While discussions about higher education and college tend to surround themselves with the talk of loan debt, it’s often forgotten about how the initial process works. Recent student inquiries and those looking for a better understanding had questions about what is required to get a loan, and if certain things like credit scores affect eligibility.

A credit score is not something high school graduates are often familiar with, as generally they do not begin establishing actual credit until loans or credit cards are taken out. For them, hearing that a credit score is essentially all your history of bills repaid, loans, and other factors can be alarming, as they often have nothing established. This can also be the same for those with established history, with credit that might be low based on previous expenses and financial struggles.

Fortunately, educational loan eligibility is not deterred by money issues from recent credit marks. Federal student loans are not subject to a credit check. Typically, one needs a credit check if applying for things like private student loans, bank loans, apartments to rent, determining monthly auto bills, etc. Not so for federal loans, which is good news for anyone seeking higher learning.

Other questions were directed at very poor credit. While low credit scores often do not impact federal decisions, in rare cases someone with a lengthy history of negative factors would need to have a co-signer. This is because the applicant for the loan may demonstrate difficulty in repaying other bills, like mentioned credit card charges. In those situations, the federal government needs some level of guarantee that the loan can be repaid.

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This is in regard to loans not related to Stafford or Perkins, the most common loan types based on financial need and other things. If someone with low credit seeks a Parent PLUS Loan or Grad PLUS Loan, this is the case where a credit check applies as they are not considered regular federal lending. It does not mean one will be denied if they have low credit, they must simply guarantee payback such as the mentioned co-signer method.

Thus far, federal student loans are the optimal way to go if looking for covering college feeds. Some students inquired about private loans, and while they can offer the same or more than federal, their terms are different about repayment and sometimes unforgiving. Ultimately, hopeful students should simply take away that financial history will have little to do with their pursuit of higher education and paying for it.