Merriam-Webster defines a ‘loan’ as:
a : money lent at interest
b : something lent usually for the borrower’s temporary use
In theory, loans are made available in order to help those with financial needs. But of course there’s more to it than a basic definition. Loan lenders are also looking to benefit from the agreements, and lenders of private student loans are no different. They have an agenda, they have strategies and they utilize marketing techniques in order to find and convince borrowers effectively. Offers for private student loans are constructed to be persuasive and tempting, but the bottom line – debt – isn’t always so appealing. Keeping this in mind can help you avoid involving yourself in private student loans you weren’t prepared take out.
By staying on top of the pre-loan or post-loan timelines you’ll empower yourself to resist marketing schemes and ensure that you make informed decisions as you interact with potential or real debt. It comes down to time management, and we’re here to talk about how looking ahead can be a way to align time on your side.
Before You Take Out a Private Student Loan
Plan Ahead – Way Ahead
If your savings for tuition aren’t enough to cover your costs you may have to acknowledge the possibility that you’ll be taking out student loans. But immediately taking them out doesn’t have to be the next step! Instead, chart out the deadlines involved for grants, scholarships and federal student loans. Researching your options takes forethought, and it takes time, but will be a huge advantage long term. If you meet all deadlines, and really work to take advantage of the grants and scholarships available, you may be able to lower the amount of potential loans considerably.
Layout Your Intended Payment Plan
Most private student loans require that students pay a monthly minimum on their loans even as they’re enrolled. Sometimes it’s a set sum, other times it reflects payment on interest alone. If you can – you should draft a sample payment plan that looks at how much of the principal you’ll be able to afford paying off while you attend school. This can give you a more accurate depiction of what payments will look like, and if you can manage them effectively. It can also be an essential “reality check” and scale of responsibility involved with private student loans.
Avoid Last Minute Loans At All Costs
Particularly as Fall nears, there’s a definite push and outreach by lenders of private student loans. As people near or miss deadlines, or realize that they may have more need than was met by FAFSA or other types of financial aid, private lenders make themselves known and available as alternatives. But avoid making yourself an easy target by keeping track of the timeline of financial aid. It can help to ensure you only turn to private student loans by choice rather than feeling pressured to do so.
Be a Critic
Again, lending is a business, and at the end of the day, both parties involved in private student loan contracts are looking to benefit. Don’t enter into a private student loan without doing the proper research and asking the hard-hitting questions. It’s your long term future and it’s important to avoid making snap decisions, or giving into pressure. Strip away the bells and whistles being offered or showcased, and take a critical look at the baseline and the structure of the loan before deciding if it’s right for you. A way to feel confident in your questioning will be to start early, and enter with a level head.
Push For Other Options
Always, always look at all your options. Even if they seem out of reach, or consist of multiple steps – the effort to push or pursue options like scholarships or grants can really pay off. Don’t resign yourself to failure – write that scholarship essay. And give yourself plenty of time to do so!
If you’ve already taken out a private student loan, understanding the effect of time, and managing your repayment can be a critical way to conquer and successfully pay-off your debt.
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Paying Down Effectively If You’re In The Midst of Repayment
Plan Out Your Repayment
One of the most effective ways to approach your repayment is to have a plan. To know not only what you’ll be paying each month, but also how long you plan to be paying it. It’s not only about budgeting your cash, it’s also about budgeting your time as well. Layout the timeline, and stick to it! Once you have a financial map, it’s easier to see what kinds of decisions fit in with your route.
Understand What’s Happening With Your Interest
It’s essential to know what impact your interest has on your entire loan. Though a great habit, making regular payments doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re paying off much more than accrued interest. Make sure you consider how much of your payment is actually going to the principal. If you have multiple loans, pay more aggressively towards the debt with higher interest rate, while paying minimums on others.
Make Bi-Weekly Payments
Bi-weekly payments are mentioned often when it comes to debt, and there’s a reason! The effectiveness of paying bi-weekly as opposed to monthly is easy to see when you punch in your numbers. It might take a bit more planning, but the savings are certainly worth it in the end. It’s a small switch which has large (and beneficial) results.
Student loan debt isn’t a new topic, and it’s certainly not going away. But just because student loan debt seems to be the norm rather than the exception, doesn’t mean it should be kept on the back-burner of conversation. Even if you tackle it efficiently, even if you feel that you’ve handled payments responsibility, talk about your success with others! Act as a guide, and help those younger generations navigate the rocky terrain.
Private student loans – any student loans – shouldn’t be last minute. They’re serious commitments and they’re decisions that will affect your future financial freedom. And on top of it all, the loans won’t disappear until you pay them off! Time, missed deadlines and aid caps from Federal can make private student loans seem inevitable, but make sure you’ve put in the research to alternative options. Likewise, payment plans benefit from understanding what happens long term, and how you can take advantage of timing and opportunity.
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