How to Apply for Federal Student Loans: Financial Aid Counseling and Completing the FAFSA

If you are interested in attending college but do not have the money to do so, then perhaps you should apply for a federal student loan. Many students utilize student loans to help fund their college education. However, there are a few things that you must do in order to qualify and receive federal student loans for college.

Speak with a Financial Aid Counselor to Discuss your Options

In order to qualify for federal student loans, you must meet certain criteria, such as being enrolled in college at least part-time and maintaining an appropriate GPA (grade point average). A financial aid counselor at your college can let you know whether or not you meet the minimum qualifications to get a student loan and tell you how much money you may qualify for.

Complete the Appropriate Financial Aid Application

Before you can actually receive a student loan, you must first fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The FAFSA helps the Student Aid Center determine how much financial assistance you are going to need to pay for your college expenses. You must provide important information on the FAFSA, such as your name, social security number, physical address and details about you and your family’s income. You must also indicate the name of the college that you are going to attend (or are currently attending). Make sure that you specify on your application that you are interested in student loans.

Submit the FAFSA

Once you finish filling out the FAFSA, you can electronically sign and submit your application to the Department of Education. It normally takes the Department of Education about 3 to 5 days to process the FAFSA. However, as soon as your application is processed, both you and your school will receive a copy of your SAR (Student Aid Report), with details about your EFC (Expected Family Contribution). This information lets your school know how much student loan money to award you based on your financial need.

Sign the Necessary Documents

You must sign your financial aid award letter and accept the amount of student loan(s) your school awards you for that academic year. You may also need to give your financial aid counselor a copy of your federal income tax return information and your parent’s income tax information as well (if you are a dependent student). In addition, you must also choose a lender for your student loans and sign a Master Promissory Note, stating that you agree to the terms of the loan.

Receive your Money from the School

Normally, the lender sends the funds to your school and then the school disburses the money to your bank account (or sends you a check) after they deduct tuition, room and board and other appropriate fees from the loan. However, you may have to wait up to two weeks (or even longer) in order for your school to process your money and credit the funds to your account.

As you can see, it is not very difficult to apply for federal student loans. In fact, meeting with a Financial Aid Counselor in advance, filling out the FAFSA correctly and submitting all of the required documents in a timely manner, will definitely speed up the process.