If you planning on applying to college, or graduate school or are a graduate who still needs to pay back their student loans, it’s important to understand exactly how they work and what you’re expected to do.
This guide will go through how you apply for loans and some of your options for re-paying them.
Applying for financial loans
FAFSA – submit a free application for federal student aid. By applying through FAFSA, you will be able to determine how much you are expected to pay. This is also how they determine how much you will need, as they will take into consideration the cost of attending a particular school. Even if you are not sure if you are eligible for aid, filling out the form will allow you to see if you are eligible for merit-based scholarships.
Re-Paying your student loans
The first step in repaying your student loans is to refresh your memory on exactly what it is you owe. Once you are familiar with this you can go ahead and look at your payment options. Most recent grads are put on the standard repayment plan to start. This basically means that you have fixed payments that you need to pay monthly. These monthly payments are going to be derived from the total amount of your loans over a ten-year period.
Graduated Re-Payment Plan
For some people, especially recent graduates, this can be too much. If it is, you can opt for the graduated repayment plan. This means that while the payment period is still the same, the monthly payments increase gradually over time. The logic here is that as you make more money through career advancement you will be able to gradually pay back larger amounts over the ten years.
Extended Re-Payment Plan
Another option if the standard plan is too much is the extended repayment plan. This will allow you to extend the term longer than ten years, thus making the monthly payments smaller. That being said, the longer you extend the re-payment plan, the larger the total amount of interest you will pay in the end.
There is also an option for an income-based repayment plan. With this plan, the amount you pay each month cannot be larger than 10% of your monthly income and can be paid over the course of up to 20 years, at which point the remaining balance can be forgiven. One negative aspect of this plan is that it can be expensive, with interest adding up.
Refinancing your student loans
The basic idea of refinancing your student loans is to combine multiple private or federal loans into one private loan, which can come with a lower interest rate. The negative side of refinancing these loans is that you lose a lot of benefits of payment options described above, which come with federal loans only.
It generally will be a good idea to refinance if you have a salary higher than the loan and a good credit score.