What Are Bull Put Spreads & How Do They Work?

Bull Put Spread: How This Options Strategy Works

A bull put spread is an options trading strategy that someone may use when they have a moderately bullish view of an asset, meaning they think the price will increase slightly. The strategy allows you to profit from an increase in an underlying asset’s price while limiting losses if an asset’s price declines.

Bull put spreads and options trading are not for everyone, but learning the ins and outs of this strategy may help your financial portfolio.

What Is a Bull Put Spread?

A bull put spread is an options trading strategy that involves buying a put option and selling another put option on the same underlying asset with the same expiration date, but at different strike prices. The trade is considered a neutral-to-bullish strategy, since it’s designed so the maximum benefit occurs when an asset’s price moderately increases.

To execute a bull put spread, a trader will simultaneously sell a put option at a specific strike price (the short leg of the trade) and buy a put option with a lower strike price (the long leg of the trade).

The trader receives a premium for selling the option with a higher strike price but pays a premium for buying the put option with a lower strike price. The premium paid for the long leg put option will always be less than the short leg since the lower strike put is further out of the money. The difference between the premium received and the premium paid is the maximum potential profit in the trade.

The goal of the bull put spread strategy is to finish the trade with the premium earned by selling the put (sometimes referred to as writing a put option) and lose no more than the premium paid for the long put.

A bull put spread options trading strategy is sometimes called a short put spread or a credit put spread.

💡 Recommended: Options Trading 101: An Introduction to Stock Options

How a Bull Put Spread Works

Bull put spreads focus on put options, which are options contracts that give the buyer the right – but not always the obligation – to sell a security at a given price (the strike price) during a set period of time.

The bull put spread strategy earns the highest profit in situations where the underlying stock trades at or above the strike price of the short put option – the put option sold with the higher strike price – upon expiration. This strategy, therefore, works best for assets that the traders of a bull put spread believe will trade slightly upwards.

The strategy provides a way to profit from a stock’s rising price without having to hold shares. An options strategy like this also caps downside risk because the maximum loss is the difference between the strike prices of the two puts minus the net premium received.

Even though the risk is limited, there can still be times when it makes sense to close out the trade.

💡 Recommended: How to Trade Options: An In-Depth Guide for Beginners

Max Profit and Risk

A bull put spread is meant to profit from a rising stock price, time decay, or both. This strategy caps both potential profit and loss, meaning its risk is limited.

The profit of a bull put spread is capped at the premium you receive by selling the short leg of the trade, minus the premium you spent to buy the long leg put option. You achieve this maximum profit if the underlying asset finishes at any price above the strike price of the short leg of the trade.

Maximum profit = premium received for selling put option – premium paid for buying put option

The maximum losses (i.e., the risk) of a bull put spread is the difference between the strike price of the short put option and the strike price of the long put option, minus the net premium you received.

Maximum loss = strike price of short put – strike price of long put – net premium received

The breakeven point of a bull put spread is the price the underlying asset trades at expiration so that the trader will come away even. The breakeven point will equal the difference between the net premiums you receive up front and the strike price of the short put option. At the breakeven, the trader neither makes nor loses money, not including commissions and fees.

Breakeven point = strike price of short put – net premium received

Bull Put Spread Example

Alice would like to use a bull put spread for XYZ stock since she thinks the price will slowly go up a month from now. XYZ is trading at $150 per share. Alice sells a put option for a premium of $3 with a strike price of $150. At the same time, she buys a put option with a premium of $1 and a strike price is $140. Both put options have the same expiration date in a month.

Alice will collect the difference between the two premiums, which is $2 ($3 – $1). Since each option contract is usually for 100 shares of stock, she’d collect a $200 premium when opening the bull put spread.

Maximum Profit

As long as XYZ stock trades at or above $150 at expiration, both puts will expire worthless, and she will keep the $200 premium she received at the start of the trade, minus commissions and fees.

Maximum profit = $3 – $1 = $2 x 100 shares = $200

Maximum Loss

Alice will experience the maximum loss if XYZ stock trades below $140 at expiration, the strike price of the long leg of the trade. In this scenario, Alice will lose $800, plus commissions and fees.

Maximum loss = $150 – $140 – ($3 – $1) = $8 x 100 shares = $800


If XYZ stock trades at $148 at expiration, Alice will lose $200 from the short leg of the trade with the $150 stock price. However, this will be balanced out by the initial $200 premium she received when opening the positioning. She neither makes nor loses money in this scenario, not including commissions and fees.

Breakeven point = $150 – ($3 – $1) = $148

Bull Put Spread Exit Strategy

Often, trades don’t go as planned. If they did, trading would be easy, and everyone would succeed. What sets successful traders apart from the rest of the pack is the ability to make winning trades, mitigate risk, and limit losses.

