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While heading to college is an exciting adventure, schools everywhere may look and feel a bit different from how they’ve been traditionally. You may be wondering if your classes will be online, in a classroom or a combination of both, and what life will be like on campus. For some students, finances may also be up in the air. Right now, you should focus on making sure you have a plan to pay for college and getting your finances in order, so you’re ready when school begins.

Getting Your Finances in Order

If you’re committed to a school and have a gap in funding (federal loans and scholarships often don’t cover all your expenses), it’s important to apply for student loans to cover the gap. Plan and apply for the loans you need now, so that you don’t miss your school’s deadline and the opportunity to get the funding you need.

Applying for Private Student Loans

Private student loans are available for when federal student loans, grants, savings and scholarships don’t cover your educational costs. Most private lenders offer online applications. It doesn’t take long to fill out the loan application. For example, if you apply for a Navy Federal Credit Union student loan, it takes less than 15 minutes to apply. And, keep in mind, even though you’re applying for the loan now, you won’t have to repay it all right away. For Navy Federal loans, students have up to 4.5 years of in-school time plus a 6-month grace period before they enter into the 10-year full repayment period.

Choosing a Co-Signer

If you’re concerned you may not get approved for a loan on your own, you can apply with a co-signer. Having a creditworthy co-signer can significantly increase the chances you’ll be approved. Although a parent is most commonly a student’s co-signer, you can choose any eligible family member or friend who’s willing to assume responsibility of the loan along with you. Even if you’d qualify for a private loan on your own, you still may want to consider adding a co-signer because you’re more likely to qualify for a lower interest rate.

One more thing about co-signers—some private lenders, like Navy Federal, will allow a co-signer to be released from their obligation on the loan once the borrower has graduated and made 24 consecutive, on-time payments.

Borrowing the Right Amount

It can be hard to know if you’re borrowing too much or too little. Especially given the current environment, you may be unsure of how much you’ll actually need. But, once your lender approves the loan, your school will certify your loan amount based on the cost of attendance. The cost of attendance includes items like tuition, fees, books, computers, meals, travel and housing. Your school also will take into account any scholarships, financial aid or grants that you were awarded.

We’re Here to Help

Navy Federal has a dedicated team of student lending professionals who can provide guidance and answer all your questions. Plus, with a Navy Federal Student Loan, you’re automatically eligible for a Career Assistance Program—online tools and training that can help you level up your resume, hone your interviewing skills and find job search and other tips.

Visit our student loan page or contact one of our student lending professionals at the Navy Federal Student Loan Center, 8 am to 8 pm, ET, Monday through Friday at 1-877-304-9302. We’ll help you understand your options and how to pay for college, in spite of today’s economic uncertainty.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.