Practical Tips for Choosing and Paying Off Your Student Loans

by edralyn on February 2, 2013

If you’re thinking about attending college, a student loan can help finance your efforts, and you certainly wouldn’t be alone in using this option. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, about 20 million Americans go to college annually, and more than half of them rely on student loans. Keep reading to get tips for choosing and paying off your student loans, so you can stay focused on your education.

Make a Plan

Unfortunately, some students and their family members feel so relieved about getting accepted into a college that they don’t perform an adequate amount of research in about student loans. Start by using a loan calculator to determine how much debt you can handle.

Next, research the options. Many experts feel that loan programs offered through the federal government are ideal, because they offer fixed interest rates, and don’t require repayment to begin until a person graduates or leaves school. In contrast, private loans usually have variable interest rates, and require a person to make payments while they’re still in school. As with any major decision it’s important to go with a plan that fits your lifestyle and current financial situation.

Start Preparing to Make Payments

It’s never too early to start thinking about how to repay your loan quickly and responsibly. Before you finish college, you’ll probably be required to attend loan counseling. This is an opportunity to ensure that you fully understand your rights and obligations

If you rely on more than one federal loan, it might be worthwhile to think about getting consolidation. This strategy can lower your interest rates but may also carry some risks. Before making a final decision, make sure you’re informed about the pros and cons.

Set a Budget

In the same way that you might have used a loan calculator during your application process, it’s also advantageous to figure out how much of your income you can use towards paying off your loans. Start by adding all the necessities together, such as the cost of your rent, groceries, utilities and transportation. Also, give yourself some cushion so you’ll be more secure in the event of an emergency.

Once you work out all the details of how much you make versus how much you spend, consider using any spare income towards making loan payments. This not only helps you pay off the loans faster, but usually causes your interest rates to drop, as well.

Be Aware of Options

It’s important to note that in many cases, you can pay off your loans through several methods. For example, if you expect that your income level will steadily increase throughout the coming years, consider a graduated payment. Then, the amount you pay will start off small, and increase every other year. Also, certain factors like economic conditions, participation in an internship or being unemployed can help you qualify to put a temporary suspension on your loan payments, also known as a deferment.

Many people find that student loans help smooth the path towards achieving educational goals. By understanding the difference between federal and private loans, and taking steps to formulate a strategy for paying back the debt, you can put yourself in a position to ease the financial requirements of obtaining a higher education.

Sara Lewis is an avid blogger for Use this Financial Calculator to help you determine the best ways for you to save money.

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