Guide to Grad PLUS Loan Credit Score Requirements

Guide to Grad PLUS Loan Credit Score Requirements

According to EducationData.org, the average cost of a master’s degree at a public state college is $29,150, and $62,100 at private school.

To help pay for this expense, graduate-level students sometimes turn to federal graduate loans for assistance. Grad students no longer qualify for federal Direct Subsidized Loans but they may be eligible to borrow Direct Unsubsidized Loans or Graduate PLUS Loans.

Unlike most other loans in the Direct Loan program, Direct PLUS loans require a credit check. If you’re exploring loans to help fund your graduate program, here’s what to know about Grad PLUS Loan credit score requirements and eligibility.

What Are Grad PLUS Loans?

As alluded to previously, subsidized loans are for undergraduate students. In addition to Direct Unsubsidized loans, graduate students may also be able to borrow PLUS Loans. There are two options for PLUS Loans, Grad PLUS Loans are available to graduate or professional student borrowers while Parent PLUS Loans are options for parents with undergraduate students. Grad PLUS Loans are non-need based financial aid option.

Grad PLUS loans have a fixed interest rate. You can borrow up to the cost of attendance that’s certified by the school, minus existing financial aid you’ve received. Payments can be deferred while you’re enrolled at least half-time in school, and an automatic six-month grace period occurs after leaving school before you’re required to enter repayment. Note that while the loan is in deferment, interest will continue to accrue.

Who Is Eligible for Grad PLUS Loans?

Students don’t have to demonstrate financial need to be eligible for a Grad PLUS Loan. However, in addition to meeting basic federal aid requirements, applicants must be enrolled in a certificate- or degree-issuing program at least half-time, and the program must be at an eligible school.

Upon meeting these academic requirements, graduate applicants must also agree to a credit check. If you don’t satisfy the Department of Education’s credit requirement, you’ll need to meet additional Grad PLUS Loan requirements to receive funding.

Grad PLUS Loan Minimum Credit Score

Unlike a traditional consumer loan through a private lender, the Department of Education doesn’t set a minimum Grad PLUS Loan credit score to qualify. Instead, the program states that borrowers can’t have an adverse credit history.

It determines adverse credit as:

•   Having 90- or more day delinquent balance of $2,085 across one or more accounts.

•   Having a collection or charge-off in the past two years.

•   Having a foreclosure, repossession, bankruptcy discharge, tax lien, wage garnishment, or default within the past five years.

•   Having federal student debt charged- or written-off within five years.

Although primary borrowers with adverse credit aren’t eligible on their own, they might still be approved if they meet extra Grad PLUS Loan requirements.

How to Check Your Credit Score

There are a couple of options for those interested in finding their credit score. Check in with your credit card company or bank, many financial institutions now offer credit scores to their customers.

Since there is no minimum credit score for a Grad PLUS loan, you may also want to review your credit history. You can review your credit report from all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Your credit reports include details for every credit account under your name, and their payment status.

You can request a copy of each credit report in one sitting through AnnualCreditReport.com, the central website of the national credit bureaus. You can also request your credit reports by mailing an Annual Credit Report request form or by calling its toll-free number: 1-877-322-8228.

You’re entitled to a free credit report from each bureau every 12 months. Additionally, you can request up to six free Equifax credit reports every year until 2026; this can be requested directly on Equifax’s website.

Tips for Maintaining a Good Credit Score

Although there isn’t a minimum credit score for Grad PLUS loans, maintaining a positive credit profile today can be advantageous if you need loans for future academic years, or decide on a student loan refinance later on.

Some ways to keep your credit in good standing are by:

•   Making payments on time. Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO® credit score. Make sure to pay at least the minimum payment by the due date every month.

•   Keeping your credit utilization low. If you have revolving credit, like a credit card, avoid using a high percentage of your available credit limit. As much as 30% of your score is based on credit utilization ratio.

•   Reviewing your credit report for mistakes. Although it’s rare, errors may come up on credit reports that can bring your score down. Regularly check your credit report and notify the bureaus of the error if you find one.

•   Keeping your longest credit account in good standing. The age of your credit accounts affect your overall credit score by 15%.

•   Having a mix of credit types. Keeping a mix of credit types could potentially help your credit score by 10%. For example, installment credit (student loan, auto loan, etc.) verus revolving credit (credit cards, Home Equity Lines of Credit, etc.).

What to Do if You Have Adverse Credit

For students with an adverse credit history, the Grad PLUS Loan program offers two options:

1.    Secure an endorser. This person must not have adverse credit and will be liable to repay the debt if you, as the primary borrower, are unable to do so.

