How to Navigate the Process of Finding and Accepting Student Loans

By Alyssa Laffitte on July 9, 2017

Paying for tuition is a tough subject for many college students and parents of college students. Getting a high-quality education is not cheap by any means.

Thankfully, there are resources to help you cover the cost of your education. One of those resources is student loans. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process of getting and accepting your student loans.

Guide to Student Loans

Image via Isorepublic.com

Fill out the FAFSA

Filling out the FAFSA is a great way to start finding government, need-based loans that you qualify for. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it will be worth the effort if you get a good loan out of it! Check your school’s financial aid website to see when the deadline is (usually, it’s April 1). You can also fill out the College Board CSS/Profile form to help you find even more loans.

Actually pay them…

You can get into a lot of trouble for not paying your student loans. Make sure you have monthly reminders in place so that you do not forget to make your payment. Also, be sure to budget a good amount for your student loan payments every month.

… And do it soon!

It’s also important to pay off your student loans as soon as you can, especially if your loans have higher interest rates. The longer you wait to pay them off, the more interest you will accumulate, and you’ll have to pay way more than you originally thought. Don’t get yourself into this situation; just be sure to have a good payment plan.

Do your research

No two loans are the same. This is why it is crucial to know what you are getting yourself into before signing off on that loan. There are a few key things you should definitely know before agreeing to take on a loan:

•Is the interest on the loan subsidized or unsubsidized? If it is subsidized, that means the federal government will pay the interest until you graduate. If it is unsubsidized, you are responsible for paying all the interest (all the more reason to pay it off faster!). Subsidized loans are usually available to undergraduate students who qualify for need-based aid. Unsubsidized loans are available to almost all students.

•What can you use the money for? There are some monies that you can only use for certain things. For example, some things can only be used for room and board, or for books. Make sure you can use the money you’re getting for what you need.

•Do you have to pay a “loan origination fee”? In some cases, you might be charged a fee when you first take out the loan. It’s usually around 1-4 percent of the loan, and it will be included in the loan. (Think of it as a down payment rather than an additional payment.)

Don’t accept more than you can pay off

A common mistake many students make when taking out loans is accepting more than they will be able to pay off. As a rule of thumb, don’t take out more than 25 percent of your expected entry level salary. If you’ve already taken out that much and still need more money to cover your tuition, try looking to other resources to meet your financial needs.

Find other sources of income

Remember how I said you should find other sources to meet your financial needs? Let’s talk about them. It’s best to look into these resources first to minimize your student loans. Here are other places that can help you pay your way through school:

•Look for scholarships or grants on websites like fastweb.com (and check out these tips to make sure the scholarship you’re applying to is not a scam!)

•If you have the time, get a part-time job. You can even look into work/study programs and paid internships.

•Look for opportunities that may lower your tuition costs. Although this won’t technically help you pay for your school, it’ll lower your bill and thus, you won’t have to take out even more loans. For example, usually, if you are a resident assistant (RA), the school will cover your room and board costs.

Consider working in public service

If you decide to work in certain public service fields, your student loans will be forgiven after you have made 120 monthly payments working full-time. Usually, government organizations and not for profit 501c3 corporation workers may be eligible for this forgiveness. Check out U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website to find out more about public service loan forgiveness.

Paying for college is a tricky thing. Taking out student loans is definitely an option to help you pay your way through school. Just be sure to do your research and know what you’re getting into before you sign and click “accept.”

21, ISFJ. Biology student. College lifestyle blogger. Avid reader and writer. Dog lover. Nerd. Boyband enthusiast. Superhero in training. Here to help you become the best you can be!

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