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[US Student] How do I know what loans I've received as part of my financial aid package?

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Hello all,

I'm an American student in my final year of university applying to graduate school. I have finally received all my decisions, but I'm having trouble understanding how to apply for loans and how to know what I've received. I'm starting to feel anxious because I've also applied to several schools outside of the country that I would really like to attend, but accommodation is starting to book up while I figure out my financial situation. I was expecting to receive at least some loans, but I was surprised to not receive anything. I would really appreciate your help in clarifying what's going on!

Here's some more information about my situation:

  • I took out both Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized loans all four years of my undergraduate studies.

  • I filled out the FAFSA for 2021–2022 as an independent and indicated I would be continuing from my bachelor's to do a master's. My FAFSA was processed back in February, so all the schools I applied to should have seen it by now.

  • My FAFSA Student Aid Report says "Based upon data provided by the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) and your grade level, we have determined that you may have received a total amount of undergraduate student loans that is close to or equal to the loan limits established for the federal loan programs. Therefore, your eligibility for additional student loans may be limited."

  • I was very fortunate to receive merit scholarships from all the domestic schools I applied to. However, when I look at my aid packages on my acceptance portals, the only aid I see are my merit scholarships. No loans.

Based on the above, I have a few questions:

  1. What's the "normal" timeline for aid in general? Is your financial aid package, complete with loans, supposed to come out at the same time as your admissions decision?

  2. My guess is that I've hit the threshold for Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized loans since I've already taken out those types of loans to support my undergraduate education. If this is true, what other federal loans am I eligible for to support my graduate education? It seems that I can apply for the Direct PLUS loan, but I'd like to confirm this.

  3. How do I handle the fact that the application for Direct PLUS loans doesn't come out until April? The schools I have offers from are requiring that I respond to their offers by April 1 or April 15, and I am concerned that the turnaround for the Direct PLUS loan application won't be quick enough before the offer reply deadlines.

  4. After applying for a Direct PLUS loan, what happens? Do I have to contact the financial aid department of each individual school to discuss my aid package?

  5. What's the best way to get in touch with financial aid departments for schools outside the country? I'd ideally like to call them, but their numbers are international numbers.

If you've read this far, thank you so very much. I am the first in my family to go to graduate school and there is a lot that I am still figuring out!

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