Student Loans: Know How to Borrow Smart

When you receive your financial aid offer from a college or university, it’s possible that one or more student loans will be included in the offer. You’ll want to borrow smart from the very start of your college experience to minimize your debt after graduation. Here are some things you need to know as you consider student loans:

  • Use ‘free money’ first. Take advantage of all the grants and scholarships you’re offered; they’re called ‘free money’ because you ordinarily don’t have to pay them back. Schedule a dedicated time each week to search for scholarships. You can begin your search at and
  • You don’t have to accept all of the student loans you’re offered. If you must borrow money, you have the right to accept only what you need to get you through one year of college after your grants and scholarships have paid. Review your finances each semester, and keep that commitment to borrow only what you need to cover school expenses.
  • Consider a parttime job. Working part-time while in college can significantly reduce the amount of debt you have when you graduate. Ask your financial aid office if you qualify for a need-based program called ‘work study.’ If there’s no work study available, consider finding a part-time job with manageable hours to help you meet your college expenses.
  • Do your research. Some experts recommend that your monthly loan payment should be no more than 8-10% of the monthly income you expect to earn during the first year after graduation. Visit Oklahoma Employment & Wage Network to estimate your entry-level income after college. To estimate your loan payments, try the Loan Calculator found at
  • Subsidized student loans are less expensive. Interest won’t be added to a subsidized federal student loan until after you graduate, withdraw or drop your class load to less than half-time status.
  • Make interest payments. Students who borrow federal unsubsidized loans are responsible for all interest as soon as their institutions receive the first disbursement. If possible, keep the interest paid down, while you’re in school and during your grace period. To see an example of how this can significantly reduce the amount you have to repay, click here.
  • Keep in touch with your loan servicer(s). Always make sure you let them know your current address, and contact them if you’re having trouble making your payments. You can find contact information for your lenders/servicers by logging in with your FSA ID at
  • Stay informed. Find more information and FAQs at Be sure to check out the Borrow Smart from the Start brochure at