2.    Provide proof of an extenuating circumstance. If your adverse credit history was due to an extenuating circumstance, you can appeal a denied application by providing supporting documentation. Approval isn’t guaranteed.

Regardless of which path you choose, if approved, you’ll also need to undergo PLUS Credit Counseling.

Alternatives to Grad PLUS Loans

Although you have access to apply for Grad PLUS Loans as a graduate or professional student, you’re not guaranteed for approval. For example, if you have adverse credit, but can’t secure an endorser, you might not receive Grad PLUS funding.

Below are some other graduate school loan options and financial aid ideas if you need alternatives.

Grants, Scholarships, and Work-Study

Grants, scholarships, and work-study are financial aid opportunities that can help bridge the gap for your graduate education.

The first step to seeing whether you’re eligible for these programs is completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). If you’re eligible for federal-, state-, or school-sponsored programs, you’ll be notified through your FAFSA award letter.

You can also apply for need- or merit-based grants and scholarships through private organizations, professional associations, or other nonprofit community groups.

Personal Loans

If you’ve exhausted federal student aid options, a personal loan from a private lender could be an option to consider. Generally, you can use personal loans for nearly any large, upcoming expense, including costs associated with graduate school, like transportation or supplies.

Personal loans are available through private entities, like banks, credit unions, online lenders, and also through community groups and associations.

Recommended: Common Reasons to Apply for a Personal Loan

Private Student Loans

Another financial aid option that operates outside of the federal student loan system are private student loans. Private student loans are specifically for use toward educational expenses, like tuition and fees, and textbooks.

These loans are provided by private banks, credit unions, and financial institutions. Some states and schools also offer private student loan options.

A private student loan is an installment loan, and can have fixed- or variable interest rates. Each lender has its own eligibility requirements and loan terms. Since these loans aren’t federally owned they don’t offer the same benefits that federal loans provide, like access to loan forgiveness and extended deferment. For this reason, federal student loans are generally prioritized over private student loan options when evaluating financing options.

Explore Private Student Loan Rates

If after accessing your financial aid situation, you find you need more education funds, SoFi can help. SoFi’s private student loan lets you borrow up to your school’s certified cost of attendance at competitive rates. Plus, checking your rate online takes only three minutes.

Interested in learning more about SoFi’s private student loans? Find out if you prequalify and at what rates in just a few minutes.

FAQ

Can you be denied a Grad PLUS loan?

Yes, you can be denied a Grad PLUS Loan if you don’t meet the Department of Education’s eligibility requirements. You must be a graduate or professional student who’s enrolled in a degree- or certificate-granting program at an eligible school. You also must not have adverse credit, and must meet the general requirements for federal student aid.

Do Grad PLUS loans check your credit score?

Yes, Direct PLUS Loans, which include Grad PLUS Loans, require a credit check. The credit checks reviews a borrower’s credit history for adverse marks. Despite having adverse credit, however, borrowers might still be able to receive Grad PLUS funding by adding an endorser or by providing proof of extenuating circumstances.

Are cosigners required for Grad PLUS loans?

Cosigners are not required to qualify for a Grad PLUS Loan. However, if the primary borrower has adverse credit, having a cosigner (also known as an endorser), might help the primary borrower qualify.


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 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-criteria 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.


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.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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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All You Need to Know About Subsidized Loans for Graduate School

All You Need to Know About Subsidized Loans for Graduate School

Subsidized loans, a type of loan offered by the federal government, used to be available to graduate students. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. The program that allowed graduate students to receive subsidized loans was ended in 2011 by the Budget Control Act. For now, these loans are only available for undergraduate students. However, there are other loans available to help pay for grad school. Continue reading for more information on subsidized loans and the other options available to graduate students.

What Are Subsidized Loans?

Federal student loans are offered through the U.S. Department of Education to help students cover the cost of higher education. The government helps students pay for degrees or certificates from colleges and universities, community colleges, and trade, career, or technical schools.

Direct Subsidized Loans are available to undergraduate students able to demonstrate financial need. The amount of the loan is determined by the school you are applying to.

The Department of Education pays all interest on the loans while you are in school at least half-time, during the six-month grace period after you leave school, and during periods of deferment. Outside of these periods, the borrower is responsible for making all principal and interest payments.

Subsidized vs Unsubsidized Loans

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans, on the other hand, are one of the student loans available to undergrads and graduate students. Students do not have to demonstrate financial need to qualify for these loans.

