How to apply for a student loan

With the increasing costs of education, it is more difficult for people to get a tertiary qualification. However, there are ways to fund your studies with the bank’s help. Moneybags journalist, Ashleigh Brown, looks at the different student loan options available and how much they offer.

“Most universities have closed their undergraduate applications, making it the ideal time for prospective students to start the process of gathering information about student loans while awaiting admission confirmation,” says Pieter du Toit, CEO of FNB personal loans.

Studying is a great way to enhance your job prospects, and to gain some valuable skills, but not everyone can afford the exorbitant university tuition fees. There are fewer bursaries around and they can be hard to qualify for.

“A student loan is a tool to help you gain an education that will assist you in better opportunities once you enter the workplace. The long term value that acquiring a tertiary education can add to your life is well worth the commitment of having a student loan,” says du Toit.

Student loans will normally cover the cost of tuition, books and accommodation, with the exception of if you are living at home with your parents. Full-time students will only have to pay their loan back once they have completed their degree, whereas part-time students will have to start paying back immediately.

“You should do the calculations and estimate all the costs such as residence fees, books and stationery. It is wise to consider shopping around, reading the fine print, checking what the bank offers, checking the cost of the loan and making sure you understand the terms and conditions attached to each loan, and the repayment terms,” said Sugendhree Reddy head of personal banking at Standard Bank.

We look at the four big banks – Nedbank, Standard Bank, First National Bank and Absa, as well as the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to see what each offers in terms of student loans.


With the Nedbank student loan you have to re-apply for each year of registration, as a student loan is granted for a specific year of study. Furthermore, the monthly re-payment interest rates are worked out depending on what year of study you are in.

For first year students it is the prime interest, which is currently at 9.25%, rate plus two (11.25%), for second year students it is prime plus one (10.25%) and for third year students it is just the prime interest rate (9.25%).

Nedbank also offers a grace period to students who have to complete internships, community service or articles in order to qualify in their field of study. Competitive Nedbank credit life cover can be taken-up to cover you in case of death or disability.

In order to apply for a student loan, you will have to go into the branch post a credit assessment. If the application is successful, you will be requested to visit the branch to sign the “Student Loan Agreement” and “Pre-agreement” together with the any other necessary documentation.

Once all the paper work is signed, a stop order will be set up to repay the interest on loan. Once the signed documentation has been submitted and reviewed for completeness of the application the tuition-fees will be then be paid directly to the tertiary institution.

A Nedbank student loan will cover:

  • Tuition fees
  • Accommodation,
  • Books,
  • Study related equipment

To apply, click here.

Standard Bank

If you are a full-time student, you will also get a Standard Bank transactional account once the loan has been approved. There will be a once off initiation fee and monthly service fee charged on the student loan. However, full-time students will only need to start repaying their loan on completion of their studies. During your time of study, the person who stands surety for you will need to pay the monthly interest and service fees.

“One of the requirements for a full time student when qualifying for a student loan is the need for a surety. This is having someone credit-worthy who stands as a guarantor in case you default on the loan. In most cases it could be your parent or guardian; however other family members could be approached,” said Reddy.

The payments will be charged to your surety’s bank account. Full-time students will also be granted a six month grace period for capital repayments after they have completed their studies and have not found employment.

If you are a part-time student, earning more than R5, 000, you will need to repay your loan while studying via monthly payments through a debit order. The repayment period of the loan may change if you pay more than the minimum monthly instalment and if there are changes in the interest rate. Once the loan is in repayment the monthly repayments will not change. If you are a part-time student, the monthly repayment will change whenever you increase the limit on the loan while studying.

If you are younger than 18, you need to visit the branch with your guardian or surety to complete a student loan application form. The surety must be permanently employed and will be responsible for paying the costs of the loan while you are studying.

If you are 18 years or older, you can apply for a student loan by completing an online application via the youth-application portal, click here.

If you are still in matric, you can still apply for a student loan through Standard Bank: “If you are still in matric and do not have a matric certificate yet, you can still apply and the student loan will be approved on condition that all documentation is submitted. Students who don’t have a matric certificate, need to be studying toward a technical qualification at a Further Education and Training (FET) college,” said Reddy.

