Pay off high-rate debt with a personal loan and save thousands. Learn more.

Understanding Student Loan Requirements

By Becca Stanek · January 23, 2022 · 5 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Understanding Student Loan Requirements

Whether you apply for federal or private loans, you’ll need to meet several student loan requirements to receive your funds. Those requirements can vary depending on what type of loan you want.

It’s important to know exactly what the requirements are before applying. Because while student loans are a popular way to help pay for college, getting approved isn’t a given. Read on to learn the requirements for different types of federal loans as well as private loans.

Federal Student Loan Requirements

There are four different types of federal student loans available to college students and their parents. Loans generally require:

•   Demonstrated financial need (for most programs)

•   U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen

•   Social Security number

•   Enrollment in or acceptance to an eligible degree or certificate program

•   Attendance at least half-time

•   Maintenance of satisfactory academic progress

•   Completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form

•   Agreement to use the loan for educational purposes only

•   You’re not in default on a federal student loan and don’t owe money on a federal grant

•   High school diploma or GED certificate, state-approved homeschool setting, or enrollment in an eligible career pathway program and “ability-to-benefit” alternative

Depending on the type of loan, though, there may be additional requirements that parents or students need to meet. Read on for a quick breakdown of some additional requirements by loan type.

Direct Subsidized Loans

With Direct Subsidized Loans, the federal government covers your interest costs while you’re still in school. To qualify, you need to be an undergraduate student enrolled at least half-time at a participating school that will lead to a degree or a certificate. And you must show financial need through the FAFSA form.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

With a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you do not need to demonstrate financial need, and you are responsible for paying interest on the loan from the time you take it out. To qualify, you must be an undergraduate, graduate, or professional student who is enrolled at a participating school at least half-time. Typically, the program must result in a degree or certificate.

Recommended: College Tuition Payment Plans

Direct PLUS Loans

You can apply for a Direct PLUS Loan if you’re a graduate or professional student, or a parent of an undergraduate student. You generally can’t have an adverse credit history, which means, as stated by the Department of Education (DOE), you may not qualify if you have any of the following on your credit report:

•   Accounts with a total outstanding balance over $2,085 that are 90 or more days delinquent, or that have been placed in collection or charged off within the last two years.

•   Default determination within the last five years.

•   Bankruptcy discharge within the past five years.

•   Repossession during the last five years.

•   Foreclosure within the last five years.

•   Charge-off / write-off of federal student loans during the last five years.

•   Wage garnishment within the last five years.

•   Tax lien within the past five years.

That being said, if you do have an adverse credit history, you may still be able to receive a Direct PLUS Loan if you meet either of the following requirements and also complete credit counseling:

•   You get an endorser who does not have an adverse credit history.

•   You demonstrate to the DOE that you have extenuating circumstances relating to your adverse credit history.

Recommended: How To Pay for Grad School

Direct Consolidation Loans

A Direct Consolidation Loan allows you to consolidate multiple federal loans into one loan. To qualify, you must have one or more eligible loans and meet other requirements, including:

•   The loans must be in repayment or in the six-month grace period after you leave school.

•   In general, you must have at least one loan that isn’t already a consolidated loan.

•   If one or more loans are in default, you must make at least three consecutive monthly payments or agree to repay the Direct Consolidation Loan under one of the available income-driven repayment plans.

•   If your wages are being garnished to make payments on a defaulted federal loan, you can’t consolidate it until the wage garnishment order has been lifted or the judgment has been vacated.

Private Student Loan Requirements

While federal student loans often have the same requirements across the board because the DOE is the lender on all of them, that isn’t the case with private student loans. With private loans, requirements vary by lender, which means you may qualify for a loan from one private student loan company and not with another.

The requirements for a private student loan can also depend on what type you’re applying for, such as an undergraduate loan, graduate loan, or specialized loan.

In general, all private student lenders require a credit check and a minimum annual income. This means that if you don’t have a credit history, you may need a cosigner with an established credit history and a solid income to apply for the loan with you.

Each lender has different requirements when it comes to student loans. Common requirements among major private student loan companies include:

•   U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or international student.

•   Social Security number (some don’t require this for international students).

•   International students generally must have a cosigner.

•   Attendance at an eligible school.

•   Enrollment in a degree program and attendance at least half-time (some allow you to be less than half-time).

Depending on the lender, there may be other student loan qualification requirements and limitations, so it’s important to shop around to compare lenders and read the terms to make sure you qualify.

Also, look for private student lenders that allow you to get prequalified with just a soft credit check. This can give you an idea of your approval chances and show you possible loan terms you might qualify for without dinging your credit score.

The Takeaway

There are a number of requirements you may have to meet in order to qualify for a student loan. The requirements for different types of federal student loans tend to have more overlap, as they all have the same lender. Some are administrative, such as having a Social Security number. Others are risk-related, like not being in default on any previous student loans. Requirements for private student loans vary from lender to lender.

If you’re getting ready to apply for a loan to fund your education, make sure to explore your options and compare terms and rates. SoFi offers private student loans with fixed or variable rates and a number of repayment options.

SoFi offers no-fee private student loans for undergraduate and graduate students or their parents.

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 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.

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

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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.


All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender