Student Loan Advice: 10 Tips to Help Manage your Debt

 September 21, 2022
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There’s plenty of student loan advice out there, making it difficult to know which tips to follow. While everyone’s situation is different, certain strategies could help you pay off your debt more quickly or at the least cost.

Here are 10 ways to strategize repaying student loans, including in-school payments or refinancing for lower interest rates.

1. Understand your student loans
2. Know your grace period and consider in-school payments
3. Avoid borrowing more than you need
4. Explore your student loan repayment options
5. Sign up for automatic payments
6. Continue living like a student
7. Pursue jobs that could lead to loan forgiveness
8. Focus on complete debt payoff
9. Consider refinancing your student loans at lower rates
10. Don’t let your payments lapse

1. Understand your student loans

Getting organized is one of the first steps for a student or new grad facing student loan payments. It’s crucial to track down the details of your loans so you can create a timeline for tackling the debt.

Start by gathering the following info:

  • Current balances. Also include how much you’re planning to borrow for future loans.
  • Interest rates and terms. Make a note of whether your loans have fixed or variable rates and how long you have to pay them off.
  • Issue dates. Knowing the disbursement dates on your student loans for the upcoming year can help you plan to ensure you have enough funds to cover the school year.
  • Extra fees. Certain loans charge upfront fees, which are generally deducted from your loan’s disbursement.
  • First payment date. See if you have a grace period or required to make payments immediately.

Once you have all the necessary data, you can use our student loan calculator to estimate your monthly payments.

The interest rate deserves special attention since it’s a part of the loan you can sometimes have a level of control over. For example, a student loan refinance (see below) or signing up for autopay (see below) can potentially lower your rate, saving money over the long run.

Where do I find my student loan details?

It’s easy to lose track of your loan servicers in the chaos of attending school. However, knowing how to find your student loan balances is vital for successfully paying off your debt.

  • For federal student loans: Sign in to your studentaid.gov account to see your loan servicers, current balances, payment details and more.
  • For private student loans: Most private lenders provide an online portal to view balances and make payments. If you can’t access it, try calling them directly. And if you’re unsure about who your lender is, check your credit report via AnnualCreditReport.com — all your debt will be listed there.

Most importantly, notify your loan servicers if you change addresses to ensure you don’t miss a statement. Alternatively, you can sign up for autopay to stay on top of your bills.

2. Know your grace period and consider in-school payments

Most student loans come with a grace period, usually meaning that you don’t have to pay anything while attending school at least half-time, and that you have until six months after you leave school to begin repayment.

But if your budget can manage small or interest-only payments as a student, you could significantly reduce your overall loan costs.

This is the case unless you have Direct subsidized federal loans, for which the government pays your accrued interest while in school and during the post-graduation grace period. However, for almost all other loans, including unsubsidized federal loans and most private student loans, interest will rack up during your studies and the grace period that follows. This can add thousands of dollars to your debt.

If your funds are limited, consider getting a part-time job or work-study position to help make some level of payment on your loan.

3. Avoid borrowing more than you need

If you yet haven’t taken out student loans, it’s advisable to proceed with caution. Many of the 48 million Americans who owe student loans in 2022 (carrying a collective $1.75 trillion) probably wish they could turn back time and take out less debt.

Remember, even if you’re offered a certain amount of student loans in your financial aid award letter, you’re not obligated to take the total amount.

Instead, estimate your cost of attendance and consider defraying that cost with a college job or side hustle. Additionally, you can ask friends and family to chip in with the Gift of College and other crowdfunding platforms.

Ultimately, you’ll be out of debt sooner by keeping borrowing to a minimum.

4. Explore your student loan repayment options

Another pro tip is to research your student loan repayment options. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, however, as every student’s financial situation varies.

With federal loans, you have access to the standard 10-year plan, income-driven plans, extended repayment and others. This flexibility allows borrowers with limited income to lower their monthly payments.

And there’s more: The repayment plan you choose now doesn’t have to be locked in for the entire life of the loan. The Department of Education allows you to change repayment plans at any time with no extra fees or costs.

Private student loans don’t usually have as many options, although certain lenders offer deferment or forbearance if you run into financial hardship or go back to school. If you need to adjust your monthly payments, speak with your lender to explore what’s possible.

5. Sign up for automatic payments

Did you know that some financial institutions offer a discount on interest when you sign up to pay your loans automatically? Federal student loan servicers and private student loan lenders typically offer a 0.25% interest rate discount if you sign up for autopay, though some might offer more (or less).