A Standard Bank student loan will cover:

  • Tuition fees,
  • Books,
  • Equipment that will be used for study purposes, such as a laptop or stethoscope,
  • And accommodation, only for full time students who are not living with their parents.

For general queries on your student loan account, contact Customer Care line on 0860 123 000, or click here.

First National Bank

Student loans normally amount to between R4 000 and R50 000 and they are granted annually. Once the funds have been deposited into the parent or guardian’s account, it can be used to cover the cost of tuition fees and books.

The student’s parent or guardian must earn more than R6 000 per month and meet the National Credit Act criteria in order to qualify for a student loan. Interest rates are linked to prime and will be based on each individual’s credit profile.

“Parents only need to service the interest portion of the loan while the student is studying. FNB will also provide an additional six month grace period after the student completes their studies before converting the loan to include capital reduction,” explains Du Toit.

The amount of repayments you will have to make depends on your risk profile and monthly income.

The FNB student loan will:

  • Cover tuition fees, paid directly to the university/educational institution,
  • Give you the ability to service only the interest portion while completing your studies and start repaying interest plus capital after graduation,
  • Consider your no obligations quote, which is valid for 10 days.

To apply, click here.


“While the person is studying, the loan account will attract a competitive interest rate, which is subject to an individual assessment on the loan. The actual loan itself has to be paid back only once a student has completed the studies,” said an Absa spokesperson.

In respect of fees, the initiation fee for loans less than R2500 is R150 and R500 for loans equal to or greater than R2500. A monthly fee of R57 is levied. If the course is more than 12 months long, you will only pay the interest on your student loan until you graduate, when the full amount becomes due. However, if your course is less than 12 months long, you will need to pay the loan and interest back within the 12 months.

“Where finance is taken up for every year of study, the loan must be paid back upon completion of studies over a period not exceeding the time it took to complete studies. When the students’ studies are complete, they have the option of taking over the study loan from the parent (the borrower) once they are employed, can prove that they are creditworthy and that they can afford the repayments,” says an Absa spokesperson.

An Absa student loan will pay for:

  • Study fees,
  • Textbook bills and,
  • Related costs.

To apply, click here.


If your marks are good enough, up to 40% of your loan can be turned into a bursary. Therefore, you will have less to pay back once you have finished studying.

NSFAS student loans allow you to pay the money back once you earn an income: “Repayments of your student loan are based on the salary that you earn and start once your salary is R30 000 or more per year.

Payments start at 3% of your annual salary, increasing to a maximum of 8% when your salary reaches R59 300 or more per year. For example, this means you will pay back R900 a year on a salary of R30 000 a year, or R84 per month.

According to the NSFAS website, if you have a salary is R59 300 you will pay back R4 744 a year or R696 a month. “Interest is charged at 80% of the repo rate, which is the repurchase rate at which the Reserve Bank lends to commercial banks. NSFAS will continue to charge interest on all outstanding balances,” according to NSFAS.

NSFAS loan covers:

  • Tuition fees,
  • Residence or private accommodation costs,
  • Food,
  • Books,
  • And travel.

To apply, click here.

Requirements for a student loan

When applying for a student loan, the institution with which you apply with give you an application form to fill in. However, there are other documents that you will need in order to apply:

  • The student must have successfully passed matric or Grade 12 (unless stated otherwise) and provide proof of this,
  • The course that the student wishes to take must be South African Qualifications, Authority or Sector Education and Training Authority accredited,
  • Copy of student’s green bar-coded South African ID must be provided,
  • Copy of parent / sponsor green bar-coded South African ID is also a requirement,
  • Latest payslip,
  • Proof of residence,
  • Proof of registration from the educational institution,
  • Latest three months bank statements,
  • If you are self-employed latest six months bank statements.

Taking a student loan is one of the most affordable ways to study – if you get a personal loan, for instance, you will be paying more in interest rates and charges. But make sure to do your homework and work out all the costs involved before signing on the dotted line. Make sure, too, that you or your guardian will be able to make the monthly repayments.