50 Student Loan Tips
- Meet with your financial aid or guidance counselor to get a better understanding of the student loan process.
- Do not assume that you will not qualify for financial aid - there are many options available. (Some loans such as unsubsidized Stafford Loans and PLUS Loans are granted regardless of need.)
- Start planning early! You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) (after January 1st) even before you graduate from high school. If you have graduated already, start it ASAP!
- Make sure that the FAFSA form you are filling out is the correct form for the school year in which you are seeking financial aid for.
- Have all income, asset, tax information, etc. information available and ready to go before starting to fill out the FAFSA form.
- Include your parents or guardians in on the whole process to help you with any questions that you might have about your expected family contribution (EFC), income, etc.
- If filling out a paper copy of the FAFSA form, make a photocopy beforehand to practice on, to avoid making any mistakes on the original.
- Consider completing the FAFSA form on the web at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
- Always read the instructions before starting to fill out the FAFSA form, and follow them exactly.
- Make sure that your FAFSA form is filled out completely and accurately to avoid delays.
- Be honest and precise when filling out your FAFSA – do not lie about incomes, etc.
- Do not leave any spaces on your FAFSA form blank. Put a zero in the space instead.
- Do your research – not all loans are created equal!
- Shop around! Compare lenders and see who will give you the best deal.
- Look for a lender who will offer a variety of flexible programs to choose from.
- Look for a loan that does not have prepayment penalties – paying all or part of your loan off early will save on interest!
- Look for a lender who will guide you through the student loan process and answer any questions that you might have.
- Educate yourself on the types of loans and see which one fits your needs the best.
- Understand the benefits and differences between federal loans and private loans.
- Understand that private loans require a credit check.
- Consider using a co-signer on private loans.
- Understand the difference between subsidized federal loans and unsubsidized federal loans.
- Always read the fine print on your loans, so that you know exactly what terms you are agreeing to.
- Do not borrow more than is necessary – remember that you will eventually be paying this money back
- Sign and return all award letters and/or Master Promissory Notes ASAP!
- If you are not satisfied with the amount of financial aid you receive, negotiate with your school’s financial aid officers, or your lenders.
- Find out about forgiveness options. Some fields of study offer to compensate part or all of your loans if you will work in that field for a number of years
- Watch your mail for important information regarding your loan before, during and after your schooling.
- Pay interest on unsubsidized loans while you are still in school, if possible.
- Maintain half-time student status. This will keep your loans in deferment, meaning that you will not have to pay the monthly payment yet. If you do drop below a half-time status, you will enter the repayment period of the loan.
- Stay within your budget to avoid using all of your loan money too soon.
- Use student loans only for educational purposes. Using this money for other reasons is fraudulent and a criminal offense.
- If you are filing taxes, meet with your CPA to discuss your options for deductions regarding your financial aid.
- Attend all of the required Entrance and Exit Loan Counseling Sessions. This will give you important information pertaining to your loan.
- Make your lender aware of any name or address changes to avoid any unnecessary problems.
- Consolidate your loans – this could save you thousands of dollars
- Consolidate your loans while you are still in your grace period! This will allow you to lock-in at a lower rate than after your grace period is over.
- Look for a company to consolidate with who will offer the best service.
- Look for a company to consolidate with who will guide you through the process and answer any questions that you might have.
- Consolidate with a company who will offer different payment plans and options that will accommodate you and your income.
- Take advantage of having no prepayment penalty benefit. If you send in a little more than your monthly payment requires, you'll be able to pay your loan offer faster and save hundreds, even thousands, in interest.
- Create a realistic budget to help with paying your monthly loan payments.
- Stay organized! Keep copies of your applications and other forms on file.
- Make your monthly payments on time! Failing to do so can lead to default.
- Make your monthly payments, regardless of whether or not you receive a bill. You are obligated to make the payments each month, even if you do not receive a reminder.
- If you are unable to make your payments, contact your lender immediately. There are deferment or forbearance options that could temporarily postpone your monthly payments.
- If you are granted forbearance, do not drag it out longer than necessary. The interest that accrues while you are in forbearance will be added to your loan balance.
- If forbearance is necessary, consider it only for your federal loans, and continue making the monthly payments on your private loans. Private loans tend to have a higher interest rate, so this will save you money in the long run.
- Round your monthly payments up. Paying a little extra each month, can save you a lot of money in the long run.
- Stay informed about your loans. Always be aware of the balance, interest rates, etc.
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IRS Reminds Students of "Tax-Advantaged Education Expenses"
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On September 11th, the IRS news release "Back-to-School Tax Breaks Help Teachers Pay Classroom Costs; Aid Parents, Students With College Tuition" stressed the importance of saving receipts and maintaining expense records to take full advantage of deductions on educational expenses and credits available on federal income tax returns for 2007.
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