Don’t let your worries about student loan debt keep you from enjoying your college experience. If you’re concerned about how you’ll pay down your student loan debt now after graduation, planning ahead is the best way to stay on top of everything. Learn what factors should influence your college choices and the options you have for repaying your student loans after graduation.
#1. Understand Your Loans
Many college students make the mistake of taking any student loans offered to them without looking closely at their options. You need to understand what different loans and loan providers can offer in order to make the smartest financial decisions for your future. Below are a few key distinctions to understand:
- Loans vs. grants and scholarships: Loans need to be repaid, but grants and scholarships do not. Prioritize scholarships and grants first, then use student loans to fill in the gaps to help you cover college costs.
- Subsidized vs. unsubsidized loans: Interest that accrues while you’re in school is paid for by the U.S. Department of Education with subsidized loans. With unsubsidized loans, you are responsible for paying all interest that accrues, although you can wait to pay the interest until after you graduate.
- Federal vs. private loans: Due to preferable interest rates and repayment plans, federal loans should be used first. If you still need additional funding, you can get loans from a bank, credit union, state agency, or other private lender. Be sure to compare private student loan options to secure more affordable payments.
#2. Choose a Career That Can Help You Pay Off Your Student Loans
College offers a great opportunity to explore subjects that interest you. While you discover and explore your passions, however, you should also think about how you can use those interests to find a lucrative career. To pay off your student loans, you’ll need a job after graduation. It helps to look for careers that are currently in demand.
A great resource to use when considering future careers is the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This resource includes detailed information about hundreds of occupations, including what education credentials you need to apply and the expected growth or decline in job availability over the coming years.
#3. Consider Repayment Plan Options
You want to think ahead about how you’ll handle student loan repayment in the future. Start researching your repayment plan options while you’re in college so that you can make a smart choice based on your finances once you graduate. Below are some of the key student loan repayment options that your loan providers may offer:
- Standard repayment plan: You pay fixed payments that do not change over the course of repayment.
- Graduated repayment plan: Payments are lower at first and increase gradually over the course of repayment.
- Income-based repayment plan: Payments are calculated by using a percentage of your income.
- Extended repayment plan: You may be able to extend the repayment period to secure smaller payments.
Making smart financial decisions while you’re in college will help you to stay on top of your student loan payments once you graduate. Use the resources and tips above to make sure you’re prepared for repayment.