What Is the Age for Early Retirement for Social Security?

Throughout your working career, you pay employment taxes that help fund Social Security, which provides income when you retire. In 2023, nearly 67 million people will receive Social Security benefits, collectively totaling more than $1 trillion.

There are strict rules about when you can claim Social Security benefits. You can start collecting retirement benefits as early as age 62, but if you can delay claiming your benefits, your monthly benefit amount can continue growing until you reach age 70.

Learn more about Social Security benefits, early retirement age, and the advantages and disadvantages of filing for your benefits early and late.

Key Points

•   Social Security benefits provide income for retirees, with the amount depending on their earnings and the age at which benefits are claimed.

•   The full retirement age (FRA) for Social Security benefits varies based on the year of birth.

•   Benefits can be claimed as early as age 62, but the monthly amount is reduced compared to claiming at FRA.

•   Delaying benefits past FRA can increase the monthly amount through delayed retirement credits, up to a certain point.

•   It’s important to consider shortand long-term financial needs before deciding when to claim Social Security benefits.

What Are Social Security Benefits?

Social Security is a social insurance program created in 1935 to pay workers an income once they retired at age 65 or older. When people talk about Social Security benefits, they’re referring to a monthly payment that replaces a portion of a worker’s pre-retirement income.

The amount you receive depends on how much you earned and paid in Social Security taxes during the 35 highest-earning years of your career. Generally speaking, the higher your income, the bigger your monthly check will be — up to a point. Also important is the age at which you claim benefits. Typically, the later you receive benefits, the higher your monthly check will be.

Note that retirees aren’t the only ones who are eligible for Social Security benefits. People with qualifying disabilities, surviving spouses of workers who have died, and dependent beneficiaries may also qualify for benefits.

Recommended: When Will Social Security Run Out?

At What Age Can You Collect Social Security?

When the Social Security program began, the full retirement age (FRA) was 65, and that’s still what many in the U.S. think of as the average retirement age. However, as life expectancy in the U.S. has increased, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has adjusted the FRA accordingly.

The chart below illustrates FRA by year of birth.

If You Were Born In Your Full Retirement Age Is
1943-1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 or later 67

Recommended: At What Age Should You File for Social Security?

What Is the Early Retirement Age for Social Security?

You can choose to claim retirement benefits as early as age 62. However, SSA will reduce your benefit by about 0.5% for every month you receive benefits before your FRA. For example, if your full retirement age is 67 and you file for Social Security benefits when you’re 62, you’d receive around 70% of your benefit.

On the other hand, if you wait to claim benefits after your FRA, you’ll accrue delayed retirement credits. This increases your benefit a certain percentage for every month you delay after your FRA. For example, if your full retirement age is 67 and you delay receiving benefits until age 70, you’ll get 124% of your monthly benefits. Note that the benefit increase stops when you turn 70.

Recommended: When Can I Retire? This Formula Will Help You Know

Can You Claim Social Security While You’re Still Working?

When you claim your Social Security benefits, the SSA considers you retired. However, you can continue working after retirement and receiving benefits at the same time, though they may be limited.

If you’re younger than FRA for the entire year, the SSA will deduct $1 from your payment for every $2 you earn above an annual limit. In 2023, that limit is $21,240. In the year you reach full retirement age, the SSA will begin deducting $1 for every $3 you make above a different earnings limit — $56,520 in 2023.

No matter their work history, your spouse has the option to claim Social Security benefits based on your work record. That benefit can be up to 50% of your primary insurance amount, which is the benefit you’d receive at FRA. Your spouse can begin receiving spousal benefits at age 62, but they will receive a reduced benefit.

Pros and Cons of Claiming Social Security Early

The main advantage of filing for Social Security early is that you’ll have access to retirement funds sooner. This can be a boon to individuals who need extra money to get by each month. To help you maximize every last dollar, consider using a spending app to create budgets, track spending, and monitor bills.

The main disadvantage of filing early is that you may permanently reduce your monthly benefit amount. This could be a factor to keep in mind as you determine whether you’re on track for retirement.

So how do you decide when to file for your benefits? Consider your “break-even point.” This is the age at which receiving a delayed higher benefit outweighs claiming benefits earlier.

Here’s an example of how that works. Let’s say your FRA is 67 and your annual benefit is $24,000. If you claim your benefit at age 62, your benefit drops to $16,800 a year. If you delay until age 70, your benefit would be $29,760 a year.

By adding up each year’s worth of benefits and comparing them across different potential retirement ages, you find your break-even point. So in that last example, claiming your benefit at FRA breaks even with early filing at age 78. If you expect to live until this age or longer, you may consider filing for Social Security at full retirement age. Delaying until age 70 breaks even with claiming at FRA at age 82. So if you expect to live until 82 or longer, you may consider delaying your benefits.

Recommended: How Can I Retire Early?

The Takeaway

Social Security is an important source of guaranteed income during retirement and can help ensure you can cover recurring expenses like housing payments and utilities. Your monthly payment amount is determined by how much you’ve earned during your working career and the age at which you claim Social Security benefits. You’re eligible to receive your full benefits when you reach full retirement age (FRA). If you file before then, the monthly payment will be reduced. If you file later, your monthly payment can increase, up to a point. Consider your short- and long-term financial needs carefully before deciding when to claim Social Security.