The loan amount is still determined by your school, and you are entirely responsible for making interest payments during all periods.

When considering subsidized vs. unsubsidized loans, it’s important to understand both are subject to loan limits. In aggregate, dependent students, except those whose parents are unable to take out PLUS loans, may borrow no more than $31,000, at a given time, of which only $23,000 may be in subsidized loans.

For undergraduates whose parents are unable to access PLUS loans, the loans limit is $57,500, with no more than $23,000 in subsidized loans.

And for graduate students, the loan limit is $138,500, of which no more than $65,500 may be in subsidized loans. What’s more, the aggregate limit also includes whatever student loans you may have from your time as an undergraduate.

When you reach the aggregate loan limit, you will not be allowed to borrow any more money in federal student loans. However, if you are able to pay off some of your loans you may be able to borrow again up to the aggregate loan limit.

Interest rates for both types of loans are set by the federal government each year. For the 2023-2024 academic year, the interest rate for undergraduate borrowers is 5.50% for Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans. The interest rate for graduate borrowers for Direct Unsubsidized loans is 7.05%. The interest rate is fixed over the life of the loan.

Alternatives to Subsidized Loans

In addition to unsubsidized loans, there are other loans available from the government and private sources that can help you pay for grad school.

Grad PLUS Student Loans

Grad PLUS Student loans are another federal loan available through the Department of Education. They are also known as Direct PLUS loans. Grad PLUS Loan requirements include that you must be a graduate student enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. Your program must lead to a graduate degree, a professional degree, or a certificate. You meet the basic eligibility requirements for federal student aid and must not have an adverse credit history.

Under the Grad PLUS program you are allowed to borrow the cost of attendance less any other financial aid. And you don’t have to repay the loan until six months after you leave school or drop below half-time enrollment.

Interest rates on the loan are fixed. Any loans disbursed after July 1, 2023, carry an interest rate of 8.05%.

To apply for federal student loans, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student
Aid (FAFSA®)
. Your school will use the information on this form to determine how much aid you are eligible to receive and present it to you in an offer letter. The offer letter will also give you information about grants and work-study programs you may be eligible for.

Recommended: Grad PLUS Loans, Explained

Private Loans

Private student loans are available through banks and credit unions and other private institutions. The individual lender will determine the amount you can borrow, terms of the loan, and interest rate based in large part on financial factors such as your income and your credit score. Many undergraduates will need a cosigner to qualify for a private student loan. Cosigners are responsible for making loan payments if you fail to do so.

Private loans may allow you to borrow beyond the federal limits imposed on federal loans, or help you pick up the slack if you didn’t qualify for enough federal funding. Though they may lack protections afforded to federal student loans, and as a result, are generally thought of as a last-resort option when paying for grad school.

Personal Loans

Personal loans are also available through private lenders. Borrowed funds can be used for practically any purpose, which means they could potentially be used to cover expenses beyond tuition, fees, room and board, such as transportation. As with private loans, the amount you can borrow will depend on your financial history or that of a cosigner.

How Much Can You Borrow for Graduate School?

The amount you can borrow for graduate school will depend on the types of loans that you use.

Grad PLUS student loans potentially allow you to borrow up to the full cost of attending your program less any other financial aid.

However, unsubsidized loans limit your aggregate borrowing to $138,500, and that’s including any federal loans that you took out as an undergraduate.

Borrowers who are enrolled in certain health profession programs may be subject to a higher aggregate limit for Direct Subsidized Loans, and should talk to their school’s financial aid office.

Private student loans may limit borrowers to the cost of attendance. Policies will likely vary by lender.

Personal loans may allow you to borrow as much as $100,000 with no limitations on how the money must be spent. Again, specific policies may vary by lender.

Recommended: What is the Maximum Amount of Student Loans for Graduate School?

The Takeaway

Federal subsidized loans are no longer available to graduate students. Though organizations like the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators are pushing for legislation that would reintroduce the loans. In the meantime, graduate students have other options, and may rely on federal unsubsidized loans, Grad PLUS Loans, loans from private lenders, or a combination of the above to help pay for school.

Visit SoFi, to learn more about options for private student loans.

FAQ

Does the US Department of Education offer subsidized loans for graduate students as part of financial aid packages?

Federal Direct Subsidized Loans are no longer available to graduate students.

Are Grad PLUS Loans subsidized loans?

Grad PLUS Loans are not subsidized, which means that interest accrues while the student is in school.

Can you pay off subsidized loans before graduating?

