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Student Loans

Student Loans for Culinary School

Depending on where you attend, and the length of your program, culinary certificates and degrees can range from six months to four years—and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

If you’re a culinary student, it’s always best to start out by applying for grants or scholarships. But for additional financial aid, you may be able to get student loans to cover the rest of the costs of your certificate or degree program. Here’s what you need to know.

Can you use federal student loans for culinary school?

Federal student loans aren’t reserved only for students seeking higher education through the traditional path that involves attending college for four years or more. You can get student loans for many other forms of education and related costs, including culinary school. 

Federal student loans are only available at accredited schools, but you can use them to pay for degrees and certificates. 

The most common type of federal student loans are Direct Loans, which include Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans. The federal government doesn’t charge interest on subsidized student loans while you’re enrolled, during a six-month grace period upon graduating, and during periods of deferment.

Can you use private student loans for culinary school?

Most private lenders don’t offer specialized student loans for culinary school, as with medical school or law school, but you can get a student loan for the costs of attending culinary school. 

Private student loans are sometimes available at non-accredited schools, but they’re often limited to degree (rather than certificate) programs. 

Unlike federal student loans, the terms for private student loans can vary by lender. As such, each lender may have its own rules regarding eligible schools. You can contact individual lenders to ensure the school you’re considering is on its list. 

We’ve researched lenders that offer student loans for select culinary schools and programs and have reviewed them below. Each lender lets you check your rates without affecting your credit score.

Best for…
Rating (0-5)
Best for Large Loans
Best for Member Benefits
Best for a Graduation Reward

Earnest – Best for large loans

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • No fees
  • No credit check
  • Rate-match guarantee

Earnest offers private student loans in a competitively unique way. In fact, you’ll get a $100 bonus with its rate-match guarantee. Plus, borrowers have several repayment terms to choose from: Five, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years. 

You can complete your application with your smartphone and receive a decision within 24 hours. The lender also allows borrowers the option to skip one payment a year.

SoFi – Best member benefits

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Application can be completed online in minutes
  • No impact on your credit score
  • No fees

SoFi is unique from other online lenders because it looks beyond credit scores and debt-to-income ratios, considering factors such as cash flow, education, and career prospects.

With four repayment term options ranging between five and 15 years, borrowers can pay off their loan during school. After you apply, finding out your loan rates takes just three minutes.

Ascent – Best graduation reward

LendEDU rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Cashback rewards
  • No impact on credit score
  • Repayment assistance options

Ascent’s Career and Professional Training Loan is a fixed-rate product available to students at eligible culinary schools. Every year, Ascent awards students with more than $80,000 in scholarships.

You can choose a repayment term of five, seven, or 10 years. Through repayment assistance, the lender provides several ways for borrowers to repay their loan.

How to apply for culinary school student loans

As you attempt to bridge the gap between savings and free financial aid you may have received, and the rest of your culinary school costs, it’s ideal to prioritize federal student loans over private student loans. 

Federal student loans typically have better rates and benefits, including potential loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans.

Applying for federal student loans

The process to apply for a federal student loan includes several steps:

1. Find out whether your culinary school is accredited

Search for your school in the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs or the Federal School Code Search.

It’s wise to attend an accredited school because you’ll enjoy a higher level of academic standards and professionalism, you’re guaranteed to learn the necessary skills for certification, and you’ll have a better chance of landing a job after graduation.

If you do enroll in a non-accredited program, keep in mind that you wouldn’t be eligible for any federal student loans. If your culinary school is eligible for federal student loans, you can proceed with the application process

2. Set up a federal student aid account online

To set up an account, you must provide personal information, such as your name, date of birth, and social security number. The entire process to set up an account may take five to 10 minutes.

3. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

You have until June 30 to fill out and submit the FAFSA. But before you do, check your school and state deadlines, as they each have their own. 

You’ll need to provide detailed information, so it can take up to an hour to complete the FAFSA the first time. For additional financial aid in following school years, you must renew your FAFSA application yearly.

As you fill out the FAFSA, you must choose at least one school to determine the types of student aid it’ll offer—and how much—but you can select up to 20 schools.

4. Review your FAFSA Submission Summary

It’ll take one to three days to process your FAFSA—up to a week if you submit it by mail. Once it’s processed, you’ll receive the FAFSA Submission Summary, which you’ll need to review and correct if there are any errors. This may take 10 to 15 minutes to review and/or revise.

The summary will list financial aid you may be eligible for, information about the schools you selected when you completed the FAFSA and next steps.

5. Review your federal financial aid offers

The schools you selected will send you an offer of financial aid usually in the spring. The offer will include the cost to attend and the types of aid they’re offering, as well as the deadline to accept. 

The time it takes to review your offers will depend on the number of schools you selected in your FAFSA and the types of financial aid you’re offered. Expect to spend at least five minutes reviewing the details of each school’s offer.

6. Accept your offer

Once you’ve decided where you’d like to enroll, you’ll follow the instructions to notify the school and accept any or all of the financial aid offers that work best for you. 

If you receive multiple offers from a school, it’s important to accept them in this order:

  1. Grants and scholarships
  2. Work-study programs
  3. Loans

The time it may take to receive the funds may slightly vary depending on the program, but funds are generally available or disbursed by the beginning of the fall semester. You can contact your financial aid office to find out more details.

Applying for private student loans

If you also apply for private student loans, start by shopping around and getting rate quotes from multiple lenders to compare your options. The process to apply for a private student loan typically does not require as much time, but you should apply at least a few weeks before your academic term begins.

1. Enter personal and loan information

Provide some information for the lender to verify your identity, such as your name, birth date, social security number, and address.

Then, you’ll share the details about the program you’re enrolled in, such as the institution’s name, the cost to attend when you are attending, and the loan amount you’re requesting. This step should only take a few minutes.

2. Apply solo or add a cosigner

Private lenders are typically more likely to approve your loan application with a cosigner. So, you’ll be given the option to apply on your own or include someone else on your application. 

This step will take about a minute if applied solo. If you decide to apply with a cosigner, s/he must fill out a separate part of the application.

Always be careful about cosigning, though. Make sure you and your cosigner understand the agreement—and risk—you’re both committing to. A cosigner must make payments to your loan if you do not.

3. Provide employment and income information

Finally, you’ll enter your employment status and annual income before you review the information on your application. This should only take a minute or two.

4. Submit your application

Once you’ve completed your application, you’ll submit your application and view the interest rates you’ve prequalified for.

5. Sign and accept loan terms

If you’re approved for the student loan and you accept, the lender will provide you with further details on how and when you’ll receive the funds. 

Typically, once your program certifies your enrollment—which may not be until 30 days before the semester begins—the funds will be disbursed to your school within the first few weeks of the start of the semester.