Erin Lowry, founder of the blog, Broke Millennial, helps young readers learn about money and finances. Money was always something discussed in the Lowry household growing up, and Erin was surprised to learn that that isn’t necessarily the norm.
We asked the author of Broke Millennial and Broke Millennial Takes On Investing to weigh in on advice for new borrowers and parents when it comes to paying for college and borrowing student loans. Here’s what she says:
Choose the Right School
When Erin was a senior in high school, her parents let her know she would need to pay for half of her college education. So, instead of choosing the most expensive school, she went to the college that gave her the most money in scholarships.
“I gave up my dream school, to live my dream life,” she says.
Consider If You Need College
Erin recommends to be realistic about your actual need for college and really look and examine what you want to do.
“Trade school is very a good option that is underdiscussed,” she says, pointing out trades are often a recession-proof job with a cheaper initial investment.
Apply for Scholarships
Search for every possible scholarship opportunity, she says. And don’t stop your scholarship search once you get into college. Continue looking for scholarships throughout college. Erin points out that there are certain scholarships only available to upperclassman.
Get a Job
If you can, get a job while you’re in school. Erin was a Resident Advisor her sophomore through senior years in college.
Even if your earnings don’t seem like much, every dollar you make it one less you’ll need to borrow.
Better yet, get a job that offers perks, such as employer tuition assistance, skills and experience that can help you land a job after graduation or even something as simple as free meals.
Take AP Classes
If you’re still in high school, take as many Advanced Placement classes as you can. Erin says she technically came into college as a sophomore. Completion of AP classes means less classes you will need to complete in college.
If you’re already in college, be certain to choose your classes carefully. Meet with an advisor regularly. You want to be sure you are fulfilling your graduation requirements and that each class counts towards your degree.
Opt for Federal Loans First
“Max federal loans as much as you can,” Erin says, if you need to borrow student loans. She points to more flexible repayment plans based on income and the opportunity for student loan forgiveness as reasons to choose federal loans.
Some federal student loans are also subsidized, which means the interest is paid by the government while you’re in school and during deferments.
Federal student loans also come with more generous deferment options than private student loans. You can pause your payments if you lose your job or experience economic hardship.
Use our Student Loan Calculator to determine the monthly loan payment and total payments on your student loans, based on the loan amount, interest rate, loan fees and repayment term.
Compare Private Loan Lenders
If you do need to borrow private student loans, Erin suggests you shop around to find the best interest rate.
Savingforcollege.com has a list of the best private student loans available for undergraduate college students.
There are many things to consider when choosing a lender if you need to borrow private student loans.
Is a cosigner required? If yes, do they offer cosigner release? These lenders offer cosigner release.
Be sure to understand the risks of borrowing any student loans, especially private student loans.
Borrow the Minimum
“The goal needs to be taking out the bare minimum to cover basics,” she says.
Don’t subsidize lifestyle costs with student loans. Keep your expenses as low as possible during college. Don’t use student loans for unnecessary things, such as vacations, dining out, a new wardrobe, gadgets, entertainment or other unrequired purchases.
“Your future self will thank you,” she adds.
Make Payments While You’re in School
If you are in a position to be able to work, make payments while you’re still in school, especially towards private loans, Erin says. She points out that even $50 per month can start to take down the overall cost and help interest from building up.
Use our Student Loan Prepayment Calculator to evaluate the impact of making extra payments, showing you how much you save on interest by making extra payments and how much extra you’d have to pay to pay off your debt quicker.
Consider Life Insurance if Borrowing Private Loans
“If you take out private loan and need a cosigner, read find print and know whether if the loan is discharged in death,” Erin says. If not, a borrower may want to consider term life insurance. Because in the unfortunate instance of death, your parents would be fully responsible for that loan. This could cause a financial strain, if they aren’t able to pay the debt.
At Savingforcollege.com, our goal is to help you make smart decisions about saving and paying for education. Some of the products featured in this article are from our partners, but this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.