Understand your opportunity vs. debt ratio
According to The Student Loan Report, the national average of student loan debt for 2016 was $17,126. Additionally, the report pointed out that students in Utah graduated from college with an average of $7,545 while students in New Hampshire graduated with an average of $27,167 in student loan debt. Though these numbers are uncomfortably high, they do give us insight into how to handle the question of whether a college degree merits going into debt.
Research your state and desired colleges in order to determine which student loan company to pick. Make sure you research the average tuition, loan debt, and out-of-college salary in your state. For example, if you live in Utah and discover that the average out-of-college salary for your major or career field is $45,000, then you can look at Utah’s average student loan debt ($7,545) and know you will have a lot of options to choose from. You may even decide, at this point, to pay your way through college without getting a loan. Usually, getting through college without a student loan would only be possible in states like Utah or Wyoming. On the other hand, if you live in a state with a high average tuition and student loan debt (like New Hampshire), you may want to be much more selective about which student loan company you choose.
Know your options
You can get a loan from a private student loan company or you can get federal loans. The benefits of each are complex, but for the sake of simplifying the two options, private student loan companies can usually provide much higher loans while federal student loans tend to be more forgiving. Whatever you decide, you should try applying for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA helps colleges determine your need for financial aid, and provide you with options for grants, loans (private loan companies included), or work-study opportunities. The best part about FAFSA is that it gives you a chance to get grants, which you don’t have to pay back; it basically pays part of your tuition for you.
Ask the right questions
When you decide that you need the help of private student loan companies, there are specific things you should find out before choosing one. Does the loan carry fees? Is the loan interest rate fixed or variable? When does the interest begin to accrue? Does the loan company offer any sort of grace period? Does repayment start immediately? Can you and should you have a cosigner? The more information you learn about a student loan company, the more equipped you will be to choose the perfect company for you.