I’m often asked whether current students, especially first-year students should read CliffsNotes Graduation Debt. The answer is always yes. The book begins with a story of how I borrowed and didn’t worry about the money piling up until after graduation. Many of my friends never worried about student loan debt until it was time to repay them. Thus, every dollar of student loan refund checks, the amount leftover after tuition and fees, was always spent. I would have had thousands less in student loan debt if I had thought about money borrowed while I was still in college.
Here are 3 tips for reducing student loan debt:
Understand repayment with the first borrowed dollar: Every student should recalculate their expected payment each semester. This way there isn’t repayment sticker shock. They should talk to financial aid at their college about various repayment plans and use repayment plan calculators available at studentaid.ed.gov.
Apply for scholarships every year: Students can apply for new scholarships every year as well as filling out the FAFSA. Family financial aid situations change and the student may have improved academically.
Use student loan refund amounts to gauge future borrowing needs: Students aren’t required to accept the full amount of student loans awarded to them. If they are getting larger student loan refund checks than they need, they can reject part of student loan amounts the next semester.
Reyna Gobel is the author of CliffsNotes Graduation Debt: How to Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life, Second Edition, and student loan expert for Wisebread's New Graduate Help Center.