How Do International Students Get a Student Loan?

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

Earning your degree in the United States can be an exciting and fulfilling adventure, but first you’ll need to figure out how to pay for it. If you’re in need of funding, consider borrowing an international student loan from a bank, credit union or online lender. Designed specifically for international students, international student loans can provide the money you need to pay for your international education. But remember that loans are not free money — you’ll have to pay them back, with interest. 

Read on to learn more about student loans in the United States, including how to apply for student loans and how to compare options to find the best offer for you. 


How to get international student loans in the United States 

As an international student studying in the U.S., you’re unfortunately not eligible for federal student loans or financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education. However, you can borrow a private student loan from a private institution, such as a bank, credit union or online lender. Here’s how to get started:

1. Check eligibility requirements 

Start your search by coming up with a list of lenders that provide student loans to international students. As you compile your list, check out each lender’s eligibility requirements to make sure you’ll qualify. 

Many lenders, for instance, require international students to apply with a cosigner who lives in the U.S. A cosigner is an adult who will apply for the loan with you. Because their name is on the application, they become equally responsible for the debt. 

If you’d prefer to apply for a student loan on your own (or don’t have a cosigner who lives in the U.S.), you’re not out of options. MPOWER Financing offers undergraduate and graduate student loans to qualifying international students in the U.S. and Canada – no cosigner or collateral required. 

2. Compare interest rates and fees 

Interest rates and fees have a major impact on your long-term costs of borrowing. A high interest rate and hefty fees can mean you have to pay the lender back a much higher sum than you borrowed in the first place. 

Rates and fees vary by lender, so as you’re shopping around, search for a lender that offers a rate and fees that you feel comfortable with. Most lenders advertise a range of rates, so you might not know yours until you apply for the loan. 

3. Look at repayment terms 

As you compare your loan offers, take a look at the repayment terms that each lender offers. Repayment is typically between five and twenty years. Keep in mind that a longer repayment term will give you more affordable monthly payments, but you’ll pay more interest in the end. A shorter term, on the other hand, will reduce your interest charges, but will require higher monthly payments. 

As a student, it’s tough to predict what your budget for student loan payments will be after you graduate. However, opting for a lender that offers a reasonably long enough term (10 years or more) should help ensure your monthly student loan payments don’t become too burdensome. Plus, confirm with your potential lenders if they charge a prepayment penalty; if not, you will have the option to pay off your loan sooner without an additional fee. 

4. Apply for your student loan 

Once you’ve found a student loan that’s a good fit for you, your next step is to apply. Many lenders let you apply for a student loan online. 

You’ll fill out your personal details, as well as upload supporting documentation, such as proof of enrollment or your transcript. 

Once the lender has your information, they will review your application. Assuming your loan is approved, the lender will reach out to your school to certify your cost of attendance. 

Once your school signs off on the loan amount, the lender will likely send the proceeds straight to the financial aid office. The financial aid office will apply the funds to your tuition bill.

This process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, so it’s crucial to start early. If your tuition bill is due in August, for example, aim to start the loan shopping process in April or May. 

7. Consider making in-school payments 

Some lenders will postpone payments until after you graduate during a time known as your grace period, whereas others have you make small or interest-only payments while you’re in school. At MPOWER Financing borrowers  make monthly, interest-only payments while in school and for the following six months after graduation. 

If you choose a lender where in-school payments aren’t required, consider still making in-school payments on your loan. If you wait until you’ve graduated, your loans could get bigger from interest charges that accrued while you were in school. 

Making small payments along the way, if possible, could cut down your interest charges and prevent your student loan balance from ballooning while you’re earning your degree. 


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

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