Skip to main content

Federal Loan Instructions

The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is committed to making your graduate education affordable. We are available to provide consultation and advice on federal loan programs, federal loan repayment programs, third-party billing, and more. 

How to Apply for Loans

The first step is to file a FAFSA for the correct academic year. The correct year is the year in which the first fall semester of your program begins. For example, if the first fall semester of your program is Fall 2021, you would file a 2021-2022 year FAFSA. You will need to file a FAFSA every year in which you wish to borrow a loan:

Quick Instructions for Direct Unsub Loan:

  1. Log into the Penn Loan System.
  2. Select Loan Period (see below).
  3. Enter the number of CUs you intend to take each semester. Contact your program if you are unsure of how many you will take.
  4. Enter the amount you wish to borrow.
  5. Log into and submit Master Promissory Note and Entrance Counseling.

Determining Your Loan Period

If your program starts in the…

Then select the Loan Period of:




In the following May, you will request another loan that spans Fall-Summer


Spring-only; Summer-only; Fall–Spring; In the following May, you will request another loan that spans Fall-Summer

To apply for the Graduate Direct PLUS loan, log into and follow the instructions to apply for a NEW Direct PLUS loan for graduate/professional students. Use the chart above to determine your loan period.

How Much Should I Borrow?

Your eligibility is the amount you can borrow and is always the difference between the Cost of Attendance and any scholarships and/or work-study you may have earned. The school allows you to borrow up to roughly $28,000 above the cost of tuition and fees for living expenses, but you should only borrow what you need. Here’s how to determine that amount:

  1. From the tuition charts online, determine how much your per-semester charges will be for your loan period. Some programs charge a flat-rate per semester, but most will charge per-course unit (CU).
  2. Estimate the amount of refund you need for living expenses.
  3. Combine totals from 1 & 2.
  4. Subtract any scholarships, employee benefits, personal resources; etc.  This is the amount to request.
  5. Request $20,500 in Direct Loan and difference in DirectPLUS or private loan.

For example: A student in the Higher Education M.S.Ed. program will take 5 CUs in the Fall and 5 CUs in the Spring, has a $5,000 scholarship, and needs $2,500 per semester for living expenses in addition to the Graduate Assistantship, and does not need university health insurance. They will request two loans: Direct and DirectPLUS to cover tuition and fees.

Loan Disbursement

Loans will usually disburse to students’ accounts no earlier than two weeks prior to the start of the term, if:

  • You are registered AND billed for your classes
  • You have successfully submitted a loan application, completed loan counseling, and signed the Master Promissory Note for each loan.

If you do not see a loan disbursed to your account within 10-15 days:

  • First, check Penn Pay under the tab for new activity, as the funds may have recently disbursed.
  • You must have active registration and tuition charges on your bill before a loan can be disbursed.
    • Late registration may also cause a delay in posting tuition charges to bills, in which case you will be charged on the next bill.
  • You must complete the Loan Entrance Counseling & Master Promissory Notes for both the Direct Loan and Direct GradPLUS Loan.

Please note: If the amount borrowed in loans exceeds the balance on the student’s account, you will be issued a refund for the difference. We strongly encourage students to sign-up for Direct Deposit, so refunds can be transferred directly to their personal checking accounts.