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.
When it comes to student loans, make sure you only borrow what you need. Consider the amount you need by taking a look at your total expenses. Factor in items like the cost of living, the cost of college, your financial aid awards, your family’s contributions, etc. You’re not required to accept a loan’s entire amount.
Be sure you know about the grace period of your loan. Each loan has a different grace period. It is impossible to know when you need to make your first payment without looking over your paperwork or speaking with your lender. Be sure to be aware of this information so you do not miss a payment.
Do not default on a student loan. Defaulting on government loans can result in consequences like garnished wages and tax refunds withheld. Defaulting on private loans can be a disaster for any cosigners you had. Of course, defaulting on any loan risks serious damage to your credit report, which costs you even more later.
To minimize your student loan debt, start out by applying for grants and stipends that connect to on-campus work. Those funds do not ever have to be paid back, and they never accrue interest. If you get too much debt, you will be handcuffed by them well into your post-graduate professional career.
To reduce the amount of your student loans, work as many hours as you can during your last year of high school and the summer before college. The more money you have to give the college in cash, the less you have to finance. This means less loan expense later on.
To ensure that your student loan funds come to the correct account, make sure that you fill out all paperwork thoroughly and completely, giving all of your identifying information. That way the funds go to your account instead of ending up lost in administrative confusion. This can mean the difference between starting a semester on time and having to miss half a year.
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.