First, you’ll want to take a look at what repayment options lenders offer for students while they are in school, so you can find one that fits your budget. Making payments while you are in school can help you save on interest, but you should only sign up for a payment plan you can keep up with. As long as your lender doesn’t impose prepayment penalties, you can always make additional payments when you can afford it.
If you’re more about saving as much money as possible, you might want to give the debt avalanche a shot. “With this method, you throw the largest payment you can at your highest-interest-rate debt every month, while paying the minimum payments on your other debts.” By focusing on interest rates rather than the balances, you save more money overall.
You can pay off the principal early by making pre-payments while studying. Call your loan servicer to make sure your payments are applied to the principal and not the interest. You can make payments on federal loans while in school, but some private loans will charge you a fee for doing so. Be sure to find out which loans you can pay off without fees.
Next, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report, which outlines your expected family contribution. The form will automatically be forwarded to the schools listed on your application. The financial aid offices of those institutions will send you a financial aid award letter outlining the aid package they will offer. It’s your job to compare those offers and choose the school that best fits your future goals and family budget.
If you’re on a tight budget, it may be difficult to steer any additional cash toward education debt. But you should try to pay it off as early as possible; otherwise it might stick around for a decade or more, which could prevent you from saving enough for retirement. Here are five steps to paying off any lingering loans of your own—and to helping your children settle theirs down the road.

When it comes to Stafford, Perkins, PLUS, and Direct Consolidation loans—which make up 85 percent of education debt—there are five repayment options. They range from the standard plan, which requires a minimum payment of $50 every month for up to 10 years, to the new, income-based plan that caps your monthly payments at a “reasonable percentage” of your income (determined by the federal government)and forgives any debt remaining after 25 years. So which schedule is best for you?
Fixed rates currently run from 4.99 to 10.49% APR. LendKey is able to offer better than average rates because of the unique funding model. Credit unions are not for profit financial institutions, so they tend to offer more favorable rates and fees for all available products. With LendKey in the middle, you get a simple, high-tech experience with the savings and community power of a credit union.
With our Standard Repayment Plan, the plan you’ll enter if you don’t take any action, you’ll have your loans paid off in 10 years. If you can’t afford that amount or if you need or want lower payments because you haven’t found a job, aren’t making much money, or want to free up room in your budget for other expenses and goals, you should apply for an income-driven repayment plan. Your monthly payments will likely be lower than they would on the standard plan—in fact they could be as low as $0 per month—but you’ll likely be paying more and for a longer period of time. If you choose an income-driven plan, you must provide documentation of your income to your loan servicer each year (even if your income hasn’t changed) so that your payment can be recalculated. To compare the different repayment options based on your loan debt, family size, and income, use our repayment calculator.
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Overview: This online-only lender, which was founded by former Sallie Mae executives, distinguishes itself with increased flexibility. Borrowers can expect greater in-school and post-school repayment options than what’s found elsewhere. Also, students and parents alike will appreciate perks, such as no fees and low rates, in spite of a slow path to cosigner release.
For example, you may see variable rates advertised as low as 2.5% APR and fixed rates starting around 3.9% APR. But this is a sunny day scenario. You and/or your cosigner would need to have the right qualifying credit score or credit factors to achieve the lowest rate, and the lender may impose requirements such as signing up for auto-debit from a checking or savings account to lock in these low rates. When comparing lenders, look for the asterisks and footnotes along with the fine print to understand what it takes to achieve or put you in the running for the advertised rates.
Applying for federal student loans is easy amd takes about an hour to complete. In filing the FAFSA you have already applied for federal student loans. The FAFSA is your application for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student Loans and for the federal Perkins loan.  Before you begin, make sure to have this information handy to make the process go faster:
“Before aggressively paying down your student loans, you should make sure you paid off high-interest debt such as credit cards or personal loans,” said Walsh. “You should also make sure you are saving enough for your long-term goals,” he said ― think retirement ― since, over time, the returns from investing have been higher than the interest rate most people pay on student loans.
For example, you could apply part of your yearly bonus from work or a tax refund to your debt, said Brian Walsh, a certified financial planner and financial planning manager at SoFi. Or you could participate in a challenge like dry January or a no-spend month to come up with the extra cash. It might feel painful to put something fun like a cash windfall toward your student loan debt, but the results can be dramatic.
Variable Rates: Starting variable rates range from 2.93% to 11.57% APR (with autopay), and will never exceed 13.95% (sometimes lower in certain states as required by law). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin of between 0.86% and 9.76%. The current one-month LIBOR rate is 2.27%. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Zero fees, period.
No matter who the lender is, private student loan applicants may need a cosigner, especially undergraduates or students who don’t have a credit history or steady income or meet the age of majority for their state of residence. However, a cosigner is not required in order to apply. Even if you have an established credit history, a cosigner may improve your ability to get approved, enable you to secure a lower interest rate, and speed up the credit decision process. Student borrowers that meet these requirements on their own do not need a cosigner (but may still choose to apply with a cosigner).
You may have already realized that automatic online loan payments make your life easier. What you may not know is that all government and some private lenders charge a slightly lower interest rate (usually 0.25 percent less) if you make your monthly remittance this way. Over 25 years of payments, you’ll reduce your repayment period by at least a year, says Reyna Gobel, the author of Graduation Debt ($15, amazon.com). Best of all, you can sign up now, even if you’ve been repaying your loans for years.
Many students ignore their loans until after graduation, but it’s wise to start paying them off while you’re in school. Get a part-time job while you’re in college and dedicate most or all of the earnings to your student loans. If you can pay off $800 a month while you’re in school, then you’ll have paid off $30,000 or more by the time you graduated. For some people, that’s their entire amount owed!

Comparisons based on information obtained on lenders' websites or from customer service representatives and are based on student loans where students are the primary borrower as of October 2019. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Terms and Conditions. Aggregate loan limits apply.
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