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Student Loans 101 | Your guide to help you get started

Taking out student loans to pay for college is an extremely scary prospect. You’re likely still very young and have a very limited understanding of finances. However, your student loan choice is a major financial decision that could affect you decades into the future. Due to this, choosing the right student loans is one of the most important financial decisions that you’ll make. So how can you ensure that you make the right decision when you have so little financial experience and the odds are stacked against you? Thankfully, there are some things that you can either do or look out for to ensure that you’re getting the best deal possible. So what should you do when it’s time to look for student loans? Here’s everything you need to know about shopping around for the right student loan.

Loan Types

Identify Your Need

The first thing you should do when looking for student loans is to identify exactly how much you need from them. You need to identify your need for a variety of reasons. First, you want to get exactly the right amount, avoiding some potentially bad scenarios. Having too little funds from your loan means that you might not be able to fully cover tuition costs, while taking too much out in a loan might mean that you have to pay an obscene amount of interest on money that you didn’t even need. Understanding exactly what you need out of a student loan is an extremely important part of the student loan process, and should be the first step that you take. 

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Public or Private?

When looking to get student loans to pay for your college, an important decision that you’ll have to make is whether you should go with public or private loans to cover costs. Public student loans come from the government, while private student loans come from private institutions. Each form of loan has their own positive or negative, so you should match the loan you take out with what you need. Taking out a public loan usually results in lower more reasonable interest rates, while taking out private loans can offer you other benefits. Really it all comes down to personal preference and individual scenarios, but you should definitely consider both public and private loan options. 

 

Analyze Interest Rates

Perhaps the most important part of student loans is the interest rates that are attached to them. The interest is where student loan lenders really get you, as this is what the bulk of your payments goes towards covering. Student loan interest rates can be extremely high, meaning that you could end up spending thousands of dollars just paying off interest. In addition, interest rates could be either fixed or variable. Fixed interest rates stay the same throughout the course of the loan, while variable interest rates may fluctuate. You need to be able to identify the lowest interest rate available to you, as well as what type of interest rate fits you best. Picking the perfect student loan interest rate that matches your situation can save you some major headaches down the line, so it’s important to analyze potential interest rates. 

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Create a Payment Plan

Another important thing that you need to consider when taking out a student loan is what type of payment plan you want to tackle it with. For example, do you want to pay off your loans over a ten year period, or do you want them to be stretched out across an even longer period of time? Will you qualify for a student loan assistance and benefits program?  Do you want to pay off individual loans first, or do you just want to pay the minimum on each of your loans until they expire? These decisions have a huge effect on how much interest you end up spending, meaning they are extremely important. When you’re looking to take out student loans, ensure that you map out your financial future and develop potential payment plans that you can use in order to pay