How to Handle Student Loan Debt During and After College
Yes: Student Loans Can Be An Effective Way To Pay For Your College Education…
However, it’s important that you prepare yourself for the realities of eventually having to repay your loans. Students who successfully repay their student loans are those that take advantage of their time in college to consider their student loan options, live with a student budget, and prepare themselves for repaying their loans.
What You’ll Find In This Article
- Why Go Into Debt to Pay for College?
- How to Prepare for Student Loans During College
- How to Pay Off Student Loans After College
- Managing Your Student Loans Successfully
Why Go Into Debt To Pay For College?
Like most good investments for the future, college requires a hefty down payment. Between the costs of tuition, books, housing, and other fees the cost of college can quickly add up to be more than a student’s financial aid can cover.
According to a study by Sallie Mae and Ipsos, families spent an average of $26,226 on college during the 2018 - 2019 school year. Nearly a quarter of these costs (24%) were covered by borrowing.
As you can see, going into debt to pay for your college education is not always the wrong move. For example, lucrative career paths such as law and engineering offer starting salaries that make paying off student loans a worthwhile trade off. As long as you have a plan for how to tackle the debt once you’re out of school, taking on student loans can be a sound investment in your future.
How To Prepare For Student Loans During College
While it may be tempting to sign for your student loans and then forget about them until you’ve graduated, students should prepare for their loans while they’re still in college. Between making college inexpensive as possible to minimize the number of loans you have to take out, to seeking other forms of financial aid, there are ways to handle the amount of student loan debt you have while still in college.
EXHAUST ALL OTHER FINANCIAL AID OPTIONS
Before you take out student loans, make sure you’ve exhausted all your other financial aid options first. Students have a variety of ways to pay for college before turning to loans, including federal grants and scholarships.
Remember that you have to refile the FASFA every year. You should take the time to look for new ways to help pay for your education every year as well: find a new scholarship, apply for a work-study program, or get a summer job. Even an extra $500 toward a single semester is $500 that doesn’t have to be covered by student loans.
KNOW YOUR STUDENT LOANS
When you do take out student loans, it’s important to read the terms carefully to make sure you understand what you’re getting into. Keep track of the following for each of your student loans:
- Who is my loan with?
- Is this a federal loan or a private loan?
- How much do I owe?
- What is each loan’s interest rate?
- When do I need to start repaying each loan?
- Which loans have a grace period or option for deferment?
By gathering this information and placing it in a spreadsheet while you’re still in college, you’ll be doing yourself a favor for the future. The last thing anyone wants to do post-graduation is to hunt down the contact information for their student loan providers.
SEARCH FOR LOAN FORGIVENESS PROGRAMS
Many employers are adding forms of student loan assistance to their regular benefit packages in an effort to recruit talent straight out of college. Specific industries and rural or low-income areas offer opportunities for student loan forgiveness or assistance as well. Students can start searching for these jobs and programs while they’re still in school and therefore plan their education around them.
For example, teachers have access to a variety of programs to help repay their student loans. Most often, teachers are asked to sign a contract to commit to working in a low-income area for a set amount of years in exchange for loan forgiveness. These programs and jobs often come with rules and restrictions.
MINIMIZE YOUR COLLEGE EXPENSES
Minimizing your college expenses includes picking the most cost-effective college, learning to write and use a student budget, and keeping your lifestyle relatively low cost.
Students who find a healthy balance between enjoying the college experience and keeping a tight wallet will set themselves up for a smooth transition toward financial adulthood.
MAKE A LOAN REPAYMENT GAME PLAN
You should have a general idea of how you plan to repay your student loans once you’re out of college. Will you be making the minimum payments, or would you like to make extra payments to pay your loans off faster? Will you move to a low cost of living area, or move back in with your parents to cut costs when you’re out of college?
While life doesn’t always go according to plan, having a good idea of how to pay off your student loans once you’re out of college can help save you a lot of stress post-graduation.
How To Pay Off Student Loans After College
Paying off your student loans doesn’t have to be an uphill battle that takes decades. Those who take the time to prepare for their student loans by budgeting, making extra money, and setting themselves up for success can cut years off their expected loan repayment date.
LIVE WITH A BUDGET
The fastest way to pay off your student loans is to make extra payments, and sticking to a budget is the best way to find extra money to put toward your student loans. While you don’t need to exist on a diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to pay off your student loans, sticking to the “college lifestyle” budget while you’re making post-college money is a smart financial move.
Living with a budget is an essential life skill that you’ll use long after you’ve made your last student loan payment.
A feasible budget is one where the cost of housing and student loans does not exceed 50% of your total income. While this isn’t always feasible in areas with higher costs of living, you should do your best to first lower your housing costs and student loan payments if you find yourself struggling to make a budget work for you.
OPTIMIZE YOUR LOAN PAYMENTS
Make sure you’re getting the most out of your student loan payments. Any extra payments you send should be going toward your total balance rather than just your next payment. Refinancing your loans may help you lower your interest rates and slim down from multiple payments to one per month.
Another way to optimize your loan payments is to enroll in an auto-pay system to ensure you never miss a loan payment. You should never miss a loan payment; call your loan provider to access your payment options before it gets to that point.
AVOID TAKING ON MORE DEBT
Once you’re out of college, avoid the urge to go into debt for all the things you (correctly) told yourself you couldn’t afford in college like the brand new car, the once in a lifetime cruise, or the fancy apartment. If you want to pay your student loans off without stressing yourself out, you should avoid taking on more debt.
Part of avoiding going into debt is being prepared for life’s unexpected expenses. While the money you put in your emergency savings fund could be spent paying off your student loans, it’s important that you keep some money set aside for emergencies. That way you can replace your suddenly broken car transmission with cash rather than putting the expense on a high-interest rate credit card.
PUT EXTRA MONEY TOWARD YOUR LOANS
Receive a $500 bonus for your performance at work? Celebrate with a nice dinner and put the rest of the money toward your student loans. Make it a habit to use at least part of any sudden windfall to pay off your student loans in order to get them paid off faster.
Those looking to accelerate their student loan repayments often turn toward side hustles and picking up extra hours at work. A side income can be a great way to chip away at the balance of your student loans; it can also be useful when life throws other financial hurdles at you like a flat tire or a broken air conditioner.
Managing Your Student Loans Successfully
Overall, handling your student loans and paying them off successfully boils down to knowing what you’re dealing with and having a plan of action. When you’re armed with the knowledge of how much you owe and how to best pay it off, you can pay off your student loans relatively stress-free.
However, our WeAdmit counselors understand that student loans are nobody’s first choice. We work with our students to explore all their financial aid options, consider cost-effective college choices, and find the best student loan resources. If you’re unsure of what the next step in your college admission journey is, let alone how you’re going to pay for it, our counselors are here to help.
Grab A Calculator And Pen; It’s Time To Get Your Student Loans Straightened Out!
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