it sounds like i would have to re apply for additional loans before each academic year. when is the best time to apply for new loans ("new" meaning for the next academic year)? i don't want to wait so late that the deadline for making tuition payments is already past, but if i do it too early, i will have to pay interest on it.
You don't start accruing interest until your loans are disbursed, which is at the start of each semester. So, if you take out $20,000 in loans for the year, $10k will be disbursed in Aug/Sept and the other $10k will be disbursed in Jan. Therefore, you can apply for loans for the year at any time. Your school will likely have a deadline for when the FAFSA is due, so you just have to make that deadline. I filled out mine for my 3L year in Feb/Mar after doing my taxes, and everything is squared away for the loans to be disbursed when school starts.