Whether you’re in college, graduate school, trade school or community college, higher education is a big expense. I know from experience. With 70 percent of American students taking out loans to go to college, student loan debt stands at $1.7 trillion. That’s more than credit card and auto loan debt combined!
As assistant vice president for Navy Federal’s education lending team, I know that pursuing higher education looks a lot different now than many families and servicemembers imagined it would.
My advice? Take time to map out a financial plan for reaching your education goals. Consider student loans as a useful tool to put higher education within reach, while also helping you build credit.
But don’t just take it from me. Navy Federal member Ashley recently shared a few key things that helped make getting and repaying her student loan stress-free.
Seek Out Advice
When Ashley started looking into student loans to help pay for graduate school, she asked for advice from family members and friends who had gone through the financial aid process in the past. They gave her tips on tackling the application, as well as guidance on the best interest rates and options for each kind of loan.
“If you’re unfamiliar with the loan process, it can be a little daunting getting started,” she said. “The one lesson I learned is to ask questions. Ask a [service] representative or your friends and family to make sure it's the right decision for you.”
Research and Do Your Homework
Beyond advice from friends and family, reading personal finance blogs and articles gave Ashley the confidence she needed to make an informed decision.
“Sit down and really do your homework,” she said. “Weigh all your options carefully and critically. If you don't understand something, research it.”
To Ashley’s point, getting into the right student loan that fits your budget is the key to success for repayment, too. Some lenders may offer you the option to pay extra or early to lower loan costs without penalty, as well as an interest rate discount for automatic payments.
Choose a Reputable Lender
With all that information top of mind, Ashley sought out an honest and transparent lender that would be straightforward and timely with communication.
“Working a full-time job and attending graduate school isn’t easy,” Ashley said. So, she especially valued support that was tailored to her needs.
Overall, she recommends starting the process early and gathering all the required documentation beforehand so your application can be processed quickly and you can get back to focusing on school.
Bottom Line: The student loan process can seem intimidating, especially at the start. We’re here to help you feel confident through it all.
Check out our student loan page or talk with one of our student loan experts at 1-877-304-9302 (M-F, 8 am – 8 pm, ET) to learn more about how we can help with funding your education.
Carrie Foran Sepulveda is Assistant Vice President of Education Lending at Navy Federal Credit Union.