Having an exit strategy can help by providing a plan to cut losses at a predetermined point, rather than being caught off guard or simply “waiting” and “hoping” that the market turns around in your favor.

An exit strategy may be a little complicated for a bull put spread. Before the expiration date, you may want to exit the trade so you don’t have to buy an asset you may be obligated to purchase because you sold a put option. You may also decide to exit the position if the underlying asset price is falling and you want to limit your losses rather than take the maximum loss.

To close out a bull put spread entirely would require that the trader buy the short put contract to close and sell the long put option to close.

💡 Recommended: Buy to Open vs Buy to Close

Pros and Cons of Bull Put Spreads

The following are some of the advantages and disadvantages of bull put spreads:

Bull Put Spread Pros

Bull Put Spread Cons

Protection from downside risk; the maximum loss is known at the start of the trade The gains from the strategy will be limited and may be lower than if the trader bought the underlying asset outright
The potential to profit from a modest decline in the price of the underlying asset price Maximum loss is usually more substantial than the maximum gain
You can tailor the strategy based on your risk profile Difficult trading strategy for novice investors

Impacts of Variables

Several variables impact options prices, and options trading terminology describes how these variables might change in a given position.

Because a bull put spread consists of a short put and a long put, the way specific changes in different variables impact the position can be different than other options positions. Here’s a brief summary.

1. Stock Price Change

A bull put spread does well when the underlying security price rises, making it a bullish strategy. When the price falls, the spread performs poorly. This is known as a position with a “net positive delta.” Delta is an options measurement that refers to how much the price of an option will change as the underlying security price changes. The ratio of a stock’s price change to an option’s price change is not usually one-to-one.

Because a bull put spread is made up of one long put and one short put, the delta often won’t change much as the stock price changes if the time to expiration hasn’t changed. This is known as a “near-zero gamma” trade. Gamma is an estimation of how much the delta of a position will change as the underlying stock price changes.

2. Changes in Volatility

Volatility refers to how much the price of a stock might fluctuate in percentage terms. Implied volatility (IV) is a variable in options prices. Higher volatility usually means higher options prices, assuming other factors stay the same. But a bull put spread changes very little when volatility changes, and everything else remains equal.

This is known as a “near-zero vega” position. Vega measures how much an option price will change when volatility changes, but other factors are unmoved.

3. Time

Time decay refers to the fact that the value of an option declines as expiration draws near. The relationship of the stock price to the strike prices of the two put options will determine how time decay impacts the price of a bull put spread.

If the price of the underlying stock is near or above the strike price of the short put (the option with a higher strike price), then the price of the bull put spread declines (and makes money) as time goes on. This occurs because the short put is closest to being in the money and falls victim to time decay more rapidly than the long put.

But if the stock price is near or below the long put’s strike price (the option with a lower strike price), then the price of the bull spread will increase (and lose money) as time goes on. This occurs because the long put is closer to being in the money and will suffer the effects of time decay faster than the short put.

In cases where the underlying asset’s price is squarely in-between both strike prices, time decay barely affects the price of a bull put spread, as both the long and short puts will suffer time decay at more or less the same rate.

4. Early assignment

American-style options can be exercised at any time before expiration. Writers of a short options position can’t control when they might be required to fulfill the obligation of the contract. For this reason, the risk of early assignment (i.e., the risk of being required to buy the underlying asset per the option contract) must be considered when entering into short positions using options.

In a bull put spread, only the short put has early assignment risk. Early assignment of options usually has to do with dividends, and sometimes short puts can be assigned on the underlying stock’s ex-dividend date (the date someone has to start holding a stock if they want to receive the next dividend payment).

In the money puts with time value that doesn’t match the dividends of the underlying stock are likely to be assigned, as traders could earn more from the dividends they receive as a result of holding the shares than they would from the premium of the option.

For this reason, if the underlying stock price is below the short put’s strike price in a bull put spread, traders may want to contemplate the risk of early assignment. In cases where early assignment seems likely, using an exit strategy of some kind could be appropriate.

Start Investing Today With SoFi

Trading options isn’t easy and can involve significant risk. Many variables are involved in options trading, some of which have been notorious for catching newbie traders by surprise. While we’ve answered the fundamental question “what is a bull put spread” here, new investors looking to implement this strategy will still have a lot to learn.

For investors ready to dive into bull spreads and other options trading strategies, SoFi’s options trading platform is a good place to start, thanks to its intuitive design. Investors can trade options from the mobile app or web platform. Plus, they can check out educational resources about options if any questions arise.

Trade options with low fees through SoFi.

