Unlike many loans, federal student loans do not consider a student’s ability to repay the loan as part of the lending criteria. While borrowers do have to meet criteria, they have to do with attending an eligible school, demonstrating financial need, the number of credits you are taking and your academic progress. This can be good news for students who have yet to establish credit or find a job and are focused on school.

Step 1

File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid online. You can also print a paper FAFSA from the website or request a paper FAFSA by calling (800) 4-FED-AID. This application asks you about your financial situation, in addition to other eligibility questions. Federal student loans are given to eligible students who demonstrate financial need. Federal student loan programs include direct subsidized loans, direct unsubsidized loans and direct PLUS loans, as well as loans that parents of students can apply for. Additionally, federal Perkins loans are campus-based student loans that are awarded based on the FAFSA.

Step 2

Meet eligibility requirements for obtaining a federal student loan. To receive federal student loans, you must be a U.S. citizen or qualify for an exception, be registered and enrolled in a participating college or vocational program in an eligible degree or certificate program, be registered with Selective Service if you are male, have a valid Social Security number or qualify for an exception, agree to use federal student aid only for educational purposes and not be in default on any other federal student loan. Your employment status is not, itself, a factor. While you must disclose any income you earn, your income is used to determine your need, not to determine your ability to repay the loan.

Step 3

File a change of circumstance appeal with your school's financial aid office if your financial situation changes or your FAFSA does not reflect your current income due to loss of employment. It is possible you are eligible for additional federal student aid if you demonstrate greater need.

Step 4

Apply for a private student loan if needed. These loans should be a last resort, as the terms and benefits are not as favorable as federal loans. Private lenders set their own lending criteria and do not use the FAFSA to determine eligibility. Instead, lenders generally rely on your credit score. Your employment status may not be a factor, as lenders expect that you are focused on your studies and not work.