Real Answers from Real Pilots

Loan Question / Written Exams

Hello all,

My name is Alex and I am in the process of planning my start in the Airline Career Pilot Program. I have a few questions. To give some background, I am in my early 20’s and I am a recent college graduate. I started my first full-time job a few months ago and I am just not happy. I am looking to start the program in the next 6 months or so. I have known that I have wanted to be a pilot my whole life, and even with the odd timing I am finally ready to go for it. I would be a third generation pilot, as my dad and grandfather are both corporate pilots. I bounce most of my questions off of my dad, but I believe it is always a good idea to get opinions and advice from multiple people.

  1. Can anyone give a rough estimate on the interest rate they incurred for their Sallie Mae/Wells Fargo loan for tuition? I understand every case is different, but I am just trying to figure out a few things about my own financial situation and this would be of great help.

  2. What exactly is the point of taking the 4 written exams (PPL, Instrument, multi, commercial) before starting the program? I understand that ATP will reimburse you for finishing these early which is a nice monetary incentive, but there is a time gap between taking these exams and applying the knowledge from them. I could understand taking the PPL beforehand because that is the first step in the program. When it comes to the latter three, there would be a 3+ month gap after completing these exams before beginning the training that correlates with them.

I am up for all advice/different points y’all may have! I am eager to learn as much as I can about the program, and I thought why not come straight to the individuals that have been through the program themselves.

Thank you.



  1. For your first question I’ll let some others chime in since I financed with neither of the 2 and when I did it was a long time ago.

  2. The reason for encouraging students to complete the Writtens prior to training is that the FAA Written exams encompass the knowledge the FAA wants you to demonstrate, but really doesn’t follow any of the curriculum or training. The exams are generally practiced strictly by rote and are completed by self-study alone so therefore are nothing more than a major distraction while you need to be focusing are the relevant knowledge and skills of the program. While it’s not required, I don’t know a single student who wasn’t glad they completed them OR wished they had.


I will second what Adam had to say about the writtens. I got the instrument and commercial knocked out before I started ATP and watched others stress while trying to study for the written and the rest of instrument at the same time. You will learn a little bit, and it’s nice that once you get to the instrument phase and beyond, you aren’t just looking at that information the very first time. You don’t have a higher level of understanding, but you at least get a overview so it’s not all completely new.

Hello Alex,

I don’t know what the interest rates looked like for Wells Fargo, but I had
a loan from Sallie Mae. It was a variable rate loan. It started around 8%
and was as high as 9.125%.



Welcome to the forum, let’s get to your questions.

  1. The best thing to do is check with the finance department at ATP, they can give you the most accurate information on this.

  2. The program is highly condensed and there is not a lot of time to study for the writtens during the program. By taking them early, you will be making your life much easier in the program. It sounds crazy, but the written exams do not correspond very well to the actual information that you need to learn anyways.

Feel free to ask any other questions that you can think of.


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@alexmintari, regarding interest rates, both Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo have a rate range listed on their sites if you use the links provided via their Financing page ( You don’t need to apply to see them. It was roughly 5.5-12% on both when I checked a couple weeks ago.

Thank y’all so much for the feedback! They have already been a great help. I will definitely have more questions in the coming months!


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