When to Apply for Student Loans for the 2023-2024 Academic YearMay 13, 2022
If you are heading to college in the fall, you likely will need financial aid to cover the cost. Besides grants and loans, you may need student loans to pay for your total cost of attendance.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 44% of full-time, first-time undergraduate students at four-year colleges are awarded federal or private student loans. On average, students were awarded approximately $7,300 per year.
But when do you apply for student loans? To ensure you get the aid you need — and the best possible loans — it’s always better to start the application process early.
When to Apply for Student Loans
If you’re wondering when to apply for student loans, it’s generally best to start the process as soon as possible. However, the actual deadlines and requirements vary by loan type.
Federal Student Loans
Federal loans are the starting point for most college students because federal loans have relatively low interest rates, generous repayment options, and can qualify for loan forgiveness and other programs.
As an undergraduate student, you may be eligible for the following federal loans:
- Direct Subsidized: Undergraduate students with significant financial needs can qualify for subsidized loans, where the government covers the interest that accrues while you’re in school, during your loan grace period, and any periods of qualifying deferments.
- Direct Unsubsidized: Unsubsidized loans are for undergraduate students and graduate students. Unlike subsidized loans, you’re responsible for all interest that accrues.
- Direct Parent PLUS: If your parents are willing to help you pay for college, they can use Parent PLUS Loans to borrow up to your school’s total cost of attendance.
To qualify and apply for federal student loans, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA asks for information about you and your family’s financial status. Based on that information, colleges design your financial aid package, and you could be awarded a mix of grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and student loans.
The federal government, states, and colleges all have their deadlines. For the 2022-2023 academic year, the following deadlines apply:
- Federal deadline: The federal FAFSA deadline for the 2023-2024 academic year is June 30, 2024. However, some aid is issued on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s best to submit your FAFSA early if your situation allows.
- Institution deadline: Colleges can have separate deadlines for aid. Check with your school’s financial aid office to find out when your application is due. Some schools have deadlines in the early spring.
- State deadline: State FAFSA deadlines can be months earlier than the federal government’s deadline. For some, you need to submit by February or March. You can view state deadlines on the Office of Federal Student Aid’s website.
Private Student Loans
In general, private student loan lenders don’t have specific deadlines. However, the processes for applying, getting the loan verified, and disbursing funds can take a long time. For example, here is a sample timeline for a typical private student loan:
- You fill out an application: This is the easy part. You can fill out an application and submit your information. You can usually complete this step in 15 to 30 minutes.
- The lender reviews your information: The lender reviews your application and performs a hard credit inquiry. In some cases, they may contact you for additional information or documentation. Once they have everything they need, they make a decision and notify you if you’ve been approved or denied. Depending on the lender, this step can take a few hours to a few days.
- The lender sends you the loan agreement: They will send you the loan disclosure and agreement if the lender approves your application. Review those documents carefully and return them per the lender’s instructions. You can usually sign them online.
- The lender certifies the loan: The lender will work directly with your college to certify your loan amount and ensure it doesn’t exceed the total cost of attendance (minus other financial aid you received). Depending on the college, this process can take one to five weeks. In some cases, it can take even longer.
In general, lenders recommend applying several months ahead of time to ensure you have the money you need to cover necessary costs like registration, tuition, and room and board.
Applying for a Loan
Now that you know when to apply for student loans, you can mark off important deadlines on your calendar and start the process.
Remember: although the federal financial aid deadline isn’t until June 30, 2023, your school or state may have earlier deadlines. And since some forms of financial aid are issued on a first-come, first-served basis, waiting to submit your information could cost you.
If you need private student loans, try to apply at least two months ahead of the academic year to ensure you have the cash you need to cover registration fees and other essential costs.
You can get rate quotes for private student loans from ELFI without affecting your credit score. If you find a loan that works for you, you can apply entirely online, so get started today.*