A student loan is a specialized loan designed to help college students and their families pay for school-related expenses. That includes tuition and fees, room and board, textbooks, supplies, transportation and even child care. There are two main student loan categories — federal and private — and several different types under each umbrella. Student loans differ from other loan types because they typically allow the borrower to defer monthly payments until they are no longer in school. This allows students and their parents to borrow money throughout their time in college without worrying about monthly payments until they’re ready.