You can pay off federal subsidized loans before you graduate without paying any penalty. Note that federal subsidized loans do not accrue interest while you are in school.


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 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-criteria 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.


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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Comparing FAFSA and the Pell Grant

Comparing FAFSA and the Pell Grant

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is the first step in the process of obtaining government-provided student aid while a Pell Grant is a type of federal aid.

Although the Pell Grant vs. FAFSA serve different functions, they both have a role under the broader federal student aid program. A FAFSA provides students access to the Pell Grant, and Pell Grant eligibility is determined by the FAFSA.

Key Points

•   FAFSA is an application for various federal aid programs, while a Pell Grant is a specific type of federal aid.

•   There are no income limits for FAFSA eligibility; Pell Grant eligibility is determined by the Student Aid Index.

•   FAFSA does not require demonstrating financial need; Pell Grants are awarded based on demonstrated financial need.

•   Both undergraduate and graduate students can apply for FAFSA; Pell Grants are generally available only to undergraduate students.

•   FAFSA provides access to multiple forms of financial aid, including Pell Grants, which are determined by the information provided in the FAFSA application.

What Is FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is an all-in-one formal application to see if you’re eligible for federal financial aid. Through the FAFSA, students are able to apply for federal grants for college, like the Pell Grant, as well as scholarships, work-study opportunities, and federal student loans from the Department of Education.

As the name indicates, there is no cost to submit a FAFSA. Students will need to complete and submit a new FAFSA for every academic year they are requesting federal aid.

The FAFSA is generally available as early as October 1 for the upcoming academic year. The federal deadline to file the FAFSA is June 30 following the academic year. (Note that the form for the 2024-2025 academic year is delayed until December; find out more about the FAFSA delay here.) However, schools and states might have their own FAFSA deadlines to qualify for non-federal aid. Ask your school about its FAFSA deadline and be aware of your state’s deadline on StudentAid.gov.

Recommended: FAFSA Guide

How FAFSA Works

Each FAFSA is applicable to the upcoming academic year. To receive federal financial aid for multiple years of college, as mentioned, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA each year by the deadline.

A Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID is required to manage your federal student aid account, which includes signing your FAFSA digitally. You can create your FSA ID on StudentAid.gov.

Shortly after submitting the FAFSA, either digitally or a paper application, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report. This report is an overview of all the information you’ve provided on your FAFSA (e.g. your and your parents’ personal and financial information), and includes your Student Aid Index number (SAI; formerly called your Expected Family Contribution). At this stage, you’ll need to make any necessary corrections to your FAFSA by the deadline, which is for the 2022-23 academic year is September 10, 2023.

Your selected schools will then process your FAFSA and provide you with its financial aid offer. This notice will outline the types of aid you’re eligible for and the amount. It will also provide instructions on how to accept the aid offers you want. The accepted aid will then be sent automatically to your school.

What Is the Pell Grant?

A Pell Grant is a federal grant program that offers aid to students who show financial need on their FAFSA. Students are typically not required to repay money awarded in the form of the Pell Grant.

It’s generally available to undergraduate students who have not yet earned a bachelors, graduate, or professional degree. This grant program is not available to students who have been incarcerated in a federal or state institution.

When used for qualified educational expenses, Pell Grants are generally not considered taxable income.

How Pell Grants Work

The maximum Pell Grant award a student can receive may vary from year to year, and the amount you qualify to receive depends on your SAI. For the 2023-24 academic year, the maximum award is $7,395 and the SAI limit is $6,656 for Pell Grant eligibility.

Pell Grant awards are also limited to 12 semesters (or the equivalent of six years) per student. For example, if you received a Pell Grant award for four years of your undergraduate degree, and return to school to complete a graduate program, you’ll only have two years of lifetime eligibility left to receive Pell Grant funding.

In certain situations, students may be required to repay all or a portion of their Pell Grant. Some circumstances that may require repayment include a change in enrollment that may impact your eligibility such as withdrawing from school. If you are required to repay all or a portion of your Pell Grant, you will be notified by your school.

Pell Grant vs FAFSA

When comparing the differences and similarities between the federal pell grant vs. FAFSA, you’ll find they share some broad attributes, but have significant differences.

The first notable difference is that the FAFSA isn’t a type of financial aid; instead, it’s a general application for multiple federal aid programs. A Pell Grant, on the other hand, is a type of federal aid program that uses the FAFSA to determine if a student is eligible.

