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If you are going to need student loans to pay for college, borrow the smart way with this checklist. Read more about why these tips will reduce your college debt.

Borrow Wisely

  • Compare college costs. Before deciding on a college, use the Indiana College Costs Estimator to compare your net cost of attendance after your expected financial aid has been applied.
  • Borrow only what you need. Use a student budget calculator to estimate what you’ll need, and read about reducing your college debt to determine how you should (and shouldn’t) spend your student loan money.
  • Borrow federal loans first. File your FAFSA by March 10 (or by your college’s deadline) at FAFSA.gov to be considered for federal loans.
  • Make private loans a last resort. Apply for a private loan only if federal loans and other aid you receive are not enough to cover your college costs.
  • Avoid credit cards. Never use a credit card to make a tuition payment unless you can pay off the balance by your next credit card statement.
  • Don’t borrow more than you can afford to pay back. A general rule of thumb is to never borrow more than you can expect to make in your first year in your career field. Use a loan calculator to estimate your monthly repayment.

Repay Responsibly

  • Stay updated. Keep your lender informed of any changes in your name, address, email address, phone number, Social Security Number or school enrollment status.
  • Pay up. Make loan payments regularly even if you don’t receive a bill or repayment notice. Billing statements are sent to you as a convenience, but you have to make payments even if you don’t receive any reminders.
  • Don’t default. The consequences for failing to pay back your loan can be severe and long lasting. Your credit rating could be damaged, and you might not be able to buy a car or receive your federal income tax refund (which will be applied to your loan balance instead).
  • Ask for help. Repayment options are available to assist you if you’re having trouble making your loan payments. Your lender is more likely to be flexible if you are proactive about seeking help.
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