How Do You Apply For Student Loans

Last Updated on May 19, 2022

The cost of education is rising, and that means students are increasingly looking for ways to pay for their education.

That’s where federal student loans come in. They’re a great way to get the money you need, with flexible repayment terms and a plethora of repayment options. But they can be confusing to navigate — especially if you’re new to student loans.

So we’ve put together this guide to help you understand your federal student loans for grad school so that you can make the most of them!

Types of Student Loans: Federal & Private Loan Options

How Do You Apply For Student Loans

The U.S. Department of Education makes Direct PLUS Loans to eligible graduate or professional students through schools participating in the Direct Loan Program. (We also offer Parent PLUS loans.)

A Direct PLUS Loan is commonly referred to as a grad PLUS loan when made to a graduate or professional

To receive a grad PLUS loan, you must

be a graduate or professional student enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school in a program leading to a graduate or professional degree or certificate;

not have an adverse credit history (unless you meet certain additional eligibility requirements); and

meet the general eligibility requirements for federal student aid.

What is the current interest rate?
For Direct PLUS Loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2021, and before July 1, 2022, the interest rate is 6.28%. This is a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan.

How much can I borrow?
The maximum PLUS loan amount you can borrow is the cost of attendance (determined by the school) minus any other financial assistance you receive.

When do I begin repaying my loan?
You don’t have to start making payments until six months after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment.

During any period when you’re not required to make payments, interest will accrue on your loan. You may choose to pay the accrued interest or allow the interest to be capitalized (added to your loan principal balance) when you have to start making payments. Your loan servicer will notify you when your first payment is due.

How do I apply for a grad PLUS loan?

Important: Most schools require you to apply for a Direct PLUS Loan online, but some schools have different application processes. This site has a list of schools that participate in the Direct Loan Program. When you select your school from the list, the site will tell you if the school has a different application process. In that case, check with the school’s financial aid office to find out how to request a grad PLUS loan.

parent plus loan

The U.S. Department of Education makes Direct PLUS Loans to eligible parents through schools participating in the Direct Loan Program. (We also offer PLUS loans for graduate or professional students.)

A Direct PLUS Loan is commonly referred to as a parent PLUS loan when made to a parent borrower.

To receive a parent PLUS loan, you must

be the biological or adoptive parent (or in some cases, the stepparent) of a dependent undergraduate student enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school;

not have an adverse credit history (unless you meet certain additional requirements); and

meet the general eligibility requirements for federal student aid

Note: Grandparents (unless they have legally adopted the dependent student) and legal guardians are not eligible to receive parent PLUS loans, even if they have had primary responsibility for raising the student.

What is the current interest rate?
For Direct PLUS Loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2021, and before July 1, 2022, the interest rate is 6.28%. This is a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan.

How much can I borrow?
The maximum PLUS loan amount you can borrow is the cost of attendance at the school your child will attend minus any other financial assistance your child receives. The cost of attendance is determined by the school.

Do I have to make payments on my loan while my child is still in school?
If you request a deferment, you will not need to make payments while your child is enrolled at least half-time and for an additional six months after your child graduates, leaves school, or drops below half-time enrollment. If the school your child is attending requires you to submit your request for a parent PLUS loan at StudentAid.gov, you’ll have the option of requesting a deferment as part of the loan request process. You can also contact your loan servicer to request a deferment.

If you do not request a deferment, you will be expected to begin making payments after the loan is fully disbursed (paid out).

During any period when you’re not required to make payments, interest will accrue on your loan. You may choose to pay the accrued interest or allow the interest to be capitalized (added to your loan principal balance) when you have to start making payments. Your loan servicer will notify you when your first payment is due.

federal student loans forgiven

If you are employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or not-for-profit organization, you might be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Keep reading to see whether you might qualify.

To ensure you’re on the right track, you should submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) & Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF) Certification & Application (PSLF Form) annually or when you change employers. We’ll use the information you provide on the form to let you know if you are making qualifying PSLF payments. This will help you determine if you’re on the right track as early as possible.

*This provision will be waived through October 31, 2022 as part of the limited PSLF waiver. Learn more.

Suspended Payments Count Toward PSLF and TEPSLF During the COVID-19 Administrative Forbearance

If you have a Direct Loan and work full-time for a qualifying employer during the payment suspension (administrative forbearance), then you will receive credit toward PSLF or TEPSLF for the period of suspension as though you made on-time monthly payments in the correct amount while on a qualifying repayment plan.

To see these qualifying payments reflected in your account, you must submit a PSLF form certifying your employment for the same period of time as the suspension. Your count of qualifying payments toward PSLF is officially updated only when you update your employment certifications.

Digital signatures from you or your employer must be hand-drawn (from a signature pad, mouse, finger, or by taking a picture of a signature drawn on a piece of paper that you then scan and embed on the signature line of the PSLF form) to be accepted. Typed signatures, even if made to mimic a hand-drawn signature, or security certificate-based signatures are not accepted.

Note: In-grace, in-school, and certain deferment, forbearance, and bankruptcy statuses are not eligible for credit toward PSLF.

Have questions? Find out what loans qualify and get additional information about student loan flexibilities due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Qualifying Employer

Qualifying employment for the PSLF Program isn’t about the specific job that you do for your employer. Instead, it’s about who your employer is. Employment with the following types of organizations qualifies for PSLF:

  • Government organizations at any level (U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal) – this includes the U.S. military
  • Not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code

Serving as a full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteer also counts as qualifying employment for the PSLF Program.

The following types of employers don’t qualify for PSLF:

  • Labor unions
  • Partisan political organizations
  • For-profit organizations, including for-profit government contractors

Contractors: You must be directly employed by a qualifying employer for your employment to count toward PSLF. If you’re employed by an organization that is doing work under a contract with a qualifying employer, it is your employer’s status—not the status of the organization that your employer has a contract with—that determines whether your employment qualifies for PSLF. For example, if you’re employed by a for-profit contractor that is doing work for a qualifying employer, your employment does not count toward PSLF.

Other types of not-for-profit organizations: If you work for a not-for-profit organization that is not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, it can still be considered a qualifying employer if it provides certain types of qualifying public services.

Full-time Employment

For PSLF, you’re generally considered to work full-time if you meet your employer’s definition of full-time or work at least 30 hours per week, whichever is greater.

If you are employed in more than one qualifying part-time job at the same time, you will be considered full-time if you work a combined average of at least 30 hours per week with your employers.

If you are employed by a not-for-profit organization, time spent on religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing as a part of your job responsibilities may be counted toward meeting the full-time employment requirement.

Eligible Loans

Any loan received under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program qualifies for PSLF.

Loans from these federal student loan programs don’t qualify for PSLF: the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program and the Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program. However, they may become eligible if you consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Student loans from private lenders do not qualify for PSLF.

Under normal PSLF Program rules, if you consolidate your loans, only qualifying payments that you make on the new Direct Consolidation Loan can be counted toward the 120 payments required for PSLF. Any payments you made on the loans before you consolidated them don’t count. However, if you consolidate these loans into a Direct Loan before October 31, 2022, you may be able to receive qualifying credit for payments made on those loans through the limited PSLF waiver. 

About the author

The Editorial Team at Infolearners.com is dedicated to providing the best information on learning. From attaining a certificate in marketing to earning an MBA, we have all you need. If you feel lost, reach out to an admission officer.
Study on Scholarship Today -- Check your eligibility for up to 100% scholarship.

Leave a Comment