When you get your financial aid award notice, isn’t it tempting to “accept” the entire amount of your loan? For just a moment, you can imagine all the things you could do with the extra loan money. You could buy a new laptop. Work fewer hours. Fix your car.

But wait—someday you will have to pay that money back.

Are you really ready to do that? More than a few past students are now wishing they had not borrowed so much!

Before you decide to accept the entire amount of that student loan, consider the following advice from our Assistant Director of Financial Aid-Service, Natascha Ambrose.

Borrow only what you really need now.

  • Make a very careful budget of what you really need to live.
  • Use budgeting worksheets and other resources at www.educationcents.org.

Plan your loan borrowing for your academic career.

  • This is especially important if you plan to get your bachelor’s degree. Did you know there is a cap of how much you can borrow as an undergraduate student?
  • You can check the total amount you have borrowed at www.nslds.ed.gov.

Understand how much you will owe and what your payments will be.

  • Your student loan payments should not exceed 8% of your gross income.
  • Figure out if the starting salary for your potential career is realistic for a student loan payment.
  • Know your options for repayment. There are several different kinds of extended repayment plans and some flexibility with some lenders. But remember, student loan debt never goes away—even if you declare bankruptcy.

Ask questions and utilize resources.

Even though community colleges continue to be one of the most affordable options for post-secondary education, paying for a community college education still requires financial discipline. Federal and state financial aid can help bridge the gap, but if you choose to borrow money in the form of student loans, make sure you are careful about what you borrow.

What tips do you have for students who need to borrow money to pay for college?

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