Whether you’re planning to continue working past your FRA or are preparing for retirement, using a money tracker app can help you manage your overall spending and saving. The SoFi Insights app connects all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see all of your balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score monitoring, plus you can get other valuable financial insights.

Stay up to date on your finances by seeing exactly how your money comes and goes.


Can I take Social Security at age 55?

You cannot claim Social Security benefits at age 55. The earliest you can file for benefits is age 62.

What happens to my Social Security if I retire at 55?

If you retire at 55, you will have to wait seven years, until age 62, before you are eligible to claim early Social Security benefits. Retiring early may also affect the size of your benefit if you are leaving work in your top-earning years.

What is the average Social Security benefit at age 62?

The average monthly Social Security retirement benefit in 2023 is about $1,827 for those filing at full retirement age. Filing early at age 62 would reduce that benefit by 30% to $1,278.90.

Photo credit: iStock/svetikd

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

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.

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


Read more
woman in cafe on laptop

How Much Retirement Money Should I Have at 40?

At some point or another, you’ve probably wondered if you have enough money for the future and asked yourself, “how much retirement should I have at 40?”

It’s an important question. Hopefully, you’re already saving some money for retirement. However, you might not be saving enough to retire when you want.

There are different ways to save money for retirement. The sooner, the better—so that it can start adding up. Here’s how to maximize your retirement savings at age 40 and beyond.

Understanding Your Retirement Savings at 40

Now, to answer the question: How much money should I have saved by 40? A general rule of thumb recommended by many financial advisors is to have about three times your annual salary saved in retirement money by the time you’re 40.

Knowing this general benchmark is helpful for your retirement planning.

What Does the Average 40-Year-Old Have Saved?

According to a recent study from Northwestern Mutual, people in their forties say they currently have $77,400 saved for retirement. However, that’s a long way from the amount they expect to need for retirement, which is $1.28 million.

How Your Retirement Savings Compare to National Averages

Compared to the guideline of having three times your annual salary saved by the time you’re 40, if you only have the amount reported by the respondents in the Northwestern study — $77,400 — you’ve got some work to do. The good news is, you’ve probably got around 20 years or more to help get where you need to be by the time you’re ready to retire.

Factors Influencing Your Retirement Savings So Far

As you reach your 40s, it’s likely that your income is increasing, but so are the obligations that are tied to your money.

You might be saving money for your kids’ college; you probably have mortgage payments and existing debt, including your own student loans; you may even be taking care of aging parents. It’s a lot of financial multitasking and you have to prioritize.

In addition to all that, inflation over the past couple of years has made many prices higher, which could increase your cost of living. Overall, prices are 13% higher than they were two years ago, according to Consumer Price Index data. You might also be dealing with unemployment or a job layoff. All these factors can make saving for retirement more challenging.

💡 Quick Tip: Before opening an investment account, know your investment objectives, time horizon, and risk tolerance. These fundamentals will help keep your strategy on track and with the aim of meeting your goals.

The Right Retirement Savings Path for You

To map out a savings plan that makes sense, you can start by estimating how much money you’ll need for retirement. It’s also a good idea to look at your goals. That includes figuring out when you might want to retire, what kind of lifestyle you want in retirement, and how much money you might have coming in during your golden years. That will help you determine how much you need to save.

Projecting Your Retirement Needs

Start by thinking about the kind of lifestyle you’d like to have in retirement. Will you move to a smaller home? If so, you may save money on housing costs. On the other hand, if you’d like to travel frequently, your expenses may increase.

Also, estimate what your budget as a retiree might be. Include housing, utilities, insurance, food, transportation, clothes, and so on. And don’t forget entertainment expenses like movies, concerts, and meals out.

Next, factor in healthcare expenses. Health-related costs can be significant in retirement, depending on your medical situation.

Retirement Savings Rate: How Much of Your Income to Save

While each person’s situation and needs are unique, there are some general guidelines that can help project your financial needs during retirement.

For instance, according to Fidelity, you should try to save 15% of your pre-tax income each year if you plan to retire at age 67.

Another rule, known as the 80% rule, says you should have enough money by the time you retire to cover 80% of your pre-retirement income.

Milestones for Retirement Savings By Decade

As discussed, when you plan to retire and what kind of lifestyle you’d like to have in retirement are two of the main factors that affect how much money you’ll need to save. The milestones below are general, but they will give you an idea about how much to save at various ages.

Retirement Savings By:

•  Age 30: 1x your annual income

•  Age 40: 3x your annual income

•  Age 50: 6x your annual income

•  Age 60: 8x your annual income

•  Age 67: 10x your annual income

Maximizing Your Retirement Savings in Your 40s

If you haven’t saved 3 times your annual income by your 40s, or even if you have, here are some ways to make the most of your retirement funds in this decade.

Benefits of a Roth 401(k) and When to Consider It

Some 401(k) plans give you the opportunity of choosing a Roth 401(k) to save for retirement. If your employer offers such a plan you may want to consider it.

The difference between a Roth 401(k) and a traditional 401(k) is that with a Roth 401(k), contributions are made using after-tax funds. That means they aren’t tax deductible, but the withdrawals you make in retirement are tax-free. In addition, you don’t pay taxes on your annual investment earnings in a Roth 401(k). With a traditional 401(k), the contributions you make are tax deductible, however, you will pay taxes on your retirement withdrawals. So a Roth 401(k) can be beneficial if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket by the time you retire.

