The world of student lending is confusing. But here’s a rule to remember: always take out federal student loans before you consider the private option. They’re usually cheaper and have more favorable repayment terms. But if you’ve maxed out your federal aid eligibility or don’t qualify, then you may need a private student loan. Here are 5 steps to choose the right private student loan:
1. Compare you options first.
Knowing your options and comparing interest rates, repayment terms, and borrower benefits could save you thousands. Compare your options!
2. Look beyond the annual percentage rate.
The APR is important, of course, but there are other factors to consider, such as the total cost of the loan, deferment options, and first payment due date.
3. Confirm the interest rate for which you qualify.
It’s important to confirm interest rates with the lender you are researching. The advertised rate and your actual rate may differ, depending on the credit profile of the borrower and co-signer.
4. Find a credit-worthy co-signer.
Most college students will need a co-signer. Increasingly, this goes for graduate students, too, since many do not have a long credit history. And remember: the better your co-signer’s credit, the lower your interest rate.
5. Choose a lender with good customer service.
Borrowers are customers, too, and deserve to be treated as such, so choose a lender you can reach with a toll-free telephone number or fast online assistance available 24/7.
We’re firm believers that every student who can study abroad should study abroad. That’s because studying abroad has a whole host of benefits—personally, educationally, and for your career. Studying abroad can boost your foreign language competency, give you crucial internationally-related work or internship experience, and can distinguish you from other applicants when it comes time to find a job. It’s also a humbling, humanizing experience that may make you more world-aware and compassionate—and that’s never a bad thing. The problem with studying abroad, of course, is that it can be very expensive. So the real question is: can you afford to study abroad? In pursuit of an answer to that question, here are a few things to consider:
Your financial aid office may be able to help.
Before you do anything, check whether your financial aid package at your home university can be applied to your study abroad program. You might get lucky and find that study abroad programs approved by your school can be paid for with the financial aid you’ve already been awarded.
Search for grants and scholarships.
Your next best option is to start looking for free money. That means grants and scholarships. Thankfully, most colleges and universities make grants or scholarships available specifically for the purpose of studying abroad. But where do you start looking for these opportunities? Easy! Head back to your financial aid office to see if they can offer information or leads on where to look or how to apply. Also check with your study abroad office and your major department, as they may offer their own set of scholarships and grants.
Check if you can use your federal student loans.
If you’re applying directly to your host school and it’s listed in the Federal School Code Search, you can use your federal student loans to help pay for it. When searching, select “Foreign Country” in the State box, then enter the city you’re studying in or the school name.
As a last resort, compare your private student loan options.
Private student loans may not be the ideal way to pay for a study abroad experience, but they’re a reliable last resort. However, it’s important to make a budget before you borrow. That way you’ll never borrow more than you need. Then compare your private student loan options (for free!) by lender, interest rate, and more using our student loan comparison tool. Why compare options? Because not all private student loans are created equal. Finding the right one could save you thousands.
Keep your costs down.
As previously mentioned, making a budget and keeping your costs down can help you have a more affordable study abroad experience. If you need help, here are 5 ways to study abroad for less.
The only thing harder than studying for your classes is finding the money to pay for them. Good thing we’re here to help you borrow cheaply. Here’s the smart guide to student borrowing:
Get started today by comparing your private student loan options. Just remember to:
- Max out your federal aid before you consider the private option. Federal student loans often comes with lower interest rates and more favorable lending terms, so it always pays to use up your federal aid eligibility first. That means: fill out a FAFSA if you haven’t already.
- Know how much to borrow. One of the most expensive mistakes a student can make is borrowing too much money. Budget for all your costs, including extraneous things like entertainment, transportation, printing, and parking. But never plan on using your loan disbursement for stuff you don’t need, like a vacation.
- Find a co-signer. If you’ve got a bad credit score or no credit history, then chances are you’ll have trouble finding a private student loan without a credit-worthy co-signer. But that’s not a bad thing! Having a co-signer improves your chances of qualifying for a private student loan and may actually lower your interest rate, saving you money.
- Keep your expected costs down. There’s an important mantra to remember: the less money you plan on spending, the less money you have to borrow. Our sister-company, ValoreBooks, can help. Stop paying retail prices on textbooks. Shop or rent with ValoreBooks next semester and save up to 90%. Then use that money to pay some of your tuition bill.
- Know your borrower benefits. Private lenders offer various benefits to borrowers. Some provide interest rate discounts for enrolling in auto-repayment or for students who’ve made a certain number of on-time consecutive payments. Some lenders even cut your premium by a percentage point or two when you graduate. The key here: know what’s offered ahead of time and calculate those benefits into your total cost.
It’s far easier to spend money than to earn it, which is why we’ve compiled a list of tools that will help you stay smart about spending. Check ‘em out:
Organize all your finances in one place — fast and for free. With Mint, you can see what you’re spending, how you’re spending it, and learn how to keep more of your money where it belongs: in your pocket.
2. Price tracking sites.
If you’re shopping online and you aren’t tracking prices, you may be spending more than you have to. Know what stores are selling the product you want at the lowest price, and see how that price has changed over time. That way you can know whether to buy now or wait for prices to drop. Websites like Shopzilla and Pricegrabber can help.
With ValoreBooks, you can sell your used stuff for cash! You can sell textbooks, CDs, movies, video games, iPads, and iPhones. Online quotes are instant, shipping is free, and sell back prices are the highest in the industry. It’s an easy way to make money by cleaning out your closet, entertainment system, or bookshelf.
Using SmarterBucks, you can earn rewards that automatically become extra student loan payments used to pay down any student loan faster and for less. Signing up is free and rewards are easy to earn. Shop with your favorite brands, take surveys, sell your used stuff, and more!
5. Don’t forget SimpleTuition!
Every time you need a private student loan, be sure to compare your options and find the best loan for you. Finding the best interest rate possible can save you thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your debt. So if you’re still in school or are considering going back, let us help you get educated for less.
Winter break is here, or almost here, the holidays are upon us, and the start of a new year is right around the corner. So much to celebrate! But remember: if you don’t have all the money you need for next semester’s tuition bill, now’s the perfect time to find it. Here’s how:
1. Compare your private student loan options. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it a million times. Lending rates and benefits change, so comparing your loan options every semester could save you thousands. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s free.
2. Keep searching for scholarships. They’re available year-round. Now that you don’t have class to worry about, start worrying about your wallet and how to fill it with free money. Hit up your school’s financial aid office and our Scholarship Center.
3. Find seasonal work. Take advantage of the festive spirit by earning a little festive cash. Retail outlets hire tons of temporary workers for the holidays. Likewise, ice-skating rinks, ski resorts, and restaurants may pick up extra folks for the holiday season.
4. Apply for part-time jobs on campus. There’s usually job turnover at the end of each semester, so get your applications in before next semester starts. Try the library, the cafeteria, and even department offices, which may need assistants.