This report was originally published on June 25, 2018.
Caitlin Navratil found herself needing a dose of inspiration, and she found it in student loan repayment success stories.
“[I saw] people who had significantly more debt than I did pay it off so well and so quickly,” Navratil told Student Loan Hero in 2018. “It made me feel like, well, if they did it [owing] $126,000, then for sure I can do [it] with less than $20,000.”
Find out how this inspired 2016 graduate paid off $14,515 in student loans in just 10 months thanks to the following strategies (and a little bit of help).
- Taking out student loans for the first time
- Finding her student loan repayment mojo
- Settling into a repayment strategy
- Developing the right mindset for your own repayment journey
Navratil worked hard to secure scholarships that covered her freshman and sophomore years at Bethel University in Minnesota. When her junior year was approaching, however, she was hit with a bombshell.
“I vividly remember being handed like, ‘Here are your loan limits for the year that you are in college,’ and I was like, ‘Loan limits? I don’t even know what I’m taking out here,’” she said. “And so I had a conversation with a financial aid person. I did understand the concept of, ‘OK, I’m taking this out and having to pay it back,’ but the concept of an interest rate just kind of blew my mind.”
Navratil took out the most she could from the federal government — $7,500 in direct loans — and borrowed the remaining $7,015 from her parents. Her fear of private lenders had convinced her parents of the need to keep the debt in the family. She also got a much friendlier interest rate that way.
“My parents charged me 3%, but it didn’t start accruing until after I graduated,” she said. “So, a subsidized family loan, if you will.”
Scared to borrow a second time from the government, her parents or anyone else, Navratil estimates she saved herself from borrowing an additional $15,000 in student loans by dropping her double major as a senior and graduating a semester early.
After working for a not-for-profit financial services organization called Thrivent, Navratil looked back on her college experience and wished she had done more to prepare for student loan repayment, such as doing a paying internship or a part-time job between classes.
Instead, Navratil did what many borrowers do — she waited. In fact, she didn’t spring into action until the end of her six-month grace period, the cushion federal loan servicers are required to give new graduates before their first bill comes due.
“It just was like a time bomb in my mind I knew that was coming,” she said.
Navratil was also spurred into action after getting a job at Thrivent in 2017, at which point she learned about Student Loan Hero’s content and tools. She was especially fond of the student loan prepayment calculator, which can be used to determine an expiration date on your debt.
Navratil said watching the documentary “Broke, Busted, and Disgusted,” which details the traumatic effects of student loan debt on real-life borrowers, pushed her to be proactive.
“[People] who had so much more debt than me were talking about how crippling it was later in life,” she said. “I think that like wormed its way in my head and heart, that if I keep paying this off over 10 years then I’m not going to get to do other things that I’m hoping and planning to do with my life.”
A highly motivated Navratil threw everything she had at her debt. Her entry-level salary and bonus from Thrivent and her side-hustle income as an Alpine skiing coach made up the majority of her payments.
What helped her most of all was help from her parents. They repaid the original federal loan with their savings. Then they asked their daughter to repay them with a very low, generous 3% interest rate. Call it in-family student loan refinancing.
Navratil, who also decided to live at home full time, admits what a “privilege” that was for her.
“I know my friends were living downtown, and there [are] things that I didn’t get to partake in,” she said. “But because I didn’t have a rent payment, all of the money that would be going towards that I put toward my loan every month.”
|Navratil’s student loan repayment strategies|
|● Dedicating her entry-level salary to loan payments
● Working a side hustle to make even larger payments
● Relying on family to refinance student debt at a low rate
● Moving back home and cutting back on social events to save on living costs
● Organizing her repayment in spreadsheet form
Initially, Navratil hoped her strategy would zero down her debt within three years. But after using our student loan calculators, she used a downloadable Excel spreadsheet that her dad found online to get her on a 10-month payoff schedule. Here’s what that spreadsheet looked like:
Navratil spent those final months attacking the debt like nobody’s business. Her final payment was for $3,735.84.
You might not be able to mimic Navratil’s repayment story. Maybe you borrowed a lot more, had lesser luck finding your first job or don’t have parents in a position to help.
But you can adopt Navratil’s mindset — to pay off your debt as fast as possible so that you can make progress toward your other important financial goals.
One way to do that is to take advantage of your grace period, if you haven’t exhausted it yet, to get ready for repayment.
“My biggest regret is not using those six months to start chipping away at it or to not let it compound with interest,” she said. “That would be my piece of advice, to not push it toward the back of your mind.”
Ultimately, Navratil said you should kick-start your student loan repayment journey as soon as you can on your own terms, and not wait till you’re forced to start paying it back.
If you’re just getting started, you might begin by setting student loan goals.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 9 lenders of 2022!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|2.49% – 11.72%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.30%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|4.13% – 7.39%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.99%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.99%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.24% – 8.24%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.48% – 7.98%||Undergrad |
|1.74% – 7.99%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.69% – 9.92%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 September 6, 2022.
2 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 $9 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.
3 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 09/09/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 4.13% APR – 7.39% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.99% APR – 9.93% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
4 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 3.99% – 8.74% APR (3.74% – 8.49% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.74% APR to 8.24% APR (2.49% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.
5 Important Disclosures for Navient.
6 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
Fixed rates range from 3.99% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 3.24% APR to 8.24% 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.
7 Important Disclosures for Purefy.
Purefy Student Loan Refinancing Rate and Terms Disclosure: Annual Percentage Rates (APR) ranges and examples are based on information provided to Purefy by lenders participating in Purefy’s rate comparison platform. For student loan refinancing, the participating lenders offer fixed rates ranging from 2.73% – 7.99% APR, and variable rates ranging from 1.74% – 7.99% APR. The maximum variable rate is 25.00%. Your interest rate will be based on the lender’s requirements. In most cases, lenders determine the interest rates based on your credit score, degree type and other credit and financial criteria. Only borrowers with excellent credit and meeting other lender criteria will qualify for the lowest rate available. Rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice. Terms and conditions apply.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens.
Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%-9.92% (3.69%-9.92% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49%-10.11% (4.49%-10.11% APR).
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 6.39%- 9.60% (6.39% – 9.60% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.58% – 9.79% (6.58% – 9.79% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).
Education Refinance Loan for Parents Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%- 9.09% (3.69%- 9.09% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.28% (4.49% – 9.28% APR).
Medical Residency Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).