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12 Ways a College Athlete Can Make Money

12 Ways a College Athlete Can Make Money

Student athletes typically have extra busy schedules along with the usual college expenses. Between classes, course work, practices, and games or competitions, finding the time for a job to make some money can be tough.

Fortunately, there are many ways for college athletes to make money — through coaching, training gigs, remote work options, and more. With a little creativity, it’s possible to earn some cash doing what an athlete does best: playing to your strengths.

Here, you’ll learn more about how college athletes can make money while working on their degree.

Rising Cost of College

There’s no doubt that college is a big-ticket item: In the 2021-2022 school year, the average cost of tuition and fees at a public college was around $10,740 for in-state residents, and $27,560 for out-of-state residents. For private college, the average cost was $38,070.

Between 1980 and 2020, the average cost of an undergraduate degree went up by 169%.

Even if you’ve been awarded a scholarship, student athletes still need money for everyday expenses and all those protein bars. If you’re wondering how to make ends meet, read on for answers to the question, “How can you make money as a college athlete?”

12 Smart Ways to Make Money as a Student Athlete

If you need to balance athletics and academics, there are an array of part-time job opportunities well-suited for the student athlete.

Here are 12 ways you can bank on your abilities, while adding to your college bank account.

1. Working for the Athletics Department

Landing a job in your school’s athletics department can be a convenient way to earn money while figuring out how to get involved at college and meet other students. Many college athletic departments can provide part-time gigs — in the office or the locker room.

Try asking your coach or athletic director about money-making opportunities. Athletic departments often need the support and, since they’ll be helping out a student athlete, the arrangement can be a real win-win.

2. Training Younger Athletes

Your athletic talents can help nurture the next generation. You could earn an hourly wage working in an after-school sports program for kids — either directly at a school, with a private league/program, or with an organization such as the YMCA.

Parents are often looking for role models to coach and train their children. Some college athletes offer their expertise in a private one-on-one or small group setting for an hourly rate — between $20 to $25 per kid.

Your coach or athletic director may have insight on opportunities for working with children. Bonus: Running around with those energetic kids can help keep you in shape.

Recommended: 15 Low-Cost Side Hustles

3. Personal Training

Still curious about how a college athlete can earn money? Think about all those hours spent training, whether your sport is baseball or gymnastics. You can parlay your workout know-how into income. As a personal trainer, you could make around $20 bucks an hour working with a client, and schedule sessions around your availability.

However, some clients (definitely gyms) may require you to have a personal trainer certificate from an accredited program, which could take time and money.

4. Managing Social Media

In addition to hours in the weight room, college athletes, like most young people, have spent a lot of time on social media. Why not turn those hours of screen time into cash?

Some small businesses don’t have a social media presence. You could check with your campus pizza joint, a local fitness center, or your team’s favorite coffee bar and see if they might hire you to set up or maintain their social media accounts. You could arrange for an hourly rate or flat monthly fee.

Recommended: Finding Jobs That Pay Off Student Loans

5. Vlogging

Some student athletes start their own YouTube vlog relating their experiences or testing sports equipment. As it grows, you can eventually monetize it by using income-producing programs such as Google Adsense.

The flexibility of vlogging is great for a busy college athlete’s schedule, but it might take awhile for you to learn how to get paid for social media and start bringing in income.

Quick Money Tip:When you overdraft your checking account, you’ll likely pay a non-sufficient fund fee of, say, $35. Look into linking a savings account to your checking account as a backup to avoid that, or shop around for a zero fee bank account that doesn’t charge you for overdrafting.

6. Writing Sports Articles

You can make some extra dough by writing about your experiences as a college athlete — personal stories or articles about your triumphs and challenges or an insider’s scoop on the big match.

Check with local newspapers or online sports publications for submission requirements and pay scale.

7. Working Seasonal Jobs

Many college athletes may have more hours for a job during the off-season. If the bulk of your athletic commitments are in the spring, you might consider an easy way to make money in the winter, whether shoveling driveways or ski detailing in a sporting goods store.

A primarily winter season could free up time for an athletic summer job, such as being a lifeguard or a counselor at a sports camp.

8. Selling Old Sports Gear

Student athletes can clean out their closets and earn extra money by selling their gently used sports equipment, apparel, and footwear. Online marketplaces such as SidelineSwap and Geartrade deal specifically in used sports products. Or you can always list your items on Ebay, Facebook Marketplace, and/or Craigslist.

9. Selling Sports Cards

Like many college athletes, you may have spent your childhood collecting trading cards of your sports heroes. Now your hobby could really pay off. There are many websites and antique stores waiting to buy individual cards or your whole collection.

Only one problem: Some of your sports cards may have high sentimental value. You may not be able to part with them!

