One secret to paying off your student loans faster is to be smarter about how you borrow them.
Yes, you can be more strategic about how you borrow your student loans.
These 5 tips can help you manage your student loans more efficiently and better prepare you for student loan repayment.
Here is what you need to know:
1. Make free money your money
Scholarships and grants should be your first choice to finance your education.
Sites such as Scholarships.com, Cappex.com, Chegg, Scholly and Fastweb include available scholarships that can help fund your college or graduate school education.
You can also check with your school or prospective school's financial aid office for additional scholarship opportunities.
2. Maximize your federal student loans
Next, you should maximize your federal student loans before borrowing private student loans.
While the cost for undergraduate student loans and graduate student loans increased 18.4% and 13.0%, respectively, on July 1, federal student loans provide several borrower benefits. For example, with federal student loans, you have access to flexible student loan repayment programs as well as options for deferment and forbearance based on your financial situation.
However, some private student lenders now offer undergraduate and graduate student loans, including parent loans, at interest rates that are commensurate with the interest rates offered by the federal government.
3. Weigh your anticipated debt with your anticipated income
When you're a freshman in college, you may have no idea what you want to do after graduation.
If you do have a career in mind, however, think about the type of career you plan to pursue and what amount of income you think you can reasonably generate.
If you are an MBA, medical, dental or law student, for example, it may be easier to pinpoint a general income road map after graduation.
Why is this important?
It can help guide your student loan borrowing decisions - and perhaps the type of school you decide to attend - if you know what your approximate income and monthly student loan payments will look like after you graduate.
As a result, you may choose to attend a school with lower tuition and borrow less - which means less student loan debt at graduation.
4. Use a student loan calculator
It's better to understand the true cost of your financial decisions now so there are no surprises later.
That is why it is imperative to estimate the cost of your student loan debt before you borrow.
Make Lemonade's Student Loan Payment Calculator can help you calculate your monthly and total student loan payment, including interest.
You can enter the total amount of debt that you anticipate at graduation and see how much you can expect to pay each month.
5. Develop a student loan repayment plan before you borrow
If you just borrowed your student loans, thinking about a repayment plan may not be an immediate priority.
However, it's critical to have an action plan for student loan repayment in place before you borrow.
Borrowing your student loans is the easy part. Understanding the full cost and the monthly financial impact will help you think twice about how much you can afford to borrow.
Become familiar with various student loan options, including student loan refinancing, student loan consolidation, income-driven repayment plans and public service loan forgiveness.
With a repayment action plan in place, you will know what to expect when that first student loan invoice comes due.
These Student Loan Repayment Calculators can help you calculate various student loan repayment options to help you pay off your student loans faster.
When you invest time upfront and reduce some uncertainty with these easy steps, your path to financial freedom can become smoother.
Zack Friedman is the Founder & CEO of Make Lemonade , a personal finance website that helps you compare the best rates and save money for student loans, personal loans, mortgages and more.