If you are like the vast majority of college students, student loans are an inevitable part of obtaining that education. First, it’s important to understand that taking out loans to fund your education isn’t the end of the world. And, even if you don’t strike it rich immediately upon graduating, paying them back doesn’t have to be the world-ending, budget-crushing, soul-smashing ordeal that many people make it out to be.
It Starts With the Right Loan
Don’t jump at the first private company that offers you a loan to help you pay for school. When you realize that you will need a loan to help you fund your education, fill out your FAFSA as soon as possible. Federal loans are the best and most affordable option. Federal loans aren’t just for brand new students or recent high school grads. Non-traditional students can get them as well and they are the best option for people whose credit is new or bad. (Source: http://www.simpletuition.com/student-loans/for-bad-credit/)
Once you find out how much you can get in federal loans and grants you can start shopping around for private loans (if you need them; sometimes federal loans will cover everything). Start with your bank and then work your way out to private lenders if you you still need help covering costs.
Don’t Wait to Repay Them
Most student loan bills sit in a sort of limbo while you are in school. You don’t have to start paying them back while you’re taking classes and many will even grant you a six month “grace period” between when you graduate and when you need to start paying them back. A lot of people take full advantage of that grace period, figuring that they’ll just deal with the years’ worth of interest that has accumulated along with the principle loan when the repayments start. Don’t do this!
One of the best things that you can do to reduce the amount of money you owe after you graduate is to start paying on the loans while you are in school. At the very least you should be paying off the amount of interest that has been charged against the principle. This keeps the loan from growing more than it has to and will reduce your monthly payment plan later when you’ve graduated.
Reconfigure Your Budget
As we’ve stated, the best thing you can do to reduce what you owe after you graduate is to start paying on your loans as soon as possible. This means that you’ll need to be stricter with your budget than someone whose education is being funded privately or through scholarships or grants. (Source: http://www.humblesavers.com/5-ways-uni-students-can-save-money/)
One thing that many students do is find a part time job to supplement their incomes. It’s natural that you’d want to avoid this as it might interfere with your studies. Even so, 12-20 hours a week–even at minimum wage–can put quite a dent in those loans.
You can also do some extra side projects like freelance work, selling merchandise online, etc. You might be able to pick up some extra cash tutoring or proofreading and editing schoolwork for your fellow students. (Source: http://www.youvisit.com/virtual-tours/blog/earn-extra-cash-in-college-to-cover-your-student-loans/)
One very common way that students earn extra money is by selling their textbooks after they are done using them. The trick here is not to sell them back to the bookstore. The bookstore will only give you a tiny fraction of what you paid. The trick is to sell them directly to a student going in to the course.
Negotiate Your Repayment Terms
Typically, student loan payments are figured out by simply taking the total amount of the loans you had to borrow and then dividing it by 120 months (ten years of once a month payments). This is usually the easiest thing for a budget, but it is not the only option available to you. If you’ve been having trouble finding a job or the job you’ve found doesn’t pay well, you can adjust the amount you pay based on your income. Most lenders would rather take something than nothing so will happily set up an income based repayment plan to help you start paying sooner rather than later.
The point is this: taking out student loans does not necessarily mean that you will be drowning in debt for the rest of your life. On the contrary! If you start paying on them responsibly as soon as possible, you might be debt free faster than you think! You’ll definitely be better off than your classmates who wait until their grace period is up before they start repaying the loans they’ve borrowed. (Source: http://www.wisebread.com/15-ways-to-pay-back-student-loans-faster)