3 Ways to Make Your Own Student Loan Luck

Not sure how to fund your MBA? Listen to this podcast for pointers.

Luck can’t pay off student loans, but YOU can!

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.”  – Benjamin Franklin

If you’re one of the 37 million Americans with student loans, you know it’s going to take a lot more than a few four-leaf clovers to make your debt disappear. You wouldn’t rely on winning the lottery in order to pay your loans, would you?  Unfortunately, neglecting to understand the various loan repayment options can be just as foolish, because you may be missing out on opportunities to reduce or even eliminate your debt burden. Essentially, leaving your loans to chance could mean leaving money on the table.

Rather than wait around for good fortune to find you, take a proactive approach by seeing if one of these three options apply to you:

1.  Spend money to save money
. All education loans, whether federal or private, allow for penalty-free prepayment, which means that you can pay more than the monthly minimum or make extra payments without incurring a fee. Prepaying may sound painful, but the benefits can be huge. The more you do it, the sooner you’re done with your loans – and the less interest you spend over the life of the loan.

Let’s say you have a $100,000 student loan balance at a 6.8% interest rate and 10-year term. If you increased your monthly payment by just $100, you’d save about $5,600 in total interest and pay off your loans about a year early. Or perhaps you pay down an extra $2,000 per year using your annual bonus, saving yourself about $7,400 in interest and paying off your loans about 1.5 years early. Every borrower’s situation is different, but you can do the math on your own loans with a calculator like this.

One thing to note – prepaying is most effective when the extra cash is applied directly to your principal, rather than being earmarked for future payments.  It’s best to check with your loan servicer to see what their policy is before increasing or adding extra payments.

How to get lucky: Commit to increasing your monthly student loan payment each time you get a raise and/or putting a percentage of every bonus toward your loan balance.

2.  Recalibrate your rate
. One of the fastest ways to slash your student loan burden is to lower the interest rate on your loans, which can only be accomplished through the act of refinancing. In addition to reducing the amount of interest you pay on your loan over time, refinancing can allow you to make lower monthly payments or shorten your payment term (so that you can be done with your loans sooner).

Student loan refinancing is still a relatively new option, so many borrowers who could be eligible to refinance aren’t even aware the opportunity exists. Which is unfortunate, because the savings can be significant.  For example, the average SoFi borrower saves $9,400 when they refinance with us.*  In addition, some private lenders offer additional benefits to borrowers when they refinance, such as complimentary career coaching and entrepreneurial support.

How to get lucky: When shopping around for a refinance lender, be sure to compare interest rates as well as other potential benefits.

3.  Ask for forgiveness. What borrower hasn’t fantasized about winning the lottery and paying off their loans in one fell swoop?  Unfortunately, you’re more likely to get hit by an asteroid than win a seven figure jackpot. So what’s the next best thing? How about making your student loan balance magically disappear.

It sounds too good to be true, but this is the basic idea behind student loan forgiveness. Surprisingly, there are quite a few ways to get your loan slate wiped clean, but the most well-known one (and the one that applies to the most people) is the government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. Under the program, borrowers who work full-time for a qualifying public service organization may be eligible to have federal loans forgiven after 10 years of on-time monthly payments.

Before you skim over this section and assume that PSLF won’t apply to you, consider this: The CFPB estimates that about one in four working Americans has a job that meets the definition of “public service”, and yet they believe a “substantial sum” is left on the table by borrowers who don’t take advantage. This may be because the definition is broader than what most people would expect – for example, soldiers, doctors at non-profit hospitals and public defenders are all examples of professions that may qualify a borrower for PSLF.

How to get lucky: Find out if you qualify for PSLF or other forgiveness programs by contacting your student loan servicer.  

*SoFi average borrower savings assumes 10-year student loan refinancing with a weighted average rate of 7.67% and a loan balance of $86,000, compared to SoFi’s median 10-year rates of 5.875% (with AutoPay).

This post is by Anna Wolf and originally appeared on the SoFi Blog. SoFi connects alumni borrowers and investors to refinance private and federal student loans.

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• SoFi: Alumni Funded Student Loans
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The AAMC Fee Assistance Program: How & Who Should Apply

Click here for more tips and advice for medical school!

Application fees shouldn’t prevent aspiring doctors from pursuing their dreams.

Applying to med school isn’t cheap (see our breakdown of costs here), and the AAMC understands that not all applicants will be able to cover these costs.