Recommended: 39 Passive Income Ideas to Build Wealth in 2022

10. Starting an Online Business

Being your own boss is a great way to ensure a flexible schedule for a college athlete. Tap your entrepreneurial streak. The possibilities are endless — editing services, translation services, online T-shirt sales with a unique logo for your team — and you can hire your teammates to help out.

Recommended: 11 Benefits of Having a Side Hustle

11. Modeling

Here’s how else student athletes can make money: Most are physically fit, making them good candidates for modeling work. You could submit photos to a local talent/modeling agency and mention your athletic skills as a plus. A photoshoot for a print ad or an on-camera commercial can yield good money for a few hours of work.

12. Cashing in on Endorsements

In 2021, college athletes earned the legal right to profit off of their names, images, and likeness (NIL). While some student athletes have raked in five- to six-figure endorsement deals, the majority of the 460,000 college athletes across the country earned smaller payouts or free products from local businesses.

While the ruling may be controversial, for some, it’s an easy way to benefit from your years of hard work and dedication to your sport.

The Takeaway

Student athletes can leverage their years of training and discipline into finding a part-time job. You can channel your sports knowledge and work ethic into coaching, personal training, vlogging, writing sports articles, or launching an online business.

With a little research and hard work, you can find an income source that is financially rewarding and won’t put your studies or athletic performance in the penalty box.

Better banking is here with up to 3.75% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


Is it legal for student athletes to make money?

Student athletes are allowed to hold on-campus and off-campus jobs.

How many hours are student athletes able to work?

The NCAA dictates that student athletes are limited to participate in school athletic activities for a maximum of four hours a day, or 20 hours a week. Depending on a student’s course load, that leaves a few hours a day for a part-time job.

Do student athletes get paid?

Student athletes don’t receive salaries from colleges. However, they are allowed to benefit from monetizing their name, image, and likeness, and benefit from commercial endorsements.

Photo credit: iStock/GCShutter

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Guide to Student Loan Certification

Guide to Student Loan Certification

After getting approved for a student loan, there is one more step that must be completed before your funds are disbursed: the loan certification process. This step is designed to protect you as a borrower.

Keep reading to find out more about student loan certification, how long it takes, and the process for federal and private student loans.

What Is Student Loan Certification?

Student loan certification is a mandatory step before loan funds can be sent to your school. Your school will verify enrollment details, such as your expected graduation date, your year in the program, and the loan amount.

For private student loans, a Private Education Loan Applicant Self-Certification form is required. This highlights borrower-protection language, informs you of your ability to submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and explains how a private loan might affect your other financial aid awards. The self-certification step also provides your lender with your enrollment details and financial aid received.

Recommended: FAFSA Guide

Why Do Lenders Need Student Loan Certification?

Student loan lenders must secure a certification before disbursement because it’s required by law, under the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Truth in Lending Act.

Certification ensures that the lender and your school have done their due diligence to inform you about federal financial aid options, confirm that you meet academic enrollment requirements for the loan, and disclose the difference between your school’s cost of attendance (COA) and the financial assistance you’ve received for that period.

Recommended: The Ultimate Student Loan Terminology Cheat Sheet

Do Federal and Private Student Loan Lenders Need the Same Certification?

No, the loan certification process is different for federal vs. private student loans.

For federal aid, your school is responsible for determining the type of student aid you’re eligible for, including federal student loans. If your school finds that you’re eligible for federal loans, it will record its certification of your eligibility into the Common Origination and Disbursement system. This system tracks your loan data throughout your academic career.

The loan certification process for private lenders has a different intent. Your lender can request a completed Self-Certification form from you, which includes a section for your institution to fill out. Alternatively, your lender can communicate directly with your school for its certification sign-off.

Here’s a helpful refresher on how student loans work.

What Is the Process of Student Loan Certification?

After a lender approves your loan application and you accept the loan and its terms, the student loan certification process is automatically initiated. As a student borrower, you may not need to do anything. However, make sure to follow the process, via any emails or notifications from your lender or school, to make sure everything runs smoothly and no additional information is needed from you.

1. Lender Sends Loan Details to the School

The lender forwards your loan information to your school for certification. This includes details you’ve submitted during your application, like your personal information, enrollment information, and the loan amount requested.

2. School Reviews Loan Details

During this step, your school will certify that your enrollment details are correct, the estimated COA for the enrollment period, and how much aid you are receiving during the period.

Private student loan amounts can’t exceed a student’s COA, minus existing financial aid. If your loan details are correct and the amount is within the unfunded COA gap, the school can certify your loan with no changes.

Alternatively, the school can certify your loan with changes, either to reduce the loan amount or correct your enrollment information, if needed. It can also deny the loan certification, which might happen if it can’t verify that you’re enrolled or you already have sufficient financial aid to cover your COA.

