Can International Students Apply for a Loan?

by MPOWER Financing | In Guides and Tools | 27 December 2022 | Updated on: December 27th, 2022

Pursuing higher education in the U.S. can be a rewarding experience, but it may come with hefty tuition costs. To cover the costs of your education, you might consider an international student loan. You can apply for an international student loan from a private lender, such as a bank, credit union or online lender. Before you kick off the process, read over this information about student loans, including how to get a student loan and eligibility requirements you’ll need to meet. 

Yes, international students can apply for student loans

International students in the U.S. are eligible for student loans, but only private ones. They’re not eligible for federal financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education, which includes subsidized and unsubsidized loans. 

However, international students can borrow money from a private lender – this will be a pre-defined, fixed amount or your school-certified cost of attendance, depending on the lender. If your loan is approved, the lender will likely send the loan proceeds directly to your school’s financial aid office, which will apply those funds to your tuition and fees. 

Eligibility requirements for international student loans 

Every private lender sets its own eligibility requirements for private student loans. Most, however, require that you’re enrolled in a qualifying college or university at least half-time. They’ll also ask for documentation that shows proof of enrollment, an active visa, and your recent high school or undergraduate degree transcript.

Many lenders also require that international students apply with a cosigner who lives in the U.S. A cosigner is an adult who applies for the student loan with you and is equally responsible for the loan. If you miss payments, the lender will ask your cosigner to pay. 

Asking someone to cosign debt is a big request, and not every student knows someone in the U.S. who could act as a cosigner. That’s why MPOWER Financing offers international student loans that don’t require a cosigner or collateral. 

If you don’t have a cosigner (or prefer to apply on your own), consider a lender such as MPOWER Financing that doesn’t require one to borrow an international student loan.   Borrowing on your own also provides important benefits – you begin to build credit in the U.S. by virtue of paying a loan on-time by yourself, and it relieves your family from having to put up a house/property as collateral for the loan.  

Tips for finding an international student loan 

Before borrowing an international student loan, take some time to compare your options. Every lender sets its own borrowing requirements, interest rates, and fees, so shopping around can help you find an affordable offer. Here are some tips for finding an international student loan that’s a good fit for you. 

1. Shop around 

Rather than going with the first lender you find, take some time to explore multiple lenders and see what they have to offer. Every private lender is different and sets its own borrowing criteria, interest rates, fees, and repayment terms. Some offer smoother online applications than others or a faster approval and funding time. As you compare lenders, it might also be worth reading over customer reviews on sites such as TrustPilot or the Better Business Bureau to see what people have to say about their experience with the lender. 

2. Compare qualification requirements 

As you shop around, take a look at each lender’s eligibility requirements. As mentioned, many lenders require international students to apply with a cosigner who lives in the U.S. Your cosigner will need to have good credit and a steady source of income to qualify for the loan. Your cosigner will also need to be prepared for the risks of cosigning — for instance, they become legally obligated to pay back the debt, and their credit will be damaged if you miss payments. 

If you can’t or don’t want to apply with a cosigner, prioritize a lender that offers international student loans with no cosigner requirement

3. Review rates and fees 

When it comes to having an international student loan, finding one with interest rates and fees that you’re comfortable with is a top priority. Find out and understand any fees a lender might charge, as well, such as an origination, disbursement, or origination fee. 

4. Consider repayment terms 

Most lenders offer a 10-year repayment term on student loans, though some additionally offer terms as short as five years or as long as 20 years. A shorter term can help you get out of debt fast and save on interest, but it will also mean higher monthly payments. A longer term, on the other hand, can lower your monthly payments, but you’ll pay more interest over the years. Make sure you compare your monthly payments and interest charges on different repayment terms. 

5. Start early 

Since shopping around for a loan takes time, try to start the process two to three months before your semester starts. You’ll need plenty of time for a lender to review your application and confirm your cost of attendance with your school. Loan approval can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Starting early can ensure you have the funds in time to pay your tuition bill, which is usually due before classes start each term or semester. 

6. Don’t borrow more than you need 

Finally, think carefully about how much student debt you take on to attend college or graduate school in the United States. Student loans can be a useful tool if you borrow wisely, but they can become burdensome if you take out too much. One popular guideline is to borrow no more than the amount you expect to earn your first year out of college. While no one can predict the future, this guideline can help you make borrowing decisions that align with your college major and career plans. 


Getting started in the loan comparison process? Start your international student loan search with MPOWER Financing. 

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