Dawn M. Geiger
Are you finding that you may need to apply for student loans to be able to complete your college or post high school education? If so, are you struggling to decide which student loan(s) would be best for you? Are you also thinking the more information you receive about student loans, the more questions you want to ask?
Private loans, direct subsidized loans, direct unsubsidized loans, and direct PLUS loans are several student loan options that are available, and learning the difference(s) between them can be very confusing and stressful, to say the least. With so many options to choose from, how do you know which one(s) you may qualify for?
Private loans are loans that are secured through a student’s personal bank or private lender. Even though you may prefer this option as your personal choice, the interest rates and the length of repayment may vary greatly; therefore, I would encourage you to explore every option available to you.
The lowest possible interest rate in student loans may be found by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be found at www.fafsa.gov. With this option, a student may qualify for a direct subsidized or direct unsubsidized loan. Subsidized loans are for undergraduate students and are based on financial need. These loans do not accrue interest while the loan is in deferment (“deferment” means a delay of repayment). Unsubsidized loans are not based on financial need and are available to undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students. However, the interest on unsubsidized loans accrues from the start of the loan.
Another option is the Direct PLUS loan which is also a federally-funded educational loan through FAFSA that graduate and post-graduate students can apply for. Parents of undergraduate dependent students can apply for direct PLUS loans for their children as well. These loans are available to eligible borrowers through their participating colleges and schools.
Even though you may qualify for one or several student loans, I encourage you to explore every option that is available to you for additional grants and scholarships through your high school guidance office, your college, or technical school’s financial aid office and online, as well as businesses and churches within your community. I would also encourage you to check with your employer to see if they have corporate tuition/reimbursement benefits for its employees. As a military student or dependent, you may also want to check with the military, as well as your college or school, for possible military benefits to assist with your educational expenses. Some schools may also offer additional savings for specific work or volunteer positions.
If you find that a student loan is what you need to cover your educational expenses, even initially, you do not have to wait until you finish school before you start your repayment plan. You can always make payments to your lender, even at a reduced rate, while you are still in school to save on the interest accruing on your loan(s). Also, if you find that your loans exceed your education expenses, you can always decline the excess money you don’t need, or you can return it to your lender to keep the accruing interest and overall repayment on your loan as low as possible.
With any option you choose to assist with your educational expenses, I encourage you to remain mindful of all student loans that you accept throughout your educational career because ultimately, it is you that will repay your lender every dollar plus interest!