Recommended: How To Apply for Student Loans

3. Your Lender Provides a Final Loan Disclosure

Your lender will notify you when your student loan certification is complete. At this time, it will provide you and your student loan cosigner, if applicable, with the final loan disclosure.

If your loan amount was lowered by your school, this is where you’ll see the new amount outlined in the updated disclosure agreement.

4. “Right-to-Cancel” Waiting Period

After the borrower has signed the final loan disclosure, lenders are not allowed to disburse funds right away. Federal law requires a waiting period of three business days after the lender sends you the final disclosure.

This is another layer of borrower protection that gives you time to cancel the loan, if desired, with no penalty.

5. Lender Disburses Loan Funds

After the waiting period expires, the lender can send certified student loan disbursements directly to your school, on the date requested by your institution.

How long school certification takes for a loan varies by school. Generally, it can take up to five weeks for schools to complete student loan certification, but sometimes it’s longer.

Additionally, loan certification is often done in the weeks before the start of classes. Enrollment status can change at the last minute, as when a student drops out or reduces their course load. The timing helps schools process certifications based on the most current information.

Is There Anything Student Borrowers Can Do to Hurry Along the Certification Process?

It’s true that the loan certification process can be lengthy. But there’s not much that can be done to hasten it. The best that student borrowers can do is to stay on top of emails and account notifications from their lender, informing them of status updates and next steps.

What Happens if a School Doesn’t Certify That You Are a Student?

If your school doesn’t certify your enrollment status, your lender can’t legally disburse the loan funds to your school. At best, this results in payment delays as you sort things out with your financial aid office. At worst, it halts disbursement entirely, if your school can’t certify that you are, in fact, an enrolled student.

What to Do if It Is the School’s Error

If you believe a mistake has been made on your student loan certification, contact your financial aid department immediately. Find out what the school needs from you to certify your enrollment and loan.

Additionally, ask what will happen to your enrolled courses while you figure out a resolution. The last thing you want is to get dropped from your classes.

What to Do if It Is the Student’s Error

Student loan certification might be in limbo because of an oversight on your part. This can come up, for example, if you forget to enroll in classes.

If you’re in this situation, reach out to your school’s admissions and records department, or your degree program’s department, for guidance about what you need to do. Make sure to note that you are waiting on private student loan certification needed for disbursement.

The Takeaway

The loan certification process can feel like another hurdle to overcome in financing your education. However, it’s a step that’s meant to protect student borrowers and keep you aware of your rights. The process and intent of certification are different for private student loans and federal student loans. If you do not get certified, don’t panic. Discuss the issue with your school to find out if the error is yours or the school’s, and take immediate steps to resolve it.

If you’ve exhausted your aid options and need additional funds to pay for school, consider a SoFi private student loan. Eligible borrowers can borrow up to their school’s cost of attendance, and there are no fees at all. Checking your interest rate online takes just minutes.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


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When to Apply For Student Loans

When to Apply for Student Loans: Student Loan Deadlines

If you need a loan for college, you may be wondering whether a private student loan is the right choice for you. And, once you’ve made the decision to take out a student loan, you might want to know the differences between federal vs. private student loans and the deadlines associated with each.

Keep reading to learn all that information and more, so you can determine how and when to apply for student loans.

What Are Private Student Loans?

Private student loans are student loans that are offered by private lenders like banks or credit unions to help people pay for the costs associated with college. Similar to applying for an auto loan or mortgage, private student loans require a loan application and approval from the lender.

Depending on how much money you need for school, you can borrow a set amount from a private lender, but the amount they grant you ultimately depends on financial factors like your income, credit score, and the credit history of yourself and/or your cosigner (if applicable).

Unlike federal student loans with fixed interest rates and terms, the fees, repayment plans, and interest rates for private student loans are set by the individual lender. Because of this, it’s important to “shop around” with private lenders until you find rates and terms that meet your financial needs.

Private student loans can help pay for tuition, books and supplies, transportation, and fees. Using your student loan for housing or room and board expenses is also an option.

Recommended: Examining the Different Types of Student Loans

Should I Get a Student Loan?

The question of whether or not you should get a student loan is quite personal and depends on your unique financial situation. In a nation where, in 2020, the average federal student loan debt per borrower was $36,510 and the average private student loan debt per borrower is $54,921, taking out student loans is clearly a popular decision, but whether it’s the right decision is a different story.

For starters, when deciding whether it’s a good idea to take on college debt, it helps to ask whether a degree would be valued in your desired career.