The good news is, you can contribute to both a Roth 401(k) and a traditional 401(k) as long as your plan allows it. Just know that there are yearly limits on your contributions. Across both plans, individuals under age 50 can contribute $22,500 annually in 2023.

If you have a traditional 401(k), there are a number of strategies to max out your 401(k) that are worth looking into. For example, it makes sense to contribute at least enough to qualify for any employer matching that your company offers. Why lose out on the “free” money your employer is willing to contribute to your retirement savings?

Catch-Up Contributions: Leveraging Them When the Time Comes

Once you reach age 50, you can make catch-up contributions to your 401(k) plan, as long as your plan allows them, which could help you save even more for retirement. In 2023, the catch-up contribution is an additional $7,500. That means, in total, individuals 50 and older could contribute up to $30,000 to their 401(k) in 2023.

Knowing about catch-up contributions when you’re in your forties could help you plan and prepare for them when you reach 50. Catch-up contributions can help you make the most of your retirement plan.

Investment Strategies for Mid-Career Savers

There are many other ways to save for retirement, even beyond the employer-sponsored 401(k) and Roth 401(k).

Some people choose to put their retirement savings in more than one type of account. This is useful if you want to set aside more than the yearly contribution limits on 401(k) plans. In that case, it might make sense to leverage a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA to save beyond the 401(k) limits, as long as you meet the necessary criteria.

💡 Quick Tip: The advantage of opening a Roth IRA and a tax-deferred account like a 401(k) or traditional IRA is that by the time you retire, you’ll have tax-free income from your Roth, and taxable income from the tax-deferred account. This can help with tax planning.

The Role of Expenses in Retirement Planning

Figuring out how much your retirement living expenses will be is important for calculating how money you’ll need to save. These are some of the things you may want to consider and budget for.

Emergency Savings vs. Retirement Savings

Your retirement savings are extremely important. However, if you don’t have an emergency fund that can cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses, consider putting that at the top of your priority list.

Why? While retirement is still likely to be years away if you’re 40 now, an emergency could happen at any time. For instance, you may be faced with an unexpected medical procedure that you’ll need to pay for if insurance doesn’t cover it all. Or your heater might break in the middle of winter and need to be replaced. If you don’t have the emergency funds to cover these things, you risk taking on debt. And that could in turn limit your retirement savings as you work to pay off that debt.

Of course, if you can afford to contribute to both an emergency fund and your retirement savings, by all means, do so.

Planning for Healthcare Expenses in Retirement

As people grow older, their healthcare needs and costs typically increase. For many, healthcare can be one of the biggest retirement expenses.

Fidelity estimates that the average person may need $157,500 to cover healthcare costs in retirement. If you have a high-deductible health insurance plan, you might want to look into a Health Savings Account (HSA), which could potentially help you save money to cover some healthcare costs.

Incorporating Home Costs Into Retirement Savings

Housing costs are another major retirement expense. You may have mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, and home maintenance and repairs to pay for. If you rent, you’ll have to cover your monthly rental fee plus renters’ insurance.

Additionally, where you live — the city and state — can impact how much you pay for housing. In general, living on the coasts can be more expensive. You may want to take the cost of living into consideration when you’re thinking about where you want to live in retirement.

Family and Retirement: Balancing the Present and Future

Of course, along with saving for retirement, you have present-day expenses and events to pay for as well. This includes important family milestones, such as college and a child’s wedding. Fortunately, with proper budgeting and planning, it is possible to help cover these expenses and save for retirement at the same time.

Budgeting for College Savings While Prioritizing Retirement

To keep building a retirement nest egg while saving for college for your kids, consider some college-savings plans. One good option to consider: a 529 plan that you fund with after-tax dollars. You can contribute to the plan on a regular basis, or whenever you have extra money, and family members and friends can contribute as well. For instance, instead of birthday gifts, ask loved ones to contribute to your child’s 529 instead.

Virtually every state offers a 529 plan and you can shop around to find one that has the best tax benefits and lowest costs. Open the plan as early as you can when your child is young so that the money invested has more time to grow.

Weddings and Other Major Family Expenses

If you’d like to help pay for your child’s wedding, you could put some money in a savings or investment account so that it can grow over time. If the wedding is coming up relatively soon, you could put your money into a high-yield savings account, for instance, to get a higher interest rate than you’d get from a regular savings account. If the wedding is farther in the future, you might want to invest in mutual funds or a stock index fund, which could deliver more growth.

Expert Strategies to Increase Retirement Savings

There are a number of smart ways to maximize your savings and be on track for retirement. Here are a few strategies experts advise.

Salary Negotiations and Their Long-Term Impact on Savings

If it’s been a while since you’ve received a raise, this may be a good time to ask for one. By age 40, you’ve probably developed skills that make you valuable to your employer.

If you need some incentive for negotiating for a higher salary, consider this: Even an extra $100 a week invested for the next 20 years with a 10% annual return could give you approximately $300,000 more in retirement savings.

