Your Credit and the Graduate Plus Loan

The law school Financial Aid Office provides you with an estimated package of the maximum aid you can receive for the academic year COA. One of the funds included in the package will be a credit-based Federal Direct Graduate PLUS loan (GradPLUS). However, the US Department of Education, not GW Law, determines final approval on all federal loans, and in particular, the GradPLUS, because it requires a credit check.

If you are planning to borrow a GradPLUS Loan, you may apply for credit now through the federal online PLUS Request process. Or, your credit will be checked automatically when you accept a Grad PLUS Loan as part of your GW aid package. The US Department of Education checks credit once GW transmits your GradPLUS for final approval, about a month prior to the start of classes. This allows the US Department of Education to screen for adverse credit on your record, but not your actual credit score.

Currently, you would be considered to have adverse credit if you are 90 days or more delinquent on any debt, or have been the subject of any of the following: default determination, bankruptcy discharge, foreclosure, repossession, tax lien, wage garnishment, or write-off of a Title IV debt in the five years preceding the date of the credit report. For any PLUS Loan credit check conducted on or after March 29, 2015, an applicant will be determined to have an adverse credit history if the total combined outstanding balance of the debts, including debts in collection or charged off during the two years preceding the date of the credit report, is greater than $2,085.

We strongly encourage you to review your credit now lest it cause unwanted surprises in the future -- and because it will be questioned on many bar exam applications. Anytime a vendor, such as the US Department of Education, reviews your credit, your score is adjusted, usually downward slightly. Without any consequence to your credit score, you may review your credit status in advance by obtaining reports from all three major credit bureaus at None of the reports provide an actual credit score, but they list information about any adverse credit you may have.

If you have reservations about your credit status and wish to apply for GradPLUS now, you may do this at any time. However, checking credit diminishes your credit score. Since PLUS credit checks are only valid for 180 days, qualifying more than six months prior to the date of your actual loan disbursement (late August) means you may have to request PLUS again later to request additional funding. It is possible that your credit status could have changed by then. Therefore, we recommend not putting that hit on your credit history any earlier than March 1st.

Checking your Eligibility Early

  1. Log onto using your FSA ID.
  2. Choose "Graduate/Professional Students"
  3. Choose “Apply for a PLUS Loan” and enter all requested information.
  4. At the end of the application, you will give the US Department of Education permission to check your credit.
  5. The US Department of Education will email you, informing you of your credit decision and the name of the credit bureau which provided the data used in the decision.
  6. If credit is denied, you may appeal the decision at in the same "Graduate/Professional Students" options list, or contact the Student Loan Support Center at 1.800.557.7394.
  7. While you are at, go ahead and take the opportunity to complete the Loan Agreements (MPN) for both the Unsubsidized Loan and the PLUS Loan as well as complete the Entrance Counseling for these loans. You will have the opportunity to decline and/or cancel any loan disbursement within 14 days after the start of classes. For more details, please contact the GW Law Financial Aid Office.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our office.