In addition, there are a few other steps you can take to see if taking out a student loan will be worth it in the long run:

•   Look up the tuition, room, board, and other costs of attending your desired college(s)

•   Create a budget to determine whether you can afford those costs after factoring in financial alternatives like scholarships, savings, family help, etc.

•   Use a student loan payment calculator to assess how much you can expect to pay in student loan debt when you graduate

•   Research salary levels in your desired field to see if the expected compensation will cover the cost of student loan payments over time

•   Assess how comfortably you can live at your expected income level, factoring in payment estimates from the student loan calculator

Once you’ve whittled down this information, you should have a better idea of whether taking out student loans is aligned with your long-term financial goals.

Recommended: How Do Student Loans Work? Guide to Student Loans

Other Steps to Take Before Securing Student Loans

Exploring ways to pay for school without taking on student loan debt is the first line of defense in college financial planning.

Since this isn’t always an option, you can minimize your reliance on loans by taking the following steps:

1.    Pull funds from a 529 college savings plan that you or your guardians may have set up for future college costs.

2.    Apply for scholarships and grants to offset the cost of tuition, room, board and other expenses.

3.    Fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form to start the process of securing federal grants or federal student loans and use this money to cover as much of your tuition as possible.

4.    Opt for Federal Direct Subsidized Loans and Perkins Loans if you qualify.

5.    Offset your remaining college costs with unsubsidized federal loans.

6.    Opt out of PLUS loans if possible, as their interest rates and origination fees can be steep.

Finally, once you’ve exhausted the six options above, you can turn to a private student loan to cover any remaining costs associated with your college education.

When Is a Private Student Loan a Good Option?

There are some instances where a private student loan might be an option worth considering:

•   You’d like to cover the gap between your financial aid package or scholarship and your college expenses

•   You don’t have specific financial need requirements, but still want help subsidizing the cost of college

•   You’re looking to shop around with lenders to compare multiple loan options before selecting

•   You have strong credit or a cosigner with a strong credit score who could potentially help you qualify for a more competitive interest rate

•   You’re hoping to refinance your student loans in the future

When Should You Apply for a Private Student Loan?

Generally speaking, it’s wise to consider federal student loans first, but if you do decide a private student loan is the right option for you, you might be wondering when to apply for private loans.

You can apply for a private student loan directly from the desired lender’s website. It’s wise to apply after you’ve made your final school decision and once you know how much you need to borrow, so you won’t have to submit multiple student loan applications for all the schools you’re considering.

Private vs Federal Student Loans

When it comes to private vs. federal student loans, there are a few features and specifics that can help you make your decision:


Federal Student Loans Private Student Loans
Funded by the federal government. Terms and conditions that are set by law. Funded by private student loan lenders like banks, credit unions, state agencies, or schools. Terms and conditions that are set by the lender
Payments aren’t due until after you graduate, leave school, or change your enrollment status to less than half-time. Payments can be due while you’re still in school, but deferment is sometimes possible.
The interest rate is fixed, based on the federal interest rate at the time, and often lower than private loans. The interest rate can be fixed or variable and is based on your individual financial circumstances.
No credit check is required to qualify, except for Direct PLUS Parent Loans. Established credit and/or a cosigner may be required to qualify.
Interest may be tax deductible. Interest may be tax deductible.
Loans can be consolidated. Loans cannot be consolidated, but can be refinanced.
You may be able to postpone or lower your payments. You need to check with your lender to see if you can postpone or lower your payments.
There are several different repayment plans. You need to check with your lender about repayment plans (if any).
There is no prepayment penalty fee. There could be a prepayment penalty fee.
You may be eligible for loan forgiveness if you work in public service. Many private lenders don’t offer loan forgiveness.


Deadlines for Federal Student Loans

To apply for federal student loans, students must fill out the FAFSA. There are three separate deadlines to consider:

1. The College or University Deadline

College deadlines for filling out the FAFSA will vary based on the school itself, but typically occur before the academic year begins. Each college will have its own FAFSA deadline, so visiting its financial aid website for this information is an important first step.

To fill out the 2023–24 FAFSA form itself, you can use your 2021 tax information to apply as early as October 1, 2022.

2. The State Deadline

Your home state sets the second deadline when it comes to FAFSA applications. The deadlines are listed on the FAFSA form itself, or you can visit the state deadline list on StudentAid.gov.

3. The Federal Deadline

The U.S. Department of Education sets the final deadline on the list. This entity is in charge of FAFSA and their website will feature the 2023-2024 FAFSA application until June 2023.

Federal student aid programs have a limited amount of funds available, so the sooner you can submit your application and avoid encroaching on the hard deadlines, the better.

