How does one pay bills during flight school?

All I’m seeing so far is that you can’t work while attending ATP. My question is, how do you pay bills? I know graduates are guaranteed a job as an instructor, but that won’t do me much good if my vehicle gets repossessed, my phone shut off, my self evicted and dead of starvation before the end of month 1.

I highly doubt I’m the only person in such circumstances, and I don’t think many people would up and quit their job, sell all their worldly possessions and live under a bridge eating cockroaches just to gamble on flight school. So how is this accomplished? If by some chance ATP requires zero financial obligation and zero bills as a prerequisite, does anyone know any other flight schools with more realistic expectations, or is one pretty much barred from aviation by being working class?



If in fact that’s all you’re seeing you’re not looking too hard to see anything else. ATP has been training pilots for over 30yrs and no the majority of them (myself included) were/are not independently wealthy. Some people save money to live on, some rely on family and others take additional money out on their loans. ATP doesn’t require zero financial obligation or bills but they’re also not responsible for helping you figure out how to live up to your responsibilities.

You’ve clearly got a chip on your shoulder and I suggest you work on that. Then perhaps you can think more intelligently on how to reach your goals.



As Adam mentioned, there are a few ways to accomplish this. I personally took out extra money on my loan to live for approximately 6 months (at the time, it was a 5 month zero time program, which left me a 1 month buffer). I had no issues doing this. Yes - I could have worked for another year and saved, but I would have been missing out on a year of seniority and top pay at the end of my career. In the long run, it was well worth the extra money for me.


Apologies for the vitriol of my earlier comment.

So are these federal student loans, third party student loans, or just personal loans? What does the interest rate normally look like (just a general baseline) and when do they typically want payments to start? And if it’s any kind of student loan, is it still able to be used for personal expenses such as bills or is that a violation of the contract? Also, what does this do to your credit, and how would that impact employment opportunities?

In the past its typically been highly illadvised to me to use loan money for bills and expenses, so I’m just trying to get an idea of what the full impact of that course of action is.

Paul, this is a frequent topic on this forum. If you use the search function at the top of the page and type “loan” you will get several pages of posts that answer your questions. You might want to start with Chris’s post on loan options:

I haven’t met an independently wealthy flight student yet and have found the majority are using some form of financing or progressing at a slow rate by working and using their local FBO for part time training.

Good luck to you.

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They are third party student loans, but considered career training loans, so they are more like personal loans (if that makes sense?) I.e., interest rates are more akin to a personal loan, NOT a Federal student loan like you would see at a college or university.

The rates depend on many factors (credit history, etc.), but most typically seem to be approved somewhere in the 7-11% rate. For instance, my spouse and I both have good credit and I was just approved at 7.2% variable.

The repayments come due 6 months after you finish training, although there is an option with one of the lenders (Sallie Mae, if I am not mistaken?) where you can choose to defer the repayments, I believe in 6 months increments, up to 24 months max), but obviously interest continues to accrue during that time.

What many students do, and I plan to do when I finish, is re-finance the loan through a different lender at a much lower interest rate.

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Thanks a lot, I’ll check that page out!

That doesn’t sound as bad as it could be, thanks a lot for all the help!

You’re welcome!
Also, forgot to mention, I too, received similar advice to you, but since I am making a mid-career change (just turned 37), time and money are of the essence, and I can’t afford to waste either. I’ve therefore made the decision that the best route for me is to go to ATP and include the housing and monthly expenses rolled into the loan.

With that being said, coming in with my PPL and rolling all that in it brings my loan total to $81,295. The monthly payments at 7.2% are going to be $830 month. Not the best, but as you said, it could be a lot worse!

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One last thing to add. Payments are deferred for 6 months, but interest accumulates starting day one.


Yikes! Thats literally a whole paycheck for me right now!
When you do start paying back after the 6 month grace period, are there repayment plans that are income based, or are these the sharky loans that will just repo your stuff and garnish half your pay no cares given? (Or does one just make enough money as a pilot to afford $800 on a single payment?)


Hey Michael,
I’m 50 and considering a career change. As you said, time and money are of the essence, and I can’t afford to waste either. Now that you are 3 years out, how’d it turn out, was it worth it? What advice would you have me consider based on my age?

I was wondering about that! I’m 31 with your typical household bills. I was wondering how I was going to put off work and just do schooling.


Most people either tap their savings or take out extra funds in their loan.


Ok I didn’t know you can add more loans. How about if you have undergrad loans still do you think I can get more loans?


That’s a question for the finance dept and it obviously will be based on your credit, income, etc.

As for the living expenses it wouldn’t be “more” loans, it would be a loan for a higher amount.



During your loan application, you may borrow an extra $2,000 a month (with review of application) while attending ATP. Any sort of finance questions we strongly recommend reaching out to the Finance department as they’re specialized individuals that deal with applications and may be able provide better advice on numbers.

I had an emergency fund account that I did not touch during training and instructing, I borrowed the extra $800/mo. which helped and budgeted well.


Were living expenses also included in the loan or did your extra $800 a month go to rent with roommates? Im mostly worried about living arrangements and car payment (only have a year and a half to go on the loan so I dont really want to sell it to remove the payment). Additionally, how does medical insurance work? Do they offer it or are you on your own?