When you're fresh out of high school and ready to dive into your chosen course of study, you often think you don't have any choice but to take out student loans in order to make it happen. There's just one problem with that mentality: the burden of student loans can add up quickly. Then, when you finally graduate, you have to find a way to pay it back. There are, however, several things you can do to lighten the load of student loan debt both as you're going through college and after the fact.
Only Take Out What You Need
Student loans are so tempting when you first apply to college. Some students even take out student loans for amounts that go above and beyond what they need to pay for tuition. They accumulate debt to pay for living expenses, to allow for some spending money, and to cover nonessential purchases. Other students spend extra years in school as they shuffle between majors, take classes that interest them instead of getting major courses and other required classes out of the way, and take their time deciding what to do with themselves.
Instead of falling into this trap, go into school knowing what you want to do. Try to avoid major changes. It's one thing if you discover that you absolutely hate your chosen major halfway through your sophomore year. It's another thing entirely if you swap your major five or six times and are still trying to decide on your final path as you enter your senior year. Also, take the time to write out a concrete budget and stick to it! Don't take out student loans for more than you need.
Make Reducing Debt a Priority
Once you get your first job, it doesn't take long to discover that you're not making nearly the money you hoped you would be. As a result, you may find yourself paying the minimum on your student loans each month. Instead, however, make paying off those loans a priority! They're only going to add more interest as you wait. You may have to live lean for a while: do without cable or internet at home; use your extra spending money to help pay down debt; and skip eating out, even when it would be easier or more convenient. The faster you pay down your student loan debt, the sooner you'll be out from under its shadow.
Keep Track of Important Information
You should always be aware of the balance that's still due on your student loans, which institutions hold your loans, and any grace periods or penalties that apply to your specific loan. Keep track of any changes in your policy. Make sure that you're reading every piece of information that appears with your student loans. You never know when something will change that you need to know about. Also, check out the repayment schedule. In some cases, by adding a small amount to your monthly payment, you can significantly drop the amount of time you'll spend repaying the loan.
Create a Plan
It's one thing to say, "I want to get my student loan debt repaid." It's another thing entirely to take the time to make a budget that includes loan repayment. When you put your plan on paper and take the necessary steps to improve your financial status, you'll discover that you're much more likely to stick with it.