Recommended: FAFSA 101: How to Complete the FAFSA

Deadlines for Private Student Loans

When applying for student loans from a private lender, there isn’t typically a set deadline in place. Still, this doesn’t necessarily mean you want to wait until the last minute, since you’ll need plenty of time before tuition, housing, and other fees are due to secure the funds from your student loan.

Many private student loan lenders can approve your application in a few minutes or less, but it can sometimes take up to two weeks for full approval. That’s why it’s smart to keep your eyes on your school’s payment deadlines and ensure your funds will be disbursed on time.

Named a Best Private Student Loans Company
by U.S. News and World Report.

What Type of Private Student Loan May Be Right for You?

At the end of the day, there are ways to find the right private student loan for your unique circumstances, all it takes is some shopping around.

Considering the following factors can help you determine which type of private student loan makes the most sense for your personal situation:

•   Interest rates and fees

•   Payment flexibility

•   Lender credibility

•   Ability to refinance or release a co-signer

•   Whether the lender sells their loans

•   Repayment benefits

•   Whether the lender is a preferred partner of your college or university of choice (this information is usually found on the school’s website)

Because the rates and terms on a private student loan are determined by the individual lender and are impacted based on the borrower’s personal financial history, finding a private student loan may require a bit of shopping around.

Looking for Private Student Loan Options?

If you’re looking for a private student loan lender who understands the value of your education and thinks no-fees is a normal part of the application process, consider a private student loan with SoFi.

You can check your rate online and select one of four flexible repayment options on a loan that fits your budget.

The Takeaway

There are several factors that determine whether you should get a student loan — from what you can afford after factoring in financial alternatives like scholarships, savings, family help, etc. to how comfortably you can live with your student loan payments after graduation.

Generally speaking, it’s wise to apply for federal student loans first and turn to private student loans once you’ve exhausted other alternatives. This is because private student loans are not required to follow the same rules as federal student loans, and may lack benefits like income-driven repayment plans or the option to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Private student loans are offered by private lenders like banks or credit unions to help people pay for college. You can apply for a private student loan by shopping around and comparing interest rates, fees, repayment options, and other features on the lenders’ websites.

The deadlines for federal student loans are based on the college you plan to attend, the federal FAFSA deadline for the academic year you’re applying for, and your state’s FAFSA deadline.

Find out more about using a private student loan from SoFi to help pay for college.

Photo credit: iStock/insta_photos

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How Much FAFSA Money Will I Get?

Going to college or graduate school is a serious investment in your future — both professionally and financially. Naturally, you’ll want to know how much financial aid you’re eligible for. And you’ll want to explore all the options: student loans, grants, and work-study programs.

Understanding how to complete the FAFSA® — Free Application for Federal Student Aid — is the first step.

The amount of federal aid that prospective and current students receive is based on a variety of factors, and everyone’s financial situation is unique. But familiarizing yourself with the following requirements and questions can help paint a clearer picture of how much FAFSA money you will get.

What Are the Eligibility Requirements?

Many incoming and current college and graduate students are eligible for federal aid. Students must satisfy the following criteria to apply:

•   Be a U.S. citizen, national, or eligible noncitizen

•   Have a valid Social Security number, unless you’re from the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau

•   Have a high school diploma or GED

•   Promise to use awarded federal aid for education purposes only

•   Do not owe refunds on any federal student grants

How Do I Begin the FAFSA?

The first step is creating your FSA user ID and password. From there, you’ll answer a series of questions covering demographic information, schools you are interested in attending, financial details, and information from parents or guardians based on dependency status.

Filling out the FAFSA may feel intimidating, but a little preparation before you sit down at the computer can save you from common FAFSA mistakes, like leaving important fields blank.

What Factors Affect FAFSA Money?

The application includes questions about demographics and finances for students and sometimes their families to answer. Collectively, this information will determine how much need-based and non-need-based aid students qualify for.

Applying for the FAFSA Every Year of School and on Time

Filling out the FAFSA is not a one-time deal. Students must file the FAFSA each year they are enrolled in college or graduate school. Yet approximately 40% of high school seniors do not fill out the FAFSA, and a quarter of college and graduate students do not renew their application after their first year of studies.

There are several important FAFSA deadlines to be aware of. The federal deadline for the 2022-2023 academic year (this includes students beginning school in winter or spring 2023) is June 30, 2023. Updates or corrections can be made as late as September 9, 2023. However, it’s not too early to apply for the 2023-2024 school year; the application window opened on Oct. 1, 2022.

State deadlines vary, and many precede the federal deadline by one or several months. Applying early can increase your chance of receiving additional financial aid from your home state in the form of grants or scholarships.