Building a Solid Financial Foundation with a Six-Month Emergency Fund

As we discussed earlier, having an emergency fund is critical for any unexpected expenses that arise. Ideally, it’s wise to have six months’ worth of expenses saved up. That can help tide you over in case of job loss or some other significant event that affects your income.

You can open a high-yield savings account for your emergency fund to help it grow. Consider automating your savings to make sure you’re contributing to your emergency fund regularly.

Then, once you’ve reached six month’s worth, you can allocate the money you had been contributing to the emergency fund to your retirement savings.

Why Prioritizing Roth Retirement Accounts Can Pay Off

Investing in a Roth IRA can be helpful if you want to withdraw money in retirement without paying taxes on it. After-tax accounts can be appealing to individuals who plan to achieve financial independence at a younger age and retire early. Unlike qualified plans, which place penalties on withdrawing funds before a certain age, an after-tax account is a pool of money that you can withdraw from without having to worry about penalties if you access the account before age 59 ½.

Even if you wait until age 67 to retire, if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket at retirement, a Roth IRA can make sense since you won’t have to pay taxes on retirement withdrawals.

For 2023, you can contribute up to $6,500 annually in a Roth IRA. Individuals 50 and older can contribute $7,500. That said, there are income limits on Roth IRAs. The amount you can contribute starts to phase out if you earn more than $138,000 as a single tax filer, or $218,000 for married couples who file jointly.

The Takeaway

While there are conventional rules of thumb as to how much money you should have saved by 40, the truth is everyone’s path to a comfortable retirement looks different. One piece of advice is universal, however: The sooner you start saving for retirement, the better your chances of being in a financially desirable position later in life.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.

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.

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.

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.

SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Also, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals, and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or prequalification for any loan product offered by SoFi Bank, N.A.


Read more
Low-Income Student Loans: Financial Aid Options

Guide to Low-Income Student Loans

With the average annual cost of college now $36,435, figuring out how to pay for college as a low-income student can be daunting. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that students from low-income backgrounds often qualify for grants and scholarships (which you don’t have to pay back), as well as student loans.

Federal student loans are available to all college students, regardless of income, and don’t require a credit check. If you still have gaps in funding after tapping financial aid and federal loans, you may also be able to qualify for private student loans, even with a low income.

Read on to learn more about the financial aid options available to you if you qualify as a low-income student and how to apply for student loans.

What Are Student Loans?

Student loans are an often-used option to help pay for college. In fact, nearly 52% of students who complete their undergraduate programs take out federal loans at some point during their college years, according to the Education Data Initiative.

Student loans can be used to pay for tuition, room and board, and other fees, as well as other associated costs of college like books and rent.

Students can use either federal or private student loans to pay for college. Students who take out federal student loans borrow money from the government, through the U.S. Department of Education. Federal student loans typically offer low, fixed interest rates and other benefits, such as income-driven repayment plans and access to forgiveness programs.

Private student loans, by contrast, are available from banks, credit unions, and other private lenders. These lenders set their own interest rates and conditions for their student loans. To qualify for a private student loan, you need to fill out an application and disclose personal financial information, such as your income and credit score.

Since students typically don’t have well-established credit histories, many private student loans require a cosigner. A cosigner is someone who agrees to pay back the loan if the primary borrower is unable to do so. Because private student loans don’t offer the same borrower protections that come with federal student loans, you generally only want to consider them after you’ve depleted all of your federal student aid options.

💡 Quick Tip: You’ll make no payments on some private student loans for six months after graduation.

Can You Get Student Loans With a Low Income?

Yes, you can get student loans if you have a low income. If you can’t cover the full cost of college with scholarships and grants, student loans can help you take care of the remaining costs of college.

You can access federal student loans no matter your income level, but you do need to meet specific qualifications. You must:

•   Have a high school diploma or a recognized equivalency, such as a GED, or have completed a state-approved home-school high school education.

•   Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen

•   Have a valid Social Security Number

•   Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program

•   Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college

You may also be able to qualify for some private student loans if you have a low income (more on that below).

Recommended: Finding Free Money for College

Low-Income Financial Aid Options

Students and their families pay for college in a variety of ways, including savings, scholarships, grants, work-study, and student loans. Indeed, paying for college often looks like a puzzle — all the pieces fit together in different ways to make everything “fit.”

Here’s a look at how to access low-income student aid options.


Every student (whether they’re low-income students or not) can file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the free form you can fill out to apply for financial aid for undergraduate or graduate school, and is one of the most important steps students and their families can take to pay for college.

In conjunction with the school you plan to attend, the FAFSA determines your eligibility for need-based and non-need-based financial aid. The FAFSA results determine the amounts you receive for federal grants, scholarships, work-study, and/or federal student loans. In addition to subsidized federal student loan (which are need-based) and unsubsidized federal student loans (which are not need-based), there are two other types of federal aid low-income students may qualify for based on the FAFSA:

•   Federal grants Students who demonstrate financial need may qualify for federal grants, which you do not need to pay back. Some examples of federal grants include Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants, and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants. Each grant has its own eligibility requirements. Some, like the TEACH Grant, even have requirements you must fulfill after you attend school. Look at each grant’s eligibility requirements to determine whether you qualify.

•   Work-study Colleges and universities offer part-time work-study opportunities through the Federal Work-Study program. Graduate and undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need can get it whether they are part- or full-time students, as long as your school participates in the Federal Work-Study Program.

