“Some borrowers may be better off targeting the highest-rate loan for quicker repayment,” said Kantrowitz. “You can’t do that after consolidating. If the interest rate on the refi will be higher than most of the interest rates on the refinanced loans, except for one or two, you may save money by accelerating repayment of the highest-rate loans instead of refinancing.”
Also be aware that many private student lenders require a cosigner, usually a parent or other relative who would take over responsibility for the loan if you stop payments for any reason. That also means your payment activity impacts their credit score, so if you do sign up for a loan with a cosigner it is important to both of you that you pay on time.
Key information to understand student loans includes being aware of the annual and cumulative loan limits, interest rates, fees, and loan term for the most popular private student loan programs. Often the interest rates, fees and loan limits depend on the credit history of the borrower and co-signer, if any, and on loan options chosen by the borrower such as in-school deferment and repayment schedule. Loan term often depends on the total amount of debt.
If it turns out that you do need to borrow to pay for college, rest assured you are not alone. According to the Sallie Mae “How America Saves for College 2019” study, more than half of families borrow to cover college costs. In the 2018-19 academic year, parent income and savings only paid $7,801 (on average) for college costs which in total averaged $26,226.
Besides the interest savings, automatic payments can be a good idea to make life easier. By setting up automatic payments, you don’t have to worry about late or missed payments when paying back student loans (which matters for your credit score). Plus, you can use automatic payments in conjunction with other strategies on this list, like making payments higher than the minimum.
Whether it’s completing the FAFSA to get federal student loans or submitting an application to a bank for a private student loan, applying for student loans can seem like a complicated process. There are a lot of steps and information needed from students and their families, so this guide can help you prepare for and navigate through any student loan application process.
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.
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?
The average savings amount is based on customers that consolidated student loans with us from 2014 through August 2018. Your actual savings amount might vary depending on your interest rate, loan balances, loan term and other factors. Depending on your new loan APR and repayment term, consolidation could increase the total cost and length of your loan.
You can discuss your repayment options with your lender. If you are unable to make payments while you are in-school, you do have the option to defer repayment on your loan until you are out of school. This option will obviously cost the most money because any unpaid (accrued) interest that is not paid before the end of your grace period will be capitalized — or added — to your outstanding principal balance prior to the start of repayment.
You can discuss your repayment options with your lender. If you are unable to make payments while you are in-school, you do have the option to defer repayment on your loan until you are out of school. This option will obviously cost the most money because any unpaid (accrued) interest that is not paid before the end of your grace period will be capitalized — or added — to your outstanding principal balance prior to the start of repayment.
Lastly, accept the financial aid package from your chosen school, if you choose to receive aid. Your financial aid award letter will have an itemized list of all available types of aid, including grants and federal student loans. Remember, even after you've accepted your award letter, you should check with your school's financial aid office to see what other forms or documents you will need to complete in order to secure your funding (for example, completing your Direct Loan Master Promissory Note, or MPN).
There are several ways to have your student loans forgiven, such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which applies to qualifying loans after 10 years of payments. You can work for a government agency, non-profit organization or other qualifying organizations. Your state may also offer some repayment assistance in which they repay part of your loan, but you need to work in an area in which the state needs assistance.

Disclaimer: Views expressed may not necessarily reflect those of Citizens Bank. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only, as a service to the public, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel, nor does it constitute advertising or a solicitation. You should do your own research and/or contact your own legal or tax advisor for assistance with questions you may have on the information contained herein.
Federal student loans, also known as Direct Loans, are funded by the government and may be awarded as part of your financial aid package if you completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). They feature fixed interest rates and offer several repayment options. Private student loans are offered by banks or other lenders, are credit-based and have fixed or variable interest rates.

There are some circumstances that may result in your no longer having to repay your federal student loan. For instance, some or all of your loan could be forgiven in exchange for your performing certain types of service such as teaching or public service. Or the obligation to make further payments on your loan might be discharged based on specific factors such as your school closing or your becoming totally and permanently disabled. Take a look at all the possibilities: Find out what circumstances qualify your loans for forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge.
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.
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).
No, as long as you continue to work full-time for a government or not-for-profit agency (and meet all the other requirements), a second job won’t impact your eligibility. That said, the additional income from the second job will probably cause your payment to go up assuming you’re on an income-driven repayment plan (which you should be if you want PSLF.)
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