Neither the Pell Grant or FAFSA have defined income limits for eligibility. Anyone can submit a FAFSA, regardless of their household income. However, only students who demonstrate financial need are eligible for certain federal aid programs, like the Pell Grant.

The government uses students’ SAI — which is calculated based on a number of factors — to decide Pell Grant eligibility. For the 2023-24 academic year, the maximum SAI for Pell Grant eligibility is $6,656.

Also, both undergraduate- and graduate-level students can submit a FAFSA, but Pell Grants are typically restricted to undergraduate students only.

FAFSA

Pell Grant

Application for various types of federal aid programs. One grant option among a handful of federal grant programs.
No income limits for eligibility. Eligibility is determined based on a student’s SAI.
Financial need isn’t required to apply. Must demonstrate exceptional financial need.
Undergraduate and graduate students can apply. Generally offered to undergraduate students.

Which Forms of Financial Aid Should You Prioritize?

If your financial aid award includes a Pell Grant and other types of aid offers, carefully decide which aid you want to accept, and how much.

To avoid graduating school with excessive student debt, consider prioritizing financial aid as follows:

•   Scholarships and grants, like the Pell Grant, which don’t need to be repaid after you graduate.

•   Earned financial aid, like participating in work-study opportunities. You can also consider taking on a part-time job while you’re enrolled in school.

•   Borrowed financial aid, like federal student loans. Federal student loans offer low, fixed rates and protections, like income-driven repayment plans and extended deferment and forbearance. Prioritize federal loans before borrowing private student loans which don’t guarantee the same benefits.

Recommended: FAFSA Grants & Other Types of Financial Aid

What If You Don’t Qualify for Financial Aid?

Students who don’t qualify for federal financial aid still have options to help finance their college education.

Scholarships

Scholarships are a type of financial aid that doesn’t need to be repaid. They can be need- or merit-based, and are sponsored by nonprofit and private organizations, businesses, professional associations, and more.

Other Grants

Like scholarships, non-federal grants are provided to students, based on need or merit. They don’t have to be repaid after graduation making them a good financial aid choice.

Recommended: The Differences Between Grants, Scholarships, and Loans

Private Student Loans

Students can also apply for private student loans. This form of aid must be repaid in full, plus interest. You can find them from private financial institutions, like online lenders, banks, and credit unions. Your school or state might also offer private student loan options. One thing to know about private student loans, as mentioned is that they lack borrower benefits afforded to federal student loans, and are therefore generally only considered as a last resort option.

Recommended: Guide To Private Student Loans 

The Takeaway

As previously mentioned, the FAFSA is an application that students must fill out if they are interested in applying for any federal student aid including scholarships, work-study, grants, and federal student loans. A Pell grant is a type of aid, awarded to students who demonstrate exceptional financial need.

If you find that you’re not eligible for a Pell Grant, or qualify for financial aid, but not enough, SoFi’s private student loan could help. The online application process is fast and easy, and you can check your rate in just a few minutes. Plus, SoFi student loans have no fees and qualifying borrowers can secure competitive interest rates.

Find out if you pre-qualify and at what rates.

FAQ

Can you get a Pell Grant without FAFSA?

No. Completing and submitting a FAFSA is a requirement to apply for a federal Pell Grant. The FAFSA is used by your school to determine your eligibility for Pell Grant aid, and the amount you can receive under this grant program.

Can you get a Pell Grant and other forms of financial aid?

Students who are eligible for a Pell Grant might also be offered other types of financial aid. If you’re eligible, you’ll receive the full Pell Grant amount you’re eligible for, regardless of other existing financial aid.

Do you have to repay a Pell Grant if you don’t graduate?

You might have to repay a portion of your “unearned” Pell Grant, if you withdraw from school during the same academic year. Your school will calculate how much of your Pell Grant award you’ve earned based on your scheduled attendance, and tell you the amount you owe.


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 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-criteria 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 to Pay for Medical School

How to Pay for Medical School

Medical school is an academically rigorous undertaking. Finding a way to pay for medical school can be another added challenge. Keep reading for more insight into how to pay for medical school.

What Is Medical School?

Medical school is typically a four-year educational program that leads to graduating students receiving an M.D., D.O. or N.D. degree. After medical school, graduates will generally continue onto a medical residency in the specialty of their choice.

Different Types of Medical School

There are three main types of medical school: allopathic, osteopathic, and naturopathic. All of these programs prepare students for careers as doctors, but they have different academic credentials. Let’s take a closer look at each of these programs.

