federal student loans. Every lender may have unique requirements, so always check before applying. 

Private student lenders will typically have the following eligibility standards: 

  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen 
  • Have a Social Security number 
  • Be accepted to (or enrolled in) an eligible program and accredited institution 
  • Be at least a half-time student 
  • Have a good credit score (or cosigner) 
  • Meet debt-to-income ratio or income requirements (you or the cosigner) 

Applying for a Private Student Loan

The application process for private student loans is different depending on the lender. 

You must complete an online form and submit the required documentation to complete your application. After you submit, you may pre-qualify after a soft credit check, or the lender will run a hard credit check to determine your eligibility. Depending on your credit score, credit history, and other factors, you may get approved for a private student loan. 

With Ascent, you can apply for a cosigned student loan or a student loan without a cosigner. If you apply for a cosigned student loan, you’ll also need the cosigner’s information to complete your application. Once you and your cosigner provide all the required information, you will be subject to a credit check.  

Whether you have a credit history or not, Ascent offers different loan options based on various factors, like your graduation date, major, and school, so you can apply for the loan that works for you. Additionally, Ascent has higher limits than other non-cosigned lenders (up to $20,000 per year or $200,000 total), so you can still cover your school costs even if federal loans aren’t enough. 

How to Get Approved for a Private Student Loan

The best way to ensure you get approved when you apply for a private student loan is to meet the eligibility requirements. Most of the time, as long as you are eligible or have a qualified cosigner, you can secure the loan. 

Like the eligibility requirements or application process, the approval process differs from lender to lender.  

After you apply for an Ascent college loan, the rest of the process is easy. You must complete any additional tasks in your Ascent Portal. We’ll send the loan directly to your school after certification. 


Federal vs. Private Student Loans: Which One Is Best for Me?

You will likely see student loans in your financial aid award letter when you apply for financial aid. 

However, federal loans combined with scholarships and grants may only cover part of your education. Once you hit your maximum amount for federal loans, private student loans can back you up the rest of the way. 

Not all private lenders can offer the same loan terms and conditions, but some offer unique benefits. For example, Ascent offers the chance to release your cosigner, pause payments for nine months after you graduate or leave school, and access to student success coaching. 


Learn More with Ascent

You have two options for student loans: federal and private. While both types of student loans have pros and cons, you should carefully consider loans as part of a financial plan for your education. 

Some students may worry that not having a credit history or full-time income will impact their chances of getting private loans, but this isn’t always true. Ascent offers fixed or variable interest rate loans with flexible repayment plans, even if you don’t have a cosigner. We also have other tools and financial wellness resources to help you build financial habits over time. 

Going to college is challenging enough without having to worry so much about how you’ll pay for it. Consider your payment options before making any decisions. Always read the terms and conditions closely before signing the dotted line.  


Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions about how to get a student loan? Here are some common questions people have that may provide the answers you need. 

How Hard Is It to Get a Student Loan?

Federal student loans may be easier to obtain if you meet the requirements. Still, private student loans can fill the gap in your expenses if you need them. Your eligibility and interest rates will depend on various factors, like the lender, financial status, loan type, and more. 

How Do I Get Student Loans Without My Parents?

Without parents’ financial support, there are still ways for students to pay for school. Federal student loans are an option for students who complete the FAFSA, and most don’t require a cosigner or credit check. Additionally, private lenders, like Ascent, may offer private student loans without a cosigner. 

How Do I Know if I Qualify for a Student Loan?

Determining eligibility requirements is the best way to know if you can get a student loan. For federal student loans, the conditions are typically the same across the board. The first step is to complete the FAFSA. Each lender may have unique requirements for private student loans, such as a credit check or proof of income. Ascent offers flexible student loans with or without a credit history or a cosigner. 

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