When I decided to go to grad school my parents said “this one is on you.” AKA they weren’t going to help me figure out the elfish language that is student loans. They say it would be a learning experience, but I know its because they didn’t want me to move out.

Student loans for graduate school are completely different than for undergraduate degrees and my parents did that one for me so this was a completely new experience. Let me breakdown the process for you from beginning to end.

Get your taxes done

You are going to need this information when you fill out the FAFSA. It would be best to get them done early in January or February. Get TurboTax, take them to H&R Block, or have your friend do it.

Fill out the FAFSA

This is usually due the first few days in March. You have to fill it out before then. The FAFSA is pretty difficult to fill out, which is why you should have your tax return sitting in front of you while you do it. You can pretty much go line by line and plug in the numbers straight from there

Figure out which schools you are applying to

FUN FACT: You can apply for your loan before you’ve gotten into your university (I think everyone knew this but me). Once you fill out the FAFSA, the government will cross check with your university to make sure you actually applied there and aren’t just trying to get massive amounts of money.

Apply on studentloans.gov

Pretty straightforward after the FAFSA. They’re going to run a credit check on you and then you fill out the application, complete a Master Promissory Note and Entrance Counseling.

Know your loans: Subsidized, Unsubsidized, and PLUS

Subsidized loans are awesome because the U.S. government pays interest on them while you are in school. The not so awesome thing is that you can’t get a subsidized loan as a graduate student. However, this is good to know because you can defer the loans you have from your undergraduate degree while you are in grad school – LOANS ON LOANS ON LOANS. Unsubsidized loans begin accruing interest the moment it is disbursed to you. PLUS loans are the same but the interest rates are higher so you’ll want to take out an unsubsidized loan for as much as you can before you take out your PLUS loan.

It’s scary and not very fun and overwhelming to think about how much money you’re going to owe at the end of it. The thing that keeps me sane is that the end of the world will probably come before I pay it back, so I’m all good!

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