Allopathic Medical School

Allopathic medicine is also known as conventional or traditional medicine. Allopathic medical schools provide students with a traditional curriculum and approach to medicine. Allopathic doctors rely on traditional methods such as x-rays, prescriptions medications, surgery to treat and diagnose an illness or medical issue, and treating an illness. If a student graduates from an allopathic program, they’ll receive a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree.

Osteopathic Medical School

Osteopathic schools also cover standard medical sciences and practices but supplement those lessons with training on providing touch-based diagnosis and treatment of different health problems. Osteopathic doctors often take a more holistic approach to patient wellness and treatment. Students who attend an osteopathic medical school will end up with a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree.

Naturopathic Medicine School

Naturopathic physicians (ND) or doctors of naturopathic medicine (NMD) attend naturopathic medical school where they study a similar science curriculum as they do in allopathic medical school. The difference with this program is, naturopathic students also study psychology, nutrition, and select complementary therapies such as homeopathy.

Recommended: Average Cost of Medical School

Financing Medical School

The cost of medical school is on the rise and finding a way to finance medical school can be a daunting task. There are quite a few options for medical students to get help doing so. From taking out student loans for medical school to gift aid, students have options.

Scholarships & Grants

A little bit of free money can really come in handy when a student has to pay for medical school and can help students avoid taking on more debt from medical school than they need to. Students can apply for need-based grants and merit scholarships through their medical school or outside sources. Their school’s financial aid office can walk them through their options.

Medical associations and nonprofit organizations also tend to have financial aid, grants for college, and scholarships that medical students can apply for. Again, a school’s financial aid office can help point medical students in the right direction, but they won’t know of every gift aid opportunity available outside of their school, so students may want to do their own research.

The following associations generally offer scholarships and grants for medical students.

•   American Medical Association. This professional group provides financial support through scholarship opportunities, as well as general support for medical students looking to learn more about how to pay for medical school and to prepare for residency.

•   American Medical Women’s Association. Medical students can peruse this association’s list of more than a dozen different scholarships, awards, and grants that they may be eligible to apply to.

•   American Podiatric Medical Association. Every year, the American Podiatric Medical Association gives out more than $200,000 worth of grants and scholarships.

Federal Student Loans

Medical students can apply for federal financial aid, including federal student loans, by <completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Medical students may qualify for three types of federal loans after they complete the FAFSA. The FAFSA may also qualify students for financial aid such as scholarships and grants from their state or school (if available).

•   Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Also known as Stafford Loans, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans allow students to borrow money unsubsidized. When a loan is unsubsidized, this means that the borrower is responsible for paying all of the interest on the loan.

•   Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans. If a student still needs help financing medical school after taking out a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, they can take out a Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan, which is also unsubsidized. These loans tend to have a higher interest rate than Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans do and are credit-based.

•   Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Primary Care Loan. Medical students with financial need, and who can demonstrate it, may qualify for this school-based program that offers a few different types of loans for medical students. Not all medical schools participate in this program, but students can check with their school’s financial aid office to see if their school does take part in it.

Recommended: Types of Federal Student Loans

Private Student Loans

After applying for federal student loans, students may be interested in supplementing their federal support with private medical school loans. Generally, private student loans for medical school are available through banks or credit unions. How much a student will pay in interest for a private student loan will depend on what their credit history is, amongst other factors. There are private student loans available at fixed and variable interest rates.

While private student loans can be a helpful option for borrowers, they don’t always offer the same borrower protections as federal student loans — such as income-driven repayment plans or the opportunity to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Because of this, students generally resort to private student loans only after depleting all other financing resources.

Recommended: Private Students Loans vs Federal Student Loans 

SoFi’s Private Student Loans

SoFi is also a provider of private student loans that can be used to pay for medical school. To apply, students don’t even need to leave their house. The application is done entirely online and it only takes a few minutes to apply, even if the student applies with a cosigner.

To make financing medical school less stressful, borrowers can repay their SoFi student loans in a way that works for them by choosing a monthly student loan payment and rate that fits their budget.

Borrowers never have to worry about fees because SoFi’s student loans are fee free. SoFi also offers borrower’s a six-month grace period after graduation so that they have time to get settled in their new job as a doctor before they need to start making monthly loan payments.

The Takeaway

Between scholarships, grants, and medical school student loans, medical students have some decent options at their disposal for financing medical school. While there’s no denying that medical school can be a stressful time in a person’s life, hopefully all of the hard work and sacrifices will lead to a fulfilling and rewarding career.

For help financing medical school, learn more about SoFi private student loans.

FAQ

What is the best way to pay for medical school?

