Smart “Cents” Before Accepting a School Loan: 7 Questions to Ask Yourself

Taking out a school loan may seem like a smart idea, however, there are many things to think about that people often realize too late. There are 7 pretty big questions to ask yourself if you want to take out or accept a school loan, to ensure that you won’t regret the decision in the future.

1. Will the degree you're getting allow you to get a job as soon as possible?

If you are taking out a loan to get a degree, how soon will that degree begin paying you?
Can you use career services or job posting services to potentially ensure that you have leads well before graduation? This way it will be easy to begin paying on loans before interest accumulates and loans become unmanageable. You should always think long-term about your career goals and the cost and benefits of getting said degree. Taking out six-figure loans only to find there is not much of a job market for you is not the path you want to take. See what that is out there interests you and what you can apply your degree too in the workplace.

2. Will you find a job that pays in proportion to your loan?

If you are taking out a loan for 75k to get your degree but the average salary for your job is only 40k, how long will it take you to pay the loan back after figuring out daily and monthly expenses of your life? Is it worth taking the loan when repayment may take longer than a certain amount of time? It is hard to say with the cost of degrees and entry level salaries, but it is something to take note of. Entry level jobs, frankly, might not pay enough in relation to your student loan debt. Instead think about taking less of a loan and working a campus job while in school, that way you can pay it off with the post grad salary.

3. Do you have a repayment plan in mind?

Have you explored which repayment plan is the best for you? Do you feel like you would be able to successfully stick with the repayment plan? Suppose you encounter unforeseen circumstances. What would happen with your repayment plan or finances? With your student loans you can create a plan to either refinance for a lower interest rate and chose a payment plan that fits your lifestyle and your income. If you are low income or want to choose a pay as you earn method your payments can start off small and increase as your salary increases. But beware, by the end you could be making hefty payments that are three times what they were in the beginning.

4. Do you have any other lines of credit open?

How much credit do you have open/ maintaining a good credit score is important for larger steps you may want to take later in life. If you are already struggling with your credit or have a lot of lines of credit open, try talking with credit repair services first. If not, make sure that you monitor your credit to remain in good standing. You don’t want to add to your debt and not be able to keep up with payments. This can majorly damage your credit score and it is hard to come back from that.

5. What else might you want to do that costs a lot of money?

Are there other steps that you would want to take at the time of repaying a loan, such as buying a house, buying a car, or any other major expense? Would you be able to manage your money well enough to pay back a loan as well as any other major expenses and live well day–to-day? Any major purchases or bills that are coming up, whether they are planned or not, is something to consider. Taking out a loan, even if it is for your education, is a big financial decision that has a ripple effect. If there are any upcoming major expenses you need to plan for that is something to consider before taking on student debt obligations.

6. Are there better alternatives than taking the loan?

Have you fully examined the loan and the interest rates? Can you obtain a grant? Would you be able to secure a loan at a cheaper rate or with a better repayment plan? Are you able to find the same program at a different school? Did you apply for scholarships? What other alternatives can you possibly exhaust before taking the loan? Getting a student loan is not your only option. Whatever you have heard or seen when it comes to paying for higher education, it I wrong. Going into debt is not necessary if you play it smart. Take your time and look into financial aid, start at a community college or work your way through it. There are other options besides taking on student debt that can still get you your degree.

7. What other areas will you cut to save money?

Are you willing to cut down on certain areas or cut out certain things altogether? Can you find cheaper food alternatives? Such as food subscriptions rather than eating out? Can you cook at home and eat out only once in a while? Can you stop eating out altogether? Are you willing to work more, and have less fun? Can you find deals for all of the fun activities that you would like to do? Can you do self-care from home? Perhaps invest in deals for services or a subscription box? Can you pick one area to pamper? What sacrifices, if any, will you make to be able to ensure that you can manage your financial obligations? If you are taking on student debt than your spending habits and lifestyle might have to change. Spending unnecessary amounts of money on outings, splurges and shopping is no longer an option when you have to think about your financial future. Just remember, it is not for forever. Once you save up and begin paying down your debt, you won’t have to be as frugal.