How Do You File the FAFSA?

Typically, the FAFSA becomes available on October 1 for the following academic year. The 2024-2025 academic year, however, is an exception. Due to upcoming changes to the FAFSA (and some adjustments to how student aid will be calculated), the application will be available some time in December 2023.

Since some aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s a good idea to complete the FAFSA as soon after its release as possible. Here’s how:

1.    Create your Federal Student Aid ID, also called an FSA ID. You can do this in advance of getting your materials ready and filing the FAFSA.

2.    Make a list of schools you’d like to attend. You can add up to 20 schools on the 2024-2025 FAFSA.

3.    Gather financial documents you’ll need. You’ll need information for both yourself and your parents, such as your Social Security numbers, Alien Registration numbers (if you’re not a U.S. citizen), most recent federal income tax return, W-2s, details of any untaxed income you’ve received, current bank statements, records of any investments you have.

4.    Complete the FAFSA. Using your FSA ID, log in to the website, read the directions, and submit your information.

5.    Review your FAFSA Submission Summary to make sure your information looks correct. The FAFSA Submission Summary, formerly known as the Student Aid Report (SAR), is a document that summarizes the information you provided when filling out the FAFSA. It includes your Student Aid Index (SAI), previously called Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Colleges and universities receive your SAI to determine your eligibility for federal and nonfederal student aid.

Federal Pell Grant

Your SAI will determine your eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant, so you have to file the FAFSA in order to qualify.

Undergraduate students who qualify for a Federal Pell Grant must show exceptional financial need. These grants are usually reserved only for undergraduate students, though some students enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program might qualify.

How much can you receive from a Pell Grant? The amount varies, depending on your SAI, the cost of attendance of your school, whether you are a part-time or full-time student, and whether you will attend for a full academic year or not. The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2023-2024 academic year is $7,395. (The amount for 2024-2025 has not been announced yet.)

Scholarships for Low-Income Students

Colleges and universities may offer need-based scholarships. The money is yours to use for education — you do not need to pay it back. The results of the FAFSA help colleges and universities determine your eligibility for need-based scholarships and scholarships for low-income students.

You can also find need-based scholarships through employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofit organizations, religious groups, and professional and/or social organizations. There are a number of online search tools that can help you find scholarships you might qualify for.

Student Loans for Low-Income Families

As mentioned above, you can tap into either federal or private student loans for low-income students. Here’s a closer look at both.

Federal Student Loans

Based on the results of the FAFSA, you may qualify for a few types of federal student loans. Subsidized federal loans are need-based, while unsubsidized federal student loans are available to all students regardless of income or financial need.

Here’s a quick overview of three main types of federal loans:

•   Direct Unsubsidized Loans can go to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. They are not need-based but you are responsible for paying all interest, which begins accruing as soon as the loan is dispersed.

•   Direct Subsidized Loans are for undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. The government pays the interest on these loans while you’re in school, during any deferment, and during the six-month grace period after you graduate.

•   Direct Plus Loans are available for graduate or professional students or parents of undergraduate students and are not need-based or subsidized. Borrowers must undergo a credit check to look for adverse events, but eligibility does not depend on your credit scores.

Private Student Loans

Federal student loans don’t fully cover the cost of attendance for many students, and some students may consider tapping into private student loans as well.

Private lenders set their own requirements, however, and some students may find it challenging to qualify for a private loan if they have:

•   Little to no income

•   A negative credit history

•   A bankruptcy on file

•   A low credit score

How do you get around these issues? You may need to get a job while in school to prove you have some income. You may also want to work on building your credit before you apply for a private student loan. While you may be able to qualify with low income and low credit, you may make up for it by paying more in interest.

Another way to qualify for a private student loan with a low income and/or poor (or limited) credit is to apply with a cosigner. A student loan cosigner is a creditworthy adult who signs for a loan along with you. It’s a legally binding agreement stating that they’re willing to share the responsibility of repaying the loan on time and in full. Many borrowers turn to a family member for cosigning.

How to Apply for Student Loans

How to apply for student loans will differ depending on whether you are interested in federal or private student loans.

To apply for federal student loans, the first step is to fill out the FAFSA. Once you’ve filed the FAFSA, you basically sit back and wait to see what the school you’re planning to attend will offer you in federal aid, which may include a mix of grants, scholarships, and federal student loans. Your school will tell you how to accept all or a part of the loan.

Before you receive your loan funds, you will be required to complete entrance counseling, a tool to ensure you understand your obligation to repay the loan, and also sign a Master Promissory Note, agreeing to the terms of the loan.

Applying for private student loans involves directly going to a lender website or simply talking to your college or university’s financial aid office. Many institutions put together what they call “preferred lenders.”

Even if your school makes it easy for you to apply for a private student loan, it’s a good idea to do your research outside of the preferred lender list to find low interest rates and compare interest rate types (fixed or variable), repayment schedules, and fees. You want to find the terms and conditions that best fit your needs.

As you are researching private student loans, you’ll want to make sure that you (or your cosigner) meets the requirements to qualify for the loan.

💡 Quick Tip: Federal student loans carry an origination or processing fee (1.057% for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans first disbursed from Oct. 1, 2020, through Oct. 1, 2024). The fee is subtracted from your loan amount, which is why the amount disbursed is less than the amount you borrowed. That said, some private student loan lenders don’t charge an origination fee.

