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When should I apply for student loans?

Katie Schenk - April 30, 2018

Prodigy Finance looks at the best time to apply for a student loan

Anyone considering a grad school education abroad has a lot to figure out - from student loans to getting a local sim card in a different country.

Until you’re safely settled in your new home, you should probably expect to have a lot more questions than answers. Every time you figure something out, you’ll add another half dozen items to your to-do list.

Along the way, and every moment during your study abroad, you’ll realise it’s all totally worth it - an international master's degree is an investment. But, that doesn’t make your to do list any shorter.

And one of the first things you need to figure out is when apply for student loans. To answer this correctly, you’ll probably start by asking yourself: how long does it take to get a student loan?

That’s a good question, but sadly one that doesn’t have an easy answer. It all depends on:

  • the institution providing your loan,
  • how many applications they have at any one time, and
  • how easy or difficult it is to validate your financial details.

In principle, the longer you have for international study loan approval and disbursal, the better.

When is the earliest I can apply for student loans?

In countries that have established financial aid systems where the government is responsible for providing student loans for those that qualify for them (such as in the United States and Australia), you can apply for student loans as soon as you:

  • are accepted to a university, and
  • have accepted that placement.

Often there will be a final deadline for education loan applications, but as long as you have an admit date, you can begin your student loan application.

International students usually don’t have this sort of luxury.

However, you will usually need to have the same criteria in place. As soon as you do, it’s probably best to begin applying for your loans immediately. Some international student loan providers (which may be a local bank, one in your host country, or a borderless student loan platform like Prodigy Finance) take longer than others to:

  • approve your education loan (some may even take a few months), and
  • disburse your study loan (which sometimes depends on date when study starts).

It’s up to you to enquire with your potential loan providers to determine their time frames. And, unless a bank provides you with an absolute maximum or minimum time based on their policies, you should assume the time frame they provide is a guideline or average

With Prodigy Finance, you can expect a response with the maximum amounts you qualify for within a week

Remember that you may qualify for different amounts for different programmes as our predictive salary forecasting model includes datasets linked to individual schools.

It’s always advisable for international students to apply for admission to a programme as early as possible

Not only does this allow time for education loan and visa processing, but it’s almost a requirement at some universities in order to take advantage of housing opportunities (something international students are usually very concerned about).

What do I need before I can apply for student loans?

Before you can apply for any student loan, you’ll need to know:

  • the cost of attendance (CoA) provided by the school,
  • your personal budget for your studies, and
  • an understanding of how you plan to meet these targets.

These all might seem the same at first, but they’re usually very different figures. 

Cost of Attendance

  • Cost of Attendance (CoA) is the amount provided by your university, either for the duration of your studies or for the first year of a 2-year programme.
  • CoA is broken into tuition and mandatory fees + minimum living expenses. University CoA figures are usually available online, but you can contact the financial aid or international student offices if you need more details.
  • Think of CoA amounts as a minimum. 

Personal budget

  • This figure is usually more than the university CoA. 
  • You’ll need to consider your lifestyle as well as your personal goals (for example: Do you need to travel for internships? Is networking critical for your future startup?).
  • To compile your budget, you’ll need to begin planning your studies, asking where you will live, what you’ll eat, and how you’ll get around in addition to the tuition, fees, and health insurance you’ll need to pay.

Sources of funding

  • This includes all other funding sources beyond your loan you’re applying for. These could include savings, scholarships, company sponsorships, family contributions, previously accepted loans.
  • Keep in mind that you can reduce the size of your Prodigy Finance loan if you receive scholarships later, so there’s no reason to delay your loan application after acceptance. 

Remember, the absolute minimum you must have to apply for your international visa is the CoA provided by the university. All your funding sources, including loans must reach this amount to apply for your visa.

Need a closer look at typical CoA and budget figures?

When you’ve never lived in a country before, it can be difficult to determine how much money you’ll need, in addition to these resources, university community as well as expat forums are usually quite helpful. 

What paperwork will you need when applying for an international student loan? 

Loan providers have different requirements for their applications and prior to loan confirmation. What’s needed is usually determined by a mix of governmental mandates as well as whatever data is required for the risk model (which is used to determine eligibility, loan amounts, and interest rates) used by a provider.

Want to know more about Prodigy Finance requirements for international student loans?

What is the best time to apply for student loans?

The best time to apply for your student loan is as soon as possible.

At the very latest (and truly, the very latest), you should apply for your loan according to the application duration set by the loan provider plus the maximum processing time required to secure your international student visa. 

So why do so many students wait? 

They’re worried that they’ll be locked into a loan only to secure a scholarship (or several scholarships) later.

Scholarships certainly make financial sense. They’re money you don’t need to repay (as long as you maintain the requirements given by the awarding bodies).

But, it’s unwise to wait for money that you may or may not receive when it comes to international student loan applications. You might just find yourself without the funding required to secure a visa or complete your education. 

At Prodigy Finance, you can accept your provisional loan offer based on the maximum amount you qualify to receive - and reduce it before it’s disbursed based on scholarships or other sources you prefer to follow. 

And, you’ll only pay the Prodigy Finance loan fee on the amount disbursed, not the originally accepted amount! 

In addition, all our loans are co-signer and collateral-free - and you can expect a decision within a week.

You’ll need to check with the terms provided along with the other loan products you might consider - remembering that every provider has different criteria.

Whatever you do, do it as quickly as possible.


What are you waiting for? 

Prodigy Finance provides graduate-level education loans to qualified international students. And, borrowers have the possibility to reduce their loans before disbursal.


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