If a student can secure scholarships and grants, that’s the best way to pay for medical school. Unlike student loans which must be paid back, gift aid is free money that medical students won’t have to pay back after graduation.

How do you get medical school paid for?

Medical students can apply for scholarships and grants to help cover the cost of medical school. After applying gift aid, students can take out federal or private student loans to cover the remaining costs of attending medical school. Paying in cash is also an option, but one that is understandably not within reach for a lot of people.

Is it hard to get loans for medical school?

There are both federal and private student loans available to medical students, so they generally have plenty of options that make it possible to get a loan for medical school.


Photo credit: iStock/FatCamera

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 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-criteria 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.


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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Comparing Financial Aid vs Student Loans

Similarities and Differences Between Financial Aid vs Student Loans

Figuring out how to pay for school can be stressful, so it’s important to compare financial aid vs student loans so that you can reduce your financial burden as much as possible and find out what’s right for you.

When college financial aid isn’t enough, people use federal or private student loans to help cover costs. Private student loans can also close gaps between what you qualify for and how much you need. We’ll compare student loans vs financial aid and explore some features that can help you determine what makes the most sense for your financial situation.

What Is Financial Aid?

Financial aid is funding that is available to students to help make college or career school more affordable. College financial aid comes in several forms and helps students pay for higher education expenses, including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies and transportation.

Here are several types of financial aid available to students:

•   Scholarships: A scholarship is a form of financial aid that’s awarded to students to help pay for school. Scholarships are typically awarded based on academic or athletic achievement, community involvement, job experience, field of study, financial need and more.

•   Grants: A grant is a form of financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid and is generally based on financial need.

•   Federal work-study programs: The federal work-study program offers funds for part-time employment to help eligible college students in financial need.

•   Federal student loans: Student loans are borrowed money from the federal government or private lenders to help pay for college.

Financial aid can come from federal, state, school, and private sources. Federal Student Aid, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the largest provider of student financial aid in the U.S. Federal aid is distributed to 13 million students each year, totaling $120 billion.

Recommended: Am I Eligible for Work-Study?

What Are Student Loans?

A student loan is money borrowed from the government or a private lender to help pay for school with the expectation that you will pay it back. Like most other types of loans, the amount borrowed will accrue interest over time. Student loans can be used on school-related expenses including tuition, room and board, and other school supplies.

Loans are different from grants or scholarships and it’s essential that you understand the differences between financial aid vs student loans. If you receive a grant or a scholarship, you typically don’t have to pay that money back. Student loans are also different from work-study programs, where students in financial need to work part-time jobs to earn money to help pay for school.

It’s common for college students to take out student loans to finance their education, but you should first compare federal vs private student loans. Federal student loans offer some borrower benefits that make them preferable to private student loans.

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are loans that are backed by the U.S. government. Terms and conditions of the loan are set by the federal government and include several benefits, such as fixed interest rates and income-driven repayment plans. To qualify, students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) every year that they want to receive federal student loans. The FAFSA also allows students to apply for federal aid including scholarships, grants, and work-study. Colleges may also use the information provided on the FAFSA to determine school-specific aid awards.

There are four types of federal student loans available:

•  Direct Subsidized Loans are student loans for undergrads in financial need to help pay for expenses related to higher education. The government covers the accruing interest on this type of loan while the borrower is enrolled in school at least half-time and during the loan’s six month grace period after graduation.

•  Direct Unsubsidized Loans are made to eligible undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Eligibility is not based on financial need. Borrowers are responsible for all accrued interest on this type of loan.

•  Direct PLUS Loans are made to graduate or professional students, known as the Grad PLUS loan, or parents of dependent undergraduate students, known as the Parent PLUS loan. These loans are meant to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid.

•  Direct Consolidation Loans allow students to combine all eligible federal student loans into a single loan.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans can also be used to help pay for college. Private student loans are offered by banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Understanding how private student loans work is essential before borrowing. While federal student loans are generally the first option potential student borrowers pursue, private student loans may be an option to consider for borrowers who are trying to pay for college without financial aid. Unlike federal student loans, which have terms and interest rates set by the federal government, private lenders set their own and conditions that vary from lender to lender.

Private student loans are also credit-based. The lender will review an applicant’s credit history, income and debt, and whether they’re enrolled in a qualified educational program. Applicants who may lack credit history, or have a less than glowing credit score may consider applying with a cosigner to improve their chances of approval.