The Takeaway

Even if you’re a low-income student, you can access student loans. To find out what federal student loans you are eligible for, you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA. As a low-income student, you may qualify for subsidized federal student loans, which won’t accrue any interest while you’re in school and for six months after you graduate. This makes them more affordable than unsubsidized federal student loans and private student loans.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

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


What qualifies as a low-income student?

The U.S. Department of Education defines a low-income student as an individual whose family’s taxable income for the preceding year did not exceed 150% of the poverty income level established by the Census Bureau. For example, a student from a family of four living in the contiguous U.S. with a household income of $45,000 or less is considered low-income.

Do low-income students get free college?

Some low-income students are able to go to college for free through financial aid or merit scholarships. But even without a full ride, low income students can often pay for college through a combination of scholarships, grants, and loans.

Does FAFSA help low-income students?

Yes. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA, gives low-income students access to financial aid, including grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and federal student loans.

Photo credit: iStock/Souda

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.

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 .

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.


Read more
wallet contents blue background

Avoiding Overdraft Fees: Top 10 Practical Tips

In your financial life, overdrafting your bank account is bad enough; no one likes to feel as if they’ve run out of money. But being charged an overdraft fee can dig you even deeper into the hole.

That’s why it can make sense to take some simple steps to avoid overdraft fees. You may be able to get a reprieve by contacting your bank or by linking accounts, among other moves.

In this guide, you’ll learn more about overdrafting and the charges involved, plus smart ideas for how to avoid overdraft fees.

What Is an Overdraft Fee?

If you pay out more than is in your bank account, your bank may go ahead and process the payment you’ve initiated, taking your balance into negative territory. They will likely charge you for this privilege (that is, letting you spend more than you have), and that is an overdraft fee.

💡 Quick Tip: Feel ‘phew’ on payday — up to two days earlier! Sign up for an online bank account and set up direct deposit to get paid faster.

How Much Do Overdraft Fees Cost?

Overdraft fees aren’t cheap. The cost can vary somewhat depending on the bank or financial institution, but they generally run around $35.

It’s important to note that the overdraft fee is generally per overdraft. So if you overdraft your account and don’t realize you overdrafted, you might make multiple purchases and incur a fee on each one.

And these fees can add up quickly. At $35 a pop, just three small purchases could set you back over $100.

Some banks may also charge extended overdraft fees (sometimes called continuous or sustained fees) if your account doesn’t go back into positive territory within a few days.

It’s no wonder that Americans paid $7.7 billion in overdraft and the related non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees each year.

However, a bit of hope: Over the last year or two, some banks are beginning to lower their overdraft fees. For instance, Bank of America reduced their fees to $10, and some financial institutions, often online banks, don’t charge any fees for, say, the first $50 of overdraft.

10 Ways to Avoid Overdraft Fees

Next, consider these ways to avoid overdraft fees. These strategies can keep overdraft fees from accumulating — or ever being charged in the first place.

1. Keep an Eye on Your Balances

How often do you monitor your balance typically? It’s a good idea to make a habit of checking your accounts weekly or even more frequently to make sure your balances aren’t too low.

This can be done quickly online, via mobile app, when you take money out of the ATM, and/or by calling the bank and getting an automated update on your account.

2. Maintain a Cushion

One simple way to avoid overdraft fees is to keep a cash cushion in your checking account. A cushion means you have a little more stashed in your account than you typically spend each month in order to cover unexpected or forgotten charges.

This cash cushion can prevent overdraft. You might even add it as an item on your budget to make sure it gets replenished if you use it up.

Get up to $250 towards your holiday shopping.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $250 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!1

3. Set up Balance Alerts

An easy way to help avoid unexpected overdrafts, plus those high overdraft fees, is to set up some automatic alerts.

•   One that is particularly helpful is a low balance alert, which means you will be notified (by text, email, or cell phone notification) whenever your balance falls below a certain amount.

You could then immediately transfer money from savings, or hold off on making any purchases until another paycheck comes in.

•   Another useful alert you may be able to set up is the overdraft alert. This means you would be notified whenever you overdraft your account.

This alert won’t help you avoid the initial overdraft fee, but it could stop you from continuing to make payments and incurring more overdraft fees.

4. Opt Out of Overdraft Coverage

It is possible to prevent your bank from using the automatic overdraft. You just need to opt out of overdraft coverage.

Customers typically have to “opt-in” to a bank’s overdraft protection program, which many do without thinking much about it when they open their accounts.

This gives the institution permission to clear a transaction even if there is not enough money to cover it in the account. If you’re unsure about whether you’re enrolled in an overdraft program when you opened your account, you can contact your bank to find out whether you have this coverage or not.

There are pros and cons of overdraft coverage. If you have overdraft coverage, you may want to consider opting out. Without overdraft coverage for debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals, you will not be able to overdraft.

Instead, if you try to withdraw more than you have in the account, your charge will simply be declined — no money will be withdrawn from your account, and no fees will be triggered. This may help some people stay more mindful and accountable about their spending.

Keep in mind, though, that opting out of overdraft coverage programs typically does not protect you from fees charged for bounced checks.

