If you left school before earning your degree, it’s not too late to go back. In fact, going back to college could help you increase your earning potential and land a job you want. But you also have to be careful not to overwhelm your finances with too much student debt.
6 questions to ask before going back to college
If you’re debating whether or not to go back to college, these six questions will help you decide if it’s the right financial choice for you.
1. What are your options for dealing with student loans?
2. Will your college credits count toward a degree?
3. Can you keep working while you attend school?
4. Can you get financial aid, grants or scholarships?
5. Are you choosing a high-paying career path?
6. Is it the right time to go back to college?
When you reenroll in college, your federal student loan payments are deferred, which means you will not be required to make payments until six months after you graduate.
But you shouldn’t go back to college just for a temporary reprieve from student loans. Your unsubsidized student loans will grow in deferment, thanks to accruing interest. Plus, you’ll likely have to borrow even more to cover new college expenses.
If you’re struggling with these debts, first consider other student loan repayment options, such as an income-driven repayment plan that will lower your student loan payments. Refinancing student loans could also make them cheaper and more affordable, as it can get you a lower interest rate.
Going back to college might be more worthwhile if you’ve already made significant progress. The more credits you earned before you dropped out, the closer you might be to an actual degree.
But returning students can’t always pick up where they left off. If you’ve been out of school for a long time, your previous credits might no longer be valid. Curricula can also change, meaning you might have to start your studies over from scratch.
If you’re not sure if your credits will count, contact the admissions offices at the colleges you hope to attend. The admissions counselors can compare the credits you earned to the degrees they offer. They will advise you on how many of your credits will transfer, and how long it might take to complete your schooling.
With the advances in education, students have more options and flexibility. If you can attend college courses without disrupting your life too much, that’s a big plus.
For instance, you might choose a part-time course schedule instead of a full-time one so you can work while you study. You might also take some courses online for even more flexibility.
If you can keep your day job and attend night or weekend classes, you won’t have to sacrifice a steady income for college — and that’ll make it easier to cover some of the costs out-of-pocket, rather than borrowing loans.
If your existing student debts are a burden, or you’re not sure how you plan to pay for college, cost will be a key factor. Choose colleges that are cost-effective, such as community colleges or public four-year schools, over private or for-profit options.
When returning to school, you should file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if you qualify for federal aid. Look for scholarships, grants and institutional aid from your college that can help cover your costs. There are even scholarships and grants specifically for adults returning to school to complete their degrees.
If you do need to borrow private student loans, make sure to shop around for your lowest interest rate. Keeping your college degree affordable is key to making sure going back to college is a smart investment.
The more help you can get to cover college costs, the fewer student loans you’ll need to take out.
No one should head to college without a clear plan for their education — and how to use it to launch a well-paying career. That starts with choosing a college and major that will be your stepping stone to a better career and higher earnings.
Carefully choose a college that produces highly-paid graduates. Get an idea of how much the college degree you’re interested in is likely to improve your career prospects.
Most universities report outcomes and employment of their graduates. You can also check outcomes for graduates with your degree and major. Plus, check out the typical wages the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports for the positions you plan to pursue.
You should also make the most of the resources available to you in college to make yourself a marketable graduate. Work on job-seeking skills and network within your industry. Don’t hesitate to ask your professors what you can do to improve your chances of being hired — then follow through.
Successfully going back to college requires dedication, planning and hard work. Therefore, be honest about your situation, and whether returning to college is a smart move right now.
The timing could be right to finally earn your degree, or you might need another year to save and prepare. It is a big commitment, and not one to make lightly.
But if you’re ready to make this investment in yourself, give it all you’ve got while avoiding debt. At the end of the day, you have the power to make smart choices and work hard to ensure that college is worth it.
Rebecca Safier contributed to this report.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 9 lenders of 2022!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.74% – 6.52%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.89%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.85%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.74% – 7.24%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.90% – 5.25%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.88% – 5.64%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.86% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|2.13% – 5.25%8||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of January 19, 2022.
2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
Interest Rate Disclosure
Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.69% APR to 6.04% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.99% APR to 5.89% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, and using the daily interest rate based on actual days in the year and rounding up, plus a margin and will change on the 1st of each month. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
Fixed rates range from 2.49% APR to 7.59% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 1.74% APR to 7.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 11/15/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
7 Important Disclosures for Navient.
8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.13%-5.25% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.