As the calendar turns to July, students begin to consider their student loan options. New students are discovering what it means to incur debt to reach their education goals, while college graduates are thinking about repaying the loans they incurred over the course of their education. Lucky for both groups, we have the answers to some popular questions!

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Let’s start by covering what is new in 2019. Not much, in fact, just the interest rate on new loans has changed. We put together a chart that covers the new rates for parents and students, you can download your copy here.

Now that we got that big change out of the way, let’s answer some common questions.

How do I apply for a student loan?

To start, you will need to complete your FAFSA if you didn’t do it back in October. Your college will tell you how much and which type of loans you qualify for. You’ll need to go to studentloans.gov to complete two functions. First, sign your Master Promissory Note, this is your agreement to repay the loan. The second is Entrance Counseling which is designed to make sure you understand lending and repayment.

How often do I apply?

Even though each year is a new loan with a new interest rate, you only need to renew your FAFSA each fall and accept the loans in the spring. There are caps to the amount of loan you can have each year and over your entire education level. Make sure you only accept loans when you absolutely need them.

Do I need to consolidate my loans?

The consolidation process was simplified years ago, so ideally you should not need to consolidate. I’m generally a skeptical person, so I recommend that you inquire with the college and your servicer. Along with consolidation comes repayment and another change this year. The federal government has proposed eliminating many of the loan forgiveness programs effective in 2020. At the time of writing this blog that is still just a proposal, so if you plan to be a teacher or do public service you’ll want to keep an eye on the news.

Can I secure a loan for my student?

Yes, you can request a Parent Plus Loan from the college to cover expenses. The terms, interest rate and repayment differ from the student loan so make sure you consider all your options. You can find those details on our loan chart as well. There are some benefits from taking out a federal loan but you may have access to better options. Make sure you consider all options available to you, including payment plans from the school.

What if the student loan isn’t enough to cover my expenses?

This is always a difficult situation for anyone to be in, and the solution is different for every family. At this point, additional grants are probably not a viable option. Scholarship deadlines for the current academic year are in the rear-view mirror. The first thing is to focus on the current academic year. Maybe you ask the school for a payment plan and get a job to pay for your college expenses. Maybe you have relatives who can help. Private loans are an expensive and risky option, but desperate times will call for desperate measures. Once you have a plan for the current academic year you’ll want to spend some serious time looking for scholarships for next year. It’s not going to be easy, but you don’t want to be in this situation again next year.

I hope this answered some of your questions about student loans. Don’t worry if your question was not covered. You can call one of our offices, leave a question in the comments below, or you can message us on social media.

Best of luck in college!