💡 Quick Tip: Are you paying pointless bank fees? Open a checking account with no account fees and avoid monthly charges (and likely earn a higher rate, too).

5. Link to Another Account

Next on the list of how to avoid overdraft fees: Connect your accounts.

Your bank or financial institution might offer an overdraft protection service that is different from overdraft coverage. This service, which typically involves signing a contract to set up, will link your checking account to another account at the same institution.

Then, in the event that there’s not enough cash in your checking account to cover a transaction, the needed money would then be transferred from the linked account to cover it.

It’s important to remember, however, that some savings accounts have a limit of six withdrawals per month. Also, there may be a fee involved for the funds transfer, but these charges are typically lower than overdraft fees.

Another perk of overdraft protection is that it can help you avoid the awkwardness of having your transaction denied.

Recommended: Can You Overdraft Your Savings Account?

6. Be Careful About Where You Use Your Debit Card

Here’s another way to avoid incurring overdraft fees:

•   You may want to use something other than your debit card to check into a hotel or rent a car. These companies may put a hold on your card equal to or sometimes greater than the full amount of your bill.

In this case, money wouldn’t actually be withdrawn from your account, but it also wouldn’t be available for you to use. If you use your debit card to make another purchase and don’t realize that the hold is tying up your money, you may put yourself at risk for overdrafting.

If you’re planning to use your debit card to book a hotel or rent a car, you might want to check company policies in advance.

•   You may also want to avoid using your debit card to make lots of small purchases. These might be harder to keep track of and could add up quickly, making it more difficult for you to know how much money is flowing out of your account.

If you lose track of your spending, this too could put you more at risk for overdrafting.

7. Use Prepaid Debit Cards

Another tactic for avoiding overdraft fees is to do your spending with prepaid debit cards. These cards are often branded with a credit card logo and can be bought in a variety of sums. They come preloaded with that amount of money, and you spend until the cash value is gone. In this way, overdrafting isn’t a possibility. This might help some people stick to their budget.

8. Schedule Payments Carefully

You might also eyeball when payments are due, and see how that dovetails (or doesn’t) with your paycheck schedule. For instance, you might be more likely to overdraft your account if your credit card payment is due a couple of days before your paycheck hits. If that’s the case, you might try contacting your credit card issuer and see if they could move your due date slightly to better accommodate your cash flow. Many companies will do that.

9. Use Mobile Banking Apps

Here’s one more way to avoid overdraft fees: Use a mobile bank app, which can let you see your balance, pending payments, and spending in one click glance at your mobile device.

This can make it easy to eyeball how your money looks and avoid overspending.

10. Consider a Bank With No Overdraft Fees

Some banks are recognizing what a pain point overdraft fees can be for consumers. You may find that some are lowering their charges, and others are actually providing fee-free overdraft coverage. This may be limited to a certain amount (such as covering the first $50 of an overdraft) and may require the customer to get back to a positive balance within a certain period of time (say, until your next direct deposit hits). It can be wise to shop around for this feature; you may find it more often at online vs. traditional banks.

What to Do If You Overdraft

If you overdraw your account, here are some steps to take:

•   The best first step is generally to transfer money into the account right away. You might still be able to prevent an overdraft fee.

You may then want to see if your provider has a daily cutoff time or deadline for adding money to an account to correct a negative balance that same day to avoid fees.

Even if you miss the cutoff, transferring money into the account soon can prevent other fees. That’s because leaving a balance negative for several days can sometimes result in an extended overdraft fee.

•   If you are charged an overdraft fee, however, that doesn’t automatically mean you are stuck paying it. It doesn’t hurt to negotiate to try to have the fee reimbursed.

You can try to get overdraft fees waived by calling the bank and politely asking if they will remove the charge—if it’s your first offense, you might prevail. You may also want to ask your bank if it has a formal forgiveness program. Some institutions have policies to waive the first fee charged each year or if a customer is experiencing economic hardship.

The Takeaway

Overdrafting is when you try to spend more money from your checking account than you actually have in that account. Banks will often let your charge go through instead of declining it, but then will charge you an overdraft fee that can be around $35. These fees can add up quickly, especially if you don’t realize you overdrafted your account and continue to make purchases.

But there are a few simple ways to avoid hefty overdraft fees, such as opting out of overdraft coverage, setting up an automatic low-balance alert, linking your accounts, keeping a little cushion in your account, or banking where you get a level of no-fee overdraft coverage.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.

Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.

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.

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.


Read more
woman student book studying

Filling Out FAFSA for Divorced Parents

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA® form is required for students who are interested in receiving federal financial aid. This task can be challenging and can increase in complexity when a student has parents who are divorced.

The federal government treats divorced parents differently than parents who are married. Understanding the requirements for the financial information required by the FAFSA could help students improve their chances of receiving federal student aid and potentially lowering the amount of student loans they need to obtain a degree.

Continue reading for more information on filling out the FAFSA if your parents are divorced or separated.

What Complicates FAFSA for Divorced Parents?

The FAFSA treats parents who are divorced differently than it treats parents who are married. If a student’s parents are married, the FAFSA requires both of the parents to submit their financial information. Students who have divorced parents will usually include the salary and other financial information of the parent that he/she lived with for the majority of the time for the past 12 months. This parent is considered the custodial parent.