Not only can autopay save on interest, but it could also help ensure you make timely payments. You can “set it and forget it” — your loan repayment runs on autopilot, so you won’t have to remember to pay your bills each month manually. It’s advised to do this for all your loans to make sure none fall through the cracks.

6. Continue living like a student

After graduating, it’s easy to start spending more money. For example, you might need professional clothing for interviews or furniture for your new place. It’s tempting, but do your best to avoid “lifestyle creep” during the first few years after graduation.

Even if you land a high-paying job right out of college, it’s worth continuing to live on your college student budget.

By sticking with a budget, you can repay your loans sooner and start enjoying that extra money without the uncomfortable feeling of debt breathing down your neck.

7. Pursue jobs that could lead to loan forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program can wipe away your college debt after working 10 years in a nonprofit, government agency or other qualifying workplaces.

Other professions — such as teacher, lawyer and doctor — can sometimes qualify for loan forgiveness or repayment assistance.

Furthermore, you can seek out jobs offering loan repayment assistance plans as part of their employee benefits package. Even if the salary is a little less than ideal, these jobs might still be worth pursuing if the student loan repayment assistance is especially generous.

8. Focus on complete debt payoff

You might feel overwhelmed at how much you have to pay back. This can be discouraging for anyone starting in the workforce and still getting a footing in the world.

Two popular strategies for student loan repayment are the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods. Both involve paying a little extra on your loans each month, but they differ in terms of which loans to target first:

  • Debt snowball approach: Focus on closing out the loan with the smallest balance first, directing any extra payments to that debt. The sooner one of your loans drops off the list, the more motivation you’ll likely feel to keep going on to the next.
  • Debt avalanche method: This approach targets the loan with the highest interest rate first, thus reducing your overall paid interest. This should save you money, even if it doesn’t always come with the same morale boost as the snowball method.

Consider experimenting with both debt repayment strategies to see which one is more effective for you.

And remember, making extra payments is key to seeing rapid progress on your repayment — specifically if you instruct the servicer or lender to designate the extra money as principal-only payments.

9. Consider refinancing your student loans at lower rates

Once you have good credit and steady income — or can apply with a cosigner who does — you might qualify for student loan refinancing.

Through refinancing, you can restructure your debt, adjust your terms (shortening a loan’s term can help you pay off your debt faster), and potentially score a lower interest rate (saving money over the life of the loan).

But the benefits of refinancing aren’t for everyone, especially if you rely on federal student loan protections. For example, refinancing federal loans will cause you to permanently lose access to the various federal aid programs, such as income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Consider the pros and cons of refinancing before moving ahead. If you don’t need those federal programs, refinancing your student loans could be a savvy way to adjust your monthly payments and save money on interest.

10. Don’t let your payments lapse

The final piece of student loan debt advice may seem obvious, but it’s an easy trap to fall into: Don’t default on your student loans if you can avoid it. If you’re struggling to make payments, contact your loan servicer immediately.

You might be able to pause payments temporarily, so your loans don’t become delinquent or go into default. Defaulting on debt can destroy your credit score and lead to wage garnishment in the case of federal loans.

If you’re experiencing financial hardship, consider financial advising through your school’s financial aid office. They might be able to help you receive more federal student aid.

Even though getting on top of your student loans might take time and effort, utilizing these 10 tips of student loan advice could hopefully enable you to pay off your student loans faster.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2022!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
2.75% – 8.90%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

2.50% – 6.80%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.81% – 7.21%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.49% – 7.99%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

3.24% – 7.99%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

3.24% – 8.24%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.99% – 7.24%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

1.74% – 7.99%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Purefy

3.69% – 9.92%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

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. Fixed loans feature repayment terms of 5 to 20 years. For example, the monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 5.47% for a 12-year term would be $94.86. Variable loans feature repayment terms of 5 to 25 years. For example, the monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 5.90% for a 15-year term would be $83.85.

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 October 1, 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.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

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 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) and changes in the SOFR 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%. There is no limit on the amount your interest rate can increase at one time. The Index is currently published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (“New York Fed”). If the Index is no longer available, it will be replaced by a replacement Index according to the terms of the promissory note.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of October 31, 2022. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.


3 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

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 10/26/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 2.81% APR – 7.21%APR Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.99% APR – 10.68 APR% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


4 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

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.

Navient Disclosures

You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 4.24% – 9.24% APR (3.99% – 8.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 3.49% APR to 8.24% APR (3.24% – 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.


6 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

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 Disclosures

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.

CitizensBank Disclosures

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).