When many parents and college students look at the expected family contribution they get after finishing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, they are amazed at how much they’re expected to contribute to their education. Depending on the aid package put together by the school being applied to, there may be a fairly large gap between the cost of school and the government loans, grants, and scholarships a student has earned.
What is a family to do when it’s in this situation? There are several different options. One is just to go to a cheaper school. This, though, can seriously limit your choices or rule out a school that’s best for your discipline and needs. Another option is to sit out of school and save up money. Again, this doesn’t really present the best solution for the student. Finally, you can supplement your government aid and scholarships with private student loans.
These are specialized loans for students that come from banks. They’re a lot like federal loans without the federal subsidy. Because they aren’t sponsored by the government, these loans probably require more proof of income. It’s more like taking out an unsecured personal loan, in fact.
As with government loans, private student loans are often lower interest than credit cards or normal personal loans. However, they may have somewhat higher interest than federal loans, and it’s definitely a good idea to shop around with these loans. You might be surprised at the difference between one bank and the next! When you shop, it can be a good idea to apply for several loans within one week.
Each bank you apply with will check your credit, and if you apply all at once, your credit score won’t take as much of a hit.
Another thing to keep in mind with these types of student loans is that they won’t have subsidized interest until you graduate, as many federal loans do. When you take out one of these loans, it will accrue interest until you start repaying it. However, you can often get deferred payments until you’ve graduated or stopped going to school for whatever reason, just like you can with regular loans. The rules about private loans will be different from bank to bank. Make sure that you very carefully check the paperwork about these loans so that you know exactly what you’re getting into first.