International Student Loan FAQ: Your Questions About Student Loans, Answered

by Rebecca Safier | In Guides and Tools | 28 October 2022 | Updated on: June 1st, 2023

Navigating the complex world of student loans as an international student can be confusing, especially if you’re the first person in your family to study in the U.S. Chances are, you have a lot of questions about taking a loan for school. To get you the answers you need, we’ve gathered a list of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about student loans for international students studying in the U.S. 

Whether you’re pursuing your bachelor’s, master’s, or another advanced degree, these answers can empower you to make the best borrowing decision for your education. 

What is an international student loan? 

An international student loan is a private education loan designed for international students studying at colleges and universities in the U.S. International students are not eligible for a federal student loan from the U.S. government. Federal student loans are reserved for U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens, such as permanent residents. However, you can take a private student loan from a bank, credit union, or online lender. Before taking out a student loan, it’s usually a good idea to exhaust your options for scholarships and grants. 

How do international student loans work? 

Private international student loans provide the funds you may need to pay for tuition, fees, and other costs of attending school. You’ll pay back your student loan on a monthly basis over a set period of time. Along with paying back the amount you borrow, you’ll also have to pay interest charges and any associated fees. These vary from one lender to the next. 

Am I eligible for a student loan? 

Every lender sets its own student loan requirements, but most want to see that you’re enrolled in an eligible college or university. Many lenders in the U.S. also require that international students apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with good credit and a source of income. 

How do I get a student loan without a cosigner? 

If you’re wondering how to get a student loan without a cosigner, don’t worry – you still have options. MPOWER Financing understands that not every international student has a cosigner in the U.S. (or wants to ask someone to cosign their loan). That’s why MPOWER Financing offers student loans for international students with no cosigner or collateral required. You can borrow money for college or graduate school without having to ask anyone else to share your debt. 

My school is not on MPOWER Financing’s list. Can I still get a loan? 

MPOWER Financing funds loans to students attending more than 400 schools in the U.S. and Canada that it believes offers the best outcomes for global citizens. If your school is not currently on the list, unfortunately you would not be able to apply for a loan through MPOWER at this time. However, make sure you check back periodically to see if your school has been added. 

How do I apply for a student loan? 

Most lenders offer an online student loan application on their website. To apply for a student loan, you’ll need to provide personal details, including your home country address, U.S. address, school, and the amount you wish to borrow. You’ll also have to upload verifying documents, such as a proof of enrollment in college and your high school diploma. Make sure to fill out the international student loan application in full and provide your documents in a timely manner to avoid any delays. If you want to apply for an international student loan through MPOWER, you can get started online. 

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What can international student loans be used for? 

International student loans can be used to cover the costs of attending college or graduate school. When studying in the U.S. most lenders will send the funds directly to your school to cover costs such as tuition, fees, housing, health insurance and meal plans. If there’s any amount left over, it may be sent to you to spend on books, supplies, and other living expenses. Keep in mind that your school will need to certify, or approve the loan amount. When studying in Canada, you can typically apply for the amount you need for tuition. To stick within budget, it’s a good idea to only borrow what you need and avoid spending loan money on unnecessary expenses, such as pricey restaurants. 

How does student loan interest work? 

When you borrow a student loan, you’ll have to pay back the amount you borrow plus interest. Interest accrues on private student loans from the date of disbursement at a fixed or variable rate. A fixed rate stays the same over the life of your loan, while a variable rate can fluctuate with the market. 

MPOWER Financing offers fixed rates of 13.99% (15.01% APR) to international undergraduate students and 12.99% (13.98% APR) to international graduate students. You can also qualify for an interest rate Discount of up to 0.25% after you sign up for automatic payments.

How much should I borrow in student loans? 

To figure out how much you need to borrow in student loans, take a look at your full cost of attendance – not just tuition and fees. Your cost of attendance includes your total expenses, including room and board, books and supplies, and general living expenses. Once you have this amount, confirm with the lender what items you can borrow for, and keep in mind that you’ll want to borrow only what you need to stick to your budget. Some financial experts recommend borrowing no more than the amount you expect to make your first year after graduating. If you expect your entry-level salary to be US$35,000, for example, consider keeping your student loan borrowing to US$35,000 or less. 

If you plan to apply for a loan with MPOWER, you can borrow a minimum of US$2,001 and a maximum of US$50,000 per academic period with a lifetime total borrowing limit of US$100,000. Students studying in Canada can use our loans for tuition and students studying in the U.S. can use our loans to cover all eligible school-related expenses.

When should I apply for a student loan? 

It can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months to get a student loan, so start the process early. Most schools require that you pay for tuition at the beginning of the semester or right before classes start. Applying for student loans two to three months before your semester starts can help ensure your funds come through in time. That said, you can usually apply for a private student loan any time throughout the year if you find yourself in need of additional funds. If you’re considering a loan through MPOWER Financing you can start the application process to see if you’re eligible at any time. 

Do I need to start paying back my student loan right away? 

You don’t necessarily need to start paying back your student loans right away, but your repayment terms will vary by lender. Some lenders let you defer, or postpone, payments while you’re enrolled in school and for a few months after you graduate. Loans through MPOWER Financing require you to make interest-only payments while you’re in school and for the six months following your graduation. These interest-only payments allow you to focus on earning your degree and getting a job before you enter full repayment while also building your credit history. With any loan, you will want to read over the terms of your loan agreement carefully to find out when you need to start paying back your student loan in full. 

How long does it take to pay back a student loan? 

Your student loan repayment terms will vary by lender, but a common term is 10 years. If you start making more money, you might choose to make extra payments so you can get out of debt faster and save money on interest. 

Author: View all post by Rebecca Safier

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