If a student lived with each parent for equal amounts of time, they’ll provide information on the parent that provided the most financial support during the year.

If the parent has remarried by the time a student is filing the FAFSA, the financial information of the parent’s new spouse will also typically be required on the form.

Recommended: Important FAFSA Deadlines for Students and Parents

FAFSA Tips for Students with Divorced Parents

Here are some important questions to ask yourself and tips for completing the FAFSA application with divorced parents:

Who to Count as Parents for FAFSA

If your parents are divorced, the FAFSA generally requests information on the parent whom you live with for the majority of the time during the previous 12 months. In the case of shared custody where you live with each parent equally, you’ll provide information on the parent who provides the most financial support.

If your parent is remarried, you’ll provide information on the stepparent, as well.

What Is a Custodial Parent?

As briefly mentioned, a custodial parent is the parent you spend the most time living with during the year.

What About Stepparents and Common-Law Spouses?

Generally, you’ll need to provide the financial information for a stepparent who is married to the custodial parent.

Should Alimony Be Included as Income?

Any alimony or child support received by the custodial parent should be reported on the FAFSA.

Parent’s Education Level

The FAFSA will ask you to include the education levels of your parents. You only need to include information about either your birth or adoptive parents. In this section, the FAFSA does not need information about your stepparent.

What If My Divorced Parents Still Live Together?

If your parents live together, but are divorced, the marital status should be “Unmarried and both legal parents living together.” You need to provide information about both of them on the FAFSA form.

If your parents live together, but are separated, the marital status should be “married or remarried.” Do not use “divorced or separated.” You should provide information about both of them on the FAFSA form.

Additional Sources to Finance Tuition

Many students seek alternative financial aid to finance college if they do not qualify for federal aid or if the amount of federal aid allocated will not cover the entire tuition cost.

About half of college tuition and living expenses are paid by the income and savings of a student’s family members, according to a Sallie Mae study, “How America Pays for College in 2024 .”

Federal Aid

There are many other sources that could help a student obtain funding for tuition, books, and living expenses. When filling out the FAFSA, students are applying for federal financial aid. This includes federal student loans, the federal work-study program, and some federal grants.

Some colleges also use information provided on the FAFSA to determine awards for scholarships. Federal aid is provided on a first-come first-served basis, so it can potentially be helpful to file your FAFSA early. Check out even more detailed information in SoFi’s FAFSA guide.

Federal student loans can be either subsidized or unsubsidized.

Subsidized federal loans are given to students based on financial need. The interest on these loans is subsidized by the federal government, which means students will not be responsible for repaying the interest that accrues while they are enrolled at least part time or during their grace period.

Unsubsidized loans are not awarded based on need and will begin accruing interest as soon as the loan is disbursed.

Recommended: Types of Federal Student Loans


If federal aid is not enough to cover the cost associated with attending college, there are other options available to help you pay for college. Two sources of funding are grants and scholarships. These are highly sought after by students because they do not have to be repaid. Many of them require students to apply annually.

SoFi’s Scholarship Search Tool can help you find scholarships based on your location, level of study, and more.

Part-Time Job

Some students may also consider getting a part-time job to help pay for tuition or living expenses. Consider looking both on and off campus, or even online.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans could be another option for students to fill the gap to pay for tuition and other necessities, such as room and board and books.

Private student loans are offered by private organizations, like banks or online lenders, and can be more expensive than federal student loans. They also don’t come with the same borrower protections as federal loans, like deferment or income-driven repayment plans. That’s why private student loans are generally considered an option after students have exhausted all other sources of financing.

The loan terms and interest rate will vary from lender to lender and will likely be determined by the borrower’s financial history and credit score. Those interested in borrowing a private loan should consider shopping around with various lenders to find the best fit for them.

SoFi’s Private Student Loans

If your federal student aid, scholarships, and grants do not cover the entire amount of your tuition and living expenses, you can consider an undergraduate private student loan from SoFi. In just a few minutes, students can see if they pre-qualify for a private loan, what the interest rates are, and if a cosigner is needed.

SoFi has four repayment options for its undergraduate loans, giving students financial options to meet their budgets and financial circumstances.

SoFi private student loans offer competitive interest rates for qualifying borrowers, flexible repayment plans, and no fees.


Does FAFSA require both parents’ income if they are divorced?

If your parents are divorced, you’ll generally report the information for the parent you lived with for the most amount of time in the past 12 months. If your parents have joint custody and you spend an equal amount of time with both parents, you’ll report the financial information of the parent who provided the most financial support during the previous 12 months.

How do you determine who parent 1 and parent 2 are for FAFSA?

Parent 1 and Parent 2 will be determined by how their information was entered into the FAFSA when the form was being completed. If the mother’s information was entered first, she would be Parent 1 and vice versa. If you cannot recall who was listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2 on your FAFSA, you can look the information up by navigation to the “Personal Information for Parent” page of your application and reviewing the information provided.

What is the maximum parent income to qualify for FAFSA?

There are no income limits when it comes to filling out the FAFSA or qualifying for federal financial aid. Even if your parents are high earners, you could still qualify for certain types of aid, such as scholarships or federal student loans. The FAFSA application is free to fill out, so it’s almost always worth taking the time to do so.

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.


Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender