When to Apply for an International Student Loan

by MPOWER Financing | In Guides and Tools | 10 February 2023 | Updated on: February 10th, 2023

Applying for college in the United States involves a lot of moving parts. Not only do you have to keep track of enrollment and visa deadlines, but you may also need to take out student loans. Since it can take a few weeks or months for an international student loan to come through, starting the process early can ensure you get the funds you need in time. For a closer look at your student loan timeline, read on to learn when to apply for an international student loan to study in the United States. 

When to apply for an international student loan 

As an international student, you’re not eligible for federal student loans from the U.S. Department of Education. However, you can apply for student loans in the United States with a private lender.

Private lenders typically don’t set deadlines for student loans. In fact, you can usually apply for a private student loan at any time. 

However, your college or university will set a deadline for tuition payment, usually at the start of each semester. If your semester starts in September, for example, you may need to pay your tuition bill in mid-July or August. 

Private student loan processing times vary from a few weeks to a few months. Applying for a student loan at least two months before your tuition bill is due can help ensure your loan funds arrive in time for the start of the semester. 

Find your school’s tuition deadline 

To figure out when you need to apply for your international student loan, find out when your school’s tuition deadline is. Most schools require you to pay your tuition bill before you can enroll in classes. 

Once you’ve confirmed that deadline, apply for your international student loan at least two months in advance (or earlier if possible). Loan processing times vary by lender. To make sure students get their loans in time, MPOWER Financing allows students to apply as early as 12 months prior to the start of their program. 

The last thing you want to do is stress out about funding as your school’s tuition deadline approaches. By applying well ahead of time, you can start the school year off smoothly. 

Start loan shopping early to compare your options 

Along with meeting your tuition deadline, starting the loan shopping process early can help you compare your options. Rates and terms vary by lender, so shopping around will give you a sense of what’s available. 

As an international student, you may discover that most lenders in the U.S. require you to apply with a cosigner who lives in the U.S. MPOWER Financing is one of the few lenders that provides international student loans without requiring a cosigner or collateral. 

Give plenty of time for loan processing 

Figuring out how to apply for student loans and compare offers can be a time-consuming process. Once you’ve selected a lender, you’ll need to submit your application. We recommend starting this process as early as possible – even if you only start exploring your loan options; giving yourself three to four months for the process will be helpful!

Most lenders require you to provide personal details and verifying documentation, such as a letter of enrollment and school transcript. After you’ve submitted your application, the lender could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to process your application. 

If it’s approved, the lender needs to certify your enrollment with your school, as well as verify the school’s cost of attendance. Private lenders typically can’t approve a higher loan amount than your school-certified cost of attendance. 

Since your school needs to provide this information to the lender, this process can take some time. Once the lender has confirmation from your school, funds are typically disbursed directly to you.

You can apply for a student loan as soon as you’ve enrolled 

Because student loan lenders typically require your school to certify your cost of attendance, you may need to officially enroll before you can actually apply for an international student loan. Most schools in the U.S. ask for your enrollment decision and deposit on May 1. 

Once you’ve confirmed your enrollment and secured your spot with a deposit, you can complete your application. However, keep in mind that you can start the student loan shopping process prior.

Apply for student loans on a yearly basis 

Most lenders require you to apply for student loans on an annual basis. Your school will need to certify its cost of attendance every year, since prices can change over time. 

While you typically borrow student loans annually, you might pay your tuition bill at the start of each term or semester. Most lenders, like with MPOWER Financing, will automatically send the funds to your financial aid office when the bill is due, so you don’t have to take any additional steps. 

Can you apply for a student loan during the year? 

Applying for a student loan a few months before the school year starts will ensure you get the funds you need in time to pay your tuition bill. However, it is possible to apply for a private student loan at any time throughout the year. 

If you run out of funds and need funds to fill the gap before next semester, for instance, you can apply for a loan after the school year has already started. A lender can issue funds to qualifying students at any time. 

Be careful not to borrow more than you need, though, as responsible student borrowing is important. Making smart borrowing decisions now will pay off in the future. 

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