Making the Introduction to College Campuses

Header Image: Making the Introduction to College Campuses

Selecting colleges with the right fit from among all available options can be overwhelming as high school juniors and seniors start the college application process. Starting earlier, even as early as middle school, with no-commitment introductions to various types of college campuses can help your student understand what he or she finds most suitable.

Here are five ways to explore different types of college campuses:

  1. Surf the web. While very different from an in-person visit, exploring a college’s website can help students narrow down what they like and don’t like about different types of colleges. Does a small private college with specialized programs suit them, or would they prefer the variety and relative anonymity of a larger public university? Does the campus map or photos of buildings seem overwhelming or manageable? Does the campus have a park-like setting or is it spread out in an urban area? What kind of feelings does the architecture evoke?
  1. Take a leisurely walk. If you live or travel near a college or university, stop for a stroll through campus. You don’t need to set up a formal tour to get a feel for how students interact, how buildings are laid out and the modernity of dorm rooms and common spaces. Walk through the student union and a classroom building to get a peek behind the scenes. Stop in the campus bookstore to check out the selection of themed merchandise, and watch for fliers and posters advertising upcoming events.
  1. Join the crowd. Go to a game, cultural event or open house on campus to see a different side of college life. Are students involved in the activities your child enjoys? How active are alumni as fans, supporters and donors? Are these events appealing to the local community?
  1. Visit a friend or relative. If your student knows any current college students, see if a visit would work out. An afternoon at a local campus might be enough for your child to see how he or she might spend time on that campus and have a chance to talk with older students about what they like and don’t like. If you’re comfortable, an overnight stay with a trusted current student can be very enlightening for a younger student.
  1. Stay awhile. Many college campuses host overnight camps for athletic, academic and special interest programs during summer breaks. Going to camp will allow your child to stay in a dorm with other like-minded students, eat in dining centers, use the campus facilities and explore the surrounding community.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Planning for Student Loan Repayment

Header image: Planning for Student Loan Repayment

It can be tough to know where to start with student loan repayment. After you graduate from college, you typically have six months before repayment starts on your student loans. This is your grace period, the time for you to figure out your job and living situation before you are expected to start making payments.

Gather Your Loan Information
The important thing during this time is to get your budget in line and figure out how much your monthly payments are going to be. The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the US Department of Education’s central database for student aid and has the list of all your federal loans, how much you owe, your interest rate, who your loan servicer is, and their contact information. Visit https://www.nslds.ed.gov/nslds/nslds_SA/ to get started (you’ll need your FSA ID to gain access).

Private loans will not appear on the NSLDS website, so you’ll have to contact each lender individually for the loan information if you have any private loans.

Consider Consolidation
Once you have all your loan information gathered, the next decision is whether or not to consolidate. Consolidating your loans will take all your individual loans and payments and combine them into one balance and one payment.

Keep in mind that federal loans and private loans can only be consolidated together through some private loan options, and you will be forfeiting federal loan benefits to do so.

  • Private loans: Consolidation of private loans can be a good idea if you can get a lower interest rate than your current loans have individually. When you look into consolidation, inquire about the current loan rate. You can contact your loan servicer or visit their online account portal to determine your consolidation options and your repayment options.
  • Federal Loans: For federal loans, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/consolidation to see the benefits of consolidation. While you can’t lower your federal loan rate, you may find other reasons this is beneficial for you.

Entering Repayment
Once you start repayment, there of several types of options for federal loans:

  • Standard Repayment
  • Graduated Repayment
  • Extended Repayment
  • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment
  • Pay As Your Earn Repayment
  • Income-Based Repayment
  • Income-Contingent Repayment
  • Income-Sensitive Repayment

For all the details on these Federal Repayment Options, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans. For private loan repayment options, contact your loan provider.

Pick the plan that allows you to pay the debt down in the fastest amount of time with the least amount of interest. Some of the repayment options offer extended repayment terms up to 25 years and very low monthly payments. However, this just means you are incurring more interest and carrying the debt with you through most of your adult life. Other major financial decisions (such as purchasing a home) in your future can be impacted by your choice of student loan repayment plan.

You also want to focus on planning for retirement. After graduating from college retirement seems a lifetime away, however now is the best time to capitalize on that lifetime of savings. The more you can contribute to a 401(k) or Roth IRA now, the more time it has to grow.

The sooner you are out from under your student loan debt, the sooner you can start capitalizing on your financial freedom and bring your focus on your future goals.

Contributed by: Iowa College Access Network

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