The #1 Thing to Do When Researching Student Loans

Girl Question Marks on Chalkboard

The #1 Thing to Do When Researching Student Loans

Girl Question Marks on Chalkboard

College is the first major financial decision many young adults make; the amount a student borrows and the interest rate they agree to could impact their finances for the rest of your adult life.

Student loans aren’t all bad though- they provide a way to better oneself and get access to education for those who don’t have enough family savings or scholarships to fall back on.

Students get into financial trouble when they don’t analyze the total amount of student loans they have relative to the potential salary they may earn upon graduation.

How Do I Choose the Best Student Loan?

The general rule of thumb is for a student to not have TOTAL loan amounts that are greater than their first year of salary.

It may seem hard for high school students to estimate what they might earn when they graduate college, but now is the time to start estimating – before taking out loans they may have trouble paying back.

Families should consult Payscale.com and The Bureau of Labor Statistics to help estimate what graduating salaries will be in professions a student is interested in.

This is also the perfect time to make sure teens and young adults understand important, basic concepts of financial literacy (such as compounding, interest rates, and grace periods) as they begin to undertake research for finding student loans.

The average student takes out nearly $30,000 in student loans over four years. With an interest rate of 9% annually, a student can expect to pay nearly $15,700 in interest over ten years, if it took them ten years to pay off the loan. That is a lot of money in interest, over half of the original amount borrowed. This is why the #1 thing you can do to save money on your student loans and promise a financially bright future is to shop and compare interest rates on your student loans before you sign on the dotted line.

Ways to Competitively Shop for a Loan

Most students are used to the traditional big banks such as Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo providing loan options, but bigger isn’t always better. In today’s economy considering non-traditional lenders can mean big savings.

Credit unions and smaller lenders, like College Ave Student Loans, can provide better customer service and cheaper rates than many of the big guys, and often come with additional perks such as a close community of borrowers and one-on-one counseling.

Students can also get creative when it comes to shopping for education financing, such as using peer-to-peer and crowd-lending sites.

To help you compare the true cost of your various student loan offers, we created the Road2College Student Loan Comparison Calculator.

Why Shopping for Interest Rates Is Valuable

Say that by shopping for private loans you got an interest rate from a lender of 7%, which is competitive given that the federal rate is 6.8% currently. The same borrower who took out $30,000 at 7% interest annually would pay $11,800 over ten years, with a monthly payment of $350. That is a savings of close to $1000 each year, or for those interested in a lower monthly payment, a monthly savings of $30, or $360 each year.

If a student were to take that extra $30 each month and apply it to their student loan balance, they’d be able to pay off the debt in 8.8 years (as opposed to 10) and save an additional $1,384 in interest.

Students are always encouraged to shop for interest rates and get the total picture before signing on a loan. As you can see, shopping for interest rates not only saves you money over the lifetime of the loan, but if you use the extra cash wisely, interest rate shopping can help you pay off debt faster.

Other Road2College articles to review:

Ultimate Guide to the Student Loan Process

When and How to Apply for Student Loans

Answers to Your Top 5 Questions About Student Loans

Interest RateInterest Rate & Other DiscountsRepayment Options (Monthly) Cosigner Release
sofi2.99% – 10.66% (Fixed)

0.95% – 11.18% (Variable)
$250 principal balance reduction benefit and 0.25% discount with autopayImmediate repayment, interest-only, fixed monthly payments in school, fully deferredYesCHECK RATE
College Ave Student Loans2.94% - 12.99% (Fixed)

0.94% - 11.98% (Variable)
Auto-Pay (0.25%)Flat Payment (In-School), Full (principal & interest), Deferred, & Interest-onlyYesCHECK RATE
commonbond-logo13.74% - 10.74% (Fixed)

3.79% - 9.35% (Variable)
Auto-Pay (0.25%)Immediate repayment, interest-only, fixed monthly payments in school, fully deferred YesCHECK RATE
sallie-mae-bank-vector-logo3.50% - 12.60% (Fixed)

1.13% - 11.23% (Variable)
0.25 percentage point deduction for auto debitPay now or later: Make interest payments, pay a fixed $25 payment, or defer payments until after school. YesCHECK RATE
Citizens Bank Student loans3.23% - 10.83% (Fixed)

1.03% - 10.24% (Variable)
Autopay (0.25%)
Loyalty (0.25%)
Full (principal & interest), Deferred, Interest-only, Immediate-RepaymentYesCHECK RATE
LendKey Student LoansAs low as 3.99% (Fixed)

As low as 1.49% (Variable)
Autopay (0.25%)Full payments (Principal and Interest) YesCHECK RATE

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This story was originally published in our Paying for College 101 (PFC101) group. It has been edited for clarity and

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