Unlike federal student loans, interest rates can be fixed or variable. A fixed interest rate stays the same for the life of the loan but a variable interest rate may change. The interest rate a borrower qualifies for will also depend on the lender as well as the borrower’s creditworthiness.

Not all private student loans are the same. Because of this, it’s important that you understand the annual percentage rates (APRs) and repayment terms before taking on the loan.

Financial Aid vs Student Loans Compared

When comparing financial aid vs student loans, you need to be aware of the similarities and differences between financial aid vs student loans. Here are some key comparisons.

Similarities Differences
They can both be used to help fund education-related expenses. Financial aid doesn’t typically need to be repaid. Student loans must be repaid within a given loan term, plus interest.
FAFSA® must be filled out for financial aid and federal student loans. Financial aid and student loans may be paid out differently.
Financial aid and student loans have certain eligibility requirements. Some financial aid, like scholarships, may be awarded based on merit. Federal student loans can be both need and non-need based. Lending criteria on private student loans is determined by the lender.

Similarities

Financial aid and student loans are both used to help fund education-related expenses, like tuition, room and board, books and classroom supplies, and transportation. Financial aid and student loans backed by the federal government also require students to fill out FAFSA® for each year that they want to receive federal student loans or federal financial aid. Financial aid and student loans also have some sort of eligibility requirements, whether that be based on financial need, merit or creditworthiness.

Differences

The biggest difference between financial aid vs student loans is whether or not you need to pay back the money you are given to help pay for college. Financial aid is either money that doesn’t need to be paid back, known as gift aid, or earned through a federal work-study program.

Student loans must be repaid within a given loan term. Not only are students expected to pay back student loans, but there’s typically interest that accrues over the life of the loan.

There may also be differences in how financial aid and student loans are paid out to the student. Private student loans are usually paid in one lump sum at the start of each school year or semester; however, you may not receive the full amount of a scholarship award upfront. Government grants and loans are generally split into at least two disbursements and If you have a work-study job, you’ll be paid at least once a month.

Some private student loans may also come with greater flexibility and offer more money than financial aid.

Recommended: Gift Aid vs Self Help Aid For College

Pros and Cons of Financial Aid

Pros of Financial Aid

•  Money received through financial aid does not typically have to be repaid.

•  Potential to decrease future debt by minimizing the amount you have to borrow.

•  Opens up new opportunities for many students to attend a better school than they could without financial assistance.

•  Allows students to focus on their education instead of worrying about paying tuition.

Cons of Financial Aid

•  Most financial aid does not cover all school-related costs.

•  Scholarships, grants, and work-study programs can be highly competitive.

•  You may have to maintain certain standards to meet eligibility requirements during each semester.

•  There’s less flexibility on how you can spend funds.

Pros and Cons of Student Loans

Pros of Student Loans

•  Student loans offer financial support for those who would otherwise be unable to attend college.

•  You don’t need any credit history for federal student loans and you can use a creditworthy cosigner for private student loans.

•  Student loans can be used for things beyond tuition, room and board, and books.

•  Paying off student loans may help you build credit.

Cons of Student Loans

•  You start off with debt after graduating from college.

•  Student loans can be expensive.

•  Defaulting on student loans can negatively impact your credit score.

•  If you borrowed a private student loan, the interest rate may be variable.

Private Student Loans from SoFi

Financial aid and student loans financially support students by relieving some of the financial burden that’s often associated with higher education. When financial aid isn’t enough, students may seek private student loans to help cover their college costs. Although private student loans don’t come with as many perks as federal student loans, and are generally borrowers only as a last resort option as a result, they can help fill in the gaps between what you qualify for and how much you need.

Private student loans from SoFi can help serve as a supplement to federal aid. SoFi student loans offer plenty of benefits, such as no origination fees, no application fees, no late fees, and no insufficient fund fees. You can find out if you pre-qualify within minutes.

Learn more about private student loan options available with SoFi.

FAQ

Does FAFSA loan or grant money?

FAFSA is an application that you fill out in order to determine your eligibility for receiving a federal loan or federal student aid such as grants and scholarships. While a federal student loan is borrowed money that must be repaid after graduation, funds received through grants, scholarships, and work-study programs do not need to be repaid.

Can you get financial aid and student loans at the same time?

Yes. If you apply for financial aid at your school, you may be offered loans as part of your school’s financial aid offer to help cover the remaining costs.

Do scholarships count as financial aid?

Yes, scholarships are a type of financial aid that is considered gift aid and typically do not have to be repaid.


Photo credit: iStock/Altayb

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 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-criteria 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.


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.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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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