Making Sense of Cents and College Ave Student Loans have partnered on a series of blog posts on what to expect when it comes to planning for college…especially when it comes time to pay. Through the series, we hope families gain a little more insight on how to tackle the next four or more years ahead with a stronger financial footing. All opinions are 100% my own.
According to an article by CNN in 2014, 40 million Americans have student loan debt. Just in 2008, that figure was 29 million Americans, so as you can see, the number is increasing drastically!
The number of student loans is also increasing. In 2008, the average borrower carried less than three. In 2014, that number jumped to approximately 4. For me, I had several different student loans, which made it hard to juggle even more!
As you can see, many, many people have student loans and that number will most likely just continue to grow well into the future.
Paying for school with student loans is very common, but before you make the jump and do that yourself, here are the things you should know.
- FAFSA Tips So That You Can Get The Most Financial Help For College
- 6 Ways I Saved Money On College Costs
- Cutting College Costs: Understanding The Cost And Value Of Your Degree
- The College Costs Parents Need To Be Aware Of
- How To Pay Off Student Loans
Here are 5 things you should think about before taking out student loans:
Fill out the FAFSA.
Before you consider taking out student loans, make sure you have filled out the FAFSA to ensure you maximize the financial aid offered to you in federal aid and from your institution. The FAFSA gives you access to a range of financial aid options, including grants, scholarships, federal loans, and work-study programs. And, fill it out sooner rather than later – financial aid programs are often on a first-come, first-served basis.
Understand the total cost of school.
If an initial sticker price of a college has you seeing student debt for years, don’t let that first number determine whether you apply or not. The school with the highest sticker price may actually give you more aid than a less expensive school, which might mean the most expensive school could be the cheapest in the end. But in addition to the tuition bill, there are several other financial factors you should know so you are not surprised by the additional fees and extra costs that can add thousands to the overall cost of college. According to a College Ave Student Loans and GET Creative, a part of the USA Today Network, Twitter Poll with 17,532 votes:
- 46% of respondents found textbooks & supplies are the most surprising costs
- 31% voted housing & food
- 14% ranked extras such as the cost of gym memberships and club expenses
Will you need to purchase airplane tickets to travel home? Are club dues expensive on a particular campus? By knowing the complete cost, you'll have a good idea of how much student loan debt you may need to take on while you are in school. By knowing this, hopefully, it will help you decide what school is the better choice for you and your situation.
Go into college with a career goal in mind.
Consider the ROI of college. What type of career do you envision and what is the starting salary of that career? It’s a general rule of thumb to not borrow more than you will earn in your first year’s salary, which can vary widely depending on what career you pursue. If you are unsure of what career, that is okay. The overall goal is to be conscious of how much money you expect to earn and set realistic expectations on the amount of debt you want to carry.
You'll have to pay it all back one day.
Okay, this one is obvious, I know.
However, a lot of people don't think about this when they take out student loans. I know that the future seems like it is a far way away, but one day it will be here and the less that you take out in student loans now will make your life easier later on.
You should start thinking now about what your monthly student loans payments will be after you graduate. According to a national survey of 1,040 college students by College Ave Student Loans conducted by Barnes & Noble College Insights, 1 in 3 seniors (35%) are unsure how much they will owe on their upcoming monthly student loan bill. By knowing this number in advance, this will make it seem all much more real, instead of the “free money” feeling that many college students feel like student loans are when they first take them out.
Due to this, I also recommend that a person take out the least amount in student loans that they can. So many students and parents maximize the amount they take out in student loans and then put the extra towards travel, entertainment, going out to eat, and so on, and that is just a huge disaster!
Understand your student loan options – and how you can save.
There are many people who simply do not understand student loans, even just a little bit. Here is the run down of the basics to make you a smarter borrower:
Exhaust your federal loan options. Look to federal loans first to help cover the cost of college. However, if federal student loans fall short of covering the cost of college, then explore private student loans.
Understand interest rates. There are fixed and variable interest rates available on private student loans. Generally, you want to shop around for a loan with the lowest interest rate, as that will generally mean you will owe less overall than you would with a loan with a higher interest rate.
Pay back while in school, if you can. If you defer payments while in school, your loan is likely still incurring interest that you’ll have to pay later. However, many students may not be able to afford the full student loan repayment while in school. College Ave Student Loans encourages students to pay what they can (as little as $25 a month) while in school, which can help reduce the total cost of the loan.
Understand what a monthly payment means. Many people believe that a monthly payment is all that you have to pay or are allowed to pay. This is so incorrect! Make additional payments when you can. Or, each month, pay more on your principal than what is owed. By doing so, you can save more money in the long run.
Select auto-payment plans. For most student loans, you can probably auto-pay them and receive a discount. Always look into this as you may be able to lower your interest rate by 0.25% on each of your student loans (0.25% is the most common discount, but that’s not set in stone. It could vary by lender.).
Choose a shorter repayment term. You will owe more money each month; however, you will save money in the long run by opting for a shorter repayment plan. To help you see how much you could save, visit College Ave Student Loans configure it out tool.
What do you wish you knew before you took out your student loans?
To learn more, visit: https://www.collegeavestudentloans.com.
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