As a soon-to-be college student (or the proud parent of one), the prospect of taking out student loans can be intimidating. Grants and scholarships are great if you can get them, but they don’t always cover the full cost of tuition and books. Before you sign on the line, carefully consider your options and know what to expect.
Make sure you know what the grace period is for your loans before you need to start making payments. This is the amount of time you have before the lender will ask that your payments need to start. Being aware of this will help you get a jump start on payments, which will help you avoid penalties.
You don’t need to worry if you cannot pay for your student loans because you are unemployed. Generally, your lender will work with you during difficult situations. Just know that taking advantage of this option often entails a hike in your interest rates.
Try paying off student loans with a two-step process. First, be sure to pay the monthly amount due on each loan you have taken out. Next, pay extra on your loan with the largest interest rate instead of the one with the largest balance. You will reduce how much it costs in the long run.
Consider using your field of work as a means of having your loans forgiven. A number of nonprofit professions have the federal benefit of student loan forgiveness after a certain number of years served in the field. Many states also have more local programs. The pay might be less in these fields, but the freedom from student loan payments makes up for that in many cases.
Try shopping around for your private loans. If you need to borrow more, discuss this with your adviser. If a private or alternative loan is your best bet, make sure you compare items like repayment options, fees, and interest rates. Your school may recommend some lenders, but you’re not required to borrow from them.
You should shop around before deciding on a student loan company because it can end up saving you a lot of money in the end. The school you attend may try to sway you to choose a particular one. It is best to do your research to make sure that they are giving you the best advice.
If at all possible, sock away extra money toward the principal amount. The key is to notify your lender that the additional money must be applied toward the principal. Otherwise, the money will be applied to your future interest payments. Over time, paying down the principal will lower your interest payments.
The better your understanding of student loans, the more confident you can be in your decision. Paying for college is a necessary evil, but the benefits of an education are undeniable. Use everything you’ve learned here to make smart, responsible decisions about student loans. The faster you can get out of debt, the sooner you can earn a return on your investment.