Dependency Status

An applicant’s dependency status is determined by 10 questions found at StudentAid.gov/dependency. Even if your parents claim you as a dependent for tax purposes, you may still qualify as an independent for federal financial aid. You most likely qualify for independent status if you meet any of the following requirements when filling out the FAFSA:

•   At least 24 years old

•   Married

•   A graduate or professional student (law, medicine, etc.)

•   A veteran or active member of the armed forces

•   An orphan, ward of the court, or emancipated minor

•   Claiming legal dependents other than a spouse

•   Homeless or at risk of becoming homeless

Your dependency status affects how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive. In many cases, independent students can be eligible for more financial aid, as they are assumed to be paying their own tuition and living expenses.

Still, dependent students may be eligible for a variety of financial aid opportunities from federal or state governments and colleges through the FAFSA. Most incoming and current undergraduate students are considered dependent. This means that information from parents or guardians, such as tax returns, must be submitted and will affect whether financial aid is awarded and how much.

In special circumstances, students may file for a dependency override. These are awarded case by case, and are typically reserved for students facing exceptional family-related issues or whose parents are unwilling to provide information for the FAFSA.

Expected Family Contribution

Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, primarily applies to dependent students. The EFC calculates eligibility and aid based on several financial and demographic indicators, including:

•   A family’s taxed and untaxed income

•   A family’s assets and benefits (unemployment and Social Security, for example)

•   Family size and number of dependents enrolled in or likely to attend college

This calculation determines need-based and non-need-based aid eligibility and amount, rather than a figure a family is expected to pay toward education. Typically, a lower EFC translates to greater financial aid eligibility as a result of higher need.

Starting with the 2024-2025 school year, the EFC will be replaced by the Student Aid Index or SAI. It fulfills the same basic purpose but works a little differently. You can learn more about the upcoming Student Aid Index here.

Cost of Attendance

Education costs can vary considerably based on merit-based scholarships, in-state vs. out-of-state residency, and other factors. The amount of FAFSA money you receive will also depend on the cost of attendance for your chosen college or university.

The cost of attendance encompasses tuition, fees, room and board, books and school supplies, and expenses associated with child care or disabilities, if applicable. A lower cost of attendance usually translates to less aid, because the funding can be used only for education purposes.

Not sure where you want to apply? Our College Search tool can help.

How Much Money Will I Get From FAFSA?

The amount of FAFSA money you receive cannot exceed the cost of attendance for your chosen college or university.

Before applying, the Federal Student Aid Estimator is a useful tool to estimate the amount of federal student aid you may qualify for.

Assuming that you meet the eligibility criteria and are applying on time, you may receive some form of federal financial aid, especially if your EFC is less than your cost of attendance. Potential sources of federal student aid include the following programs:


Unlike loans, grants are free money to put toward your education that does not have to be paid back. After completing the FAFSA, students with proven financial need may receive aid in the form of a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant or Pell Grant. Opportunity grants are allocated based on need, other aid awarded, and college budgets. Pell Grants change annually but can be as high as $6,895 for the 2022-2023 academic year.


Federal work-study programs typically involve a part-time job on or off campus. Wages are set by the college but must meet minimum-wage requirements. Work-study schedules are intended to be structured around students’ classes.

Federal Loans

Eligibility for federal student loans is generally broader than for grants and work-study programs. Federal loans are either subsidized or unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are need-based and include interest deferment and grace periods. On the other hand, unsubsidized loans begin accruing interest as soon as they are paid out to borrowers.

All federal loans have an origination fee but generally have a lower interest rate.

Different types of federal student loans exist, and each has a maximum award amount according to dependency status and year of study. Dependent undergraduate students have an aggregate loan limit of $31,000. Independent undergraduates can take out $57,500, and graduate students can borrow up to $138,500.

How Else Can I Pay for College?

If financial aid isn’t enough to cover your tuition and other education expenses, there are ways to make college more affordable.

Scholarships and Grants

Besides scholarships granted by your chosen college, there are opportunities offered by private foundations, community groups, and nonprofit organizations. Awards can be given based on academic merit, need, field of study, or participation in a specific sport or activity. Our Scholarship Finder tool can help you unearth available awards filtered by school type, field of study, state, and more.

Try to stay on top of scholarship and grant applications and deadlines as they can come and go quickly. Winning a scholarship or a grant is basically finding free money, and you don’t want that money to go unclaimed.

Private Student Loans

Students who cannot pay for college with scholarships and federal aid alone can apply for private student loans from various financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Interest rates, forbearance, and other terms and conditions can vary, so shop around to compare loan rates and terms.

SoFi’s no-fee private student loans are an option for students to help pay for college and graduate school. Flexible repayment plans can ease the search for a loan that works with a student’s budget and financial plan.

Learn how you can help pay for your education with private student loans from SoFi.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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