AAMC’s Fee Assistance Program was created with the conviction that application fees shouldn’t prevent serious aspiring doctors from pursuing their dreams because of financial obstacles.

Let’s take a look at some of the program details…

Subscribing to the Fee Assistance Program

To apply for financial assistance, applicants must fill out the Fee Assistance Program application BEFORE they register for the MCAT, submit the AMCAS application, and subscribe to Pivio.

Note: The award from this program MAY NOT be used retroactively. If applicants already paid for certain application components, they will not be reimbursed.

You can use the application guide to help you with your Fee Assistance Program application.

You will receive an answer from AAMC within 15 business days after submitting your application.

Fee Assistance Program Eligibility

To be eligible for assistance from the AAMC, you must:

• Be a United States citizen, U.S. National, a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the U.S (“Green Card” holder), or have been granted refugee/asylum or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status by the U.S. government.

• Have a reported household income 300% or less than the 2014 national poverty level for the equivalent family size.

• Submit parental financial information and supporting tax documentation.

• Not have already been awarded fee assistance five times (the lifetime maximum).

 Note: Awards expire December 31st of the calendar year after you were granted assistance (for example, if your application is approved January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015, then your fee assistance will expire on December 31, 2016). If you reapply for benefits the following year, your current award will expire as soon as you’re new award is granted.

2015 Fee Assistance Program Benefits

MCAT benefits you will receive include:

• Reduced registration fees from $300 to $115 in MCAT testing year 2015 (for exams taken through December 31, 2016).

• Copies of The Official Guide to the MCAT® (MCAT2015) Exam and other official MCAT practice products ($125 value).

• Up to $500 towards the psycho-educational or medical evaluation (sometimes required for your MCAT accommodations application).

Medical school admission benefits include:

• Free access to the Medical School Admission Requirements website through December 31, 2016.

• Waiver of AMCAS application fees (for one application with up to 15 med schools). Must be submitted by December 31, 2016.

Pivio benefits include:

• $25 yearly subscription to Pivio for up to two years ($100 value).

Download your free special report: Navigate the Med School Maze!

Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

• The New MCAT: What’s Hype, What’s Real and What You Can Do Today
• How Much Does Applying to Med School Cost?
How to Write the Statement of Disadvantage

Making International Student Loans a Prime Investment

Listen to the full recording of our conversation with Cameron Stevens.B-school students need funding, MBA alumni are looking to invest. Prodigy Finance brings the two together.

Listen to the full recording of our conversation with Cameron Stevens, founder and CEO of the company that provides loans to international students and a secure and meaningful investment opportunity for business school graduates.

00:01:30 – Cameron Stevens and the wonderful story of Prodigy Finance.

00:06:05 – An overview of how Prodigy Finance works for investors and student borrowers.

00:11:02 – The difference between Prodigy Finance and the bank.

00:17:52 – Who is eligible for these student loans?

00:21:03 – How the loan application process works. (And the story of Linda’s embarrassing first version of Accepted.com.)

00:26:46 – Where the funding comes from.

00:30:26 – Cameron’s INSEAD experience and the value of an MBA in launching and running a business.

00:42:34 – On the roadmap: job search help.

00:44:16 – Fit and goals: two tips for b-school applicants.

Listen to the full conversation to learn more!*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.

Related Links:

Prodigy Finance
INSEAD 2014-2015 MBA Essay Tips
• INSEAD B-School Zone

Related Shows:

• An Inside Look at INSEAD
• SoFi: Alumni Funded Student Loans
• CommonBond’s Story: A Revolution in Student Loans
• Financial Aid & Health Insurance for International Students

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Learn How to Choose the Best MBA Program for You!

Lining up Letters of Recommendation and Searching for Fellowships

Click here to download your complete copy of Get Your Game On!

Be organized about your LORs and funding research!

“Lining up Letters of Recommendation and Searching for Fellowships” is excerpted from the Accepted.com special report, Get Your Game On: Prepping for Your Grad School Application. To download the entire free special report, click here

These are also steps that you can start working on well ahead of next winter’s application deadlines.

If you’re still in college, asking professors now to be your recommenders will be straightforward; the benefit of doing this early is that the professors who work in your field will be able to give you advice about programs to consider, and might be able to introduce you to their colleagues who are doing research in your area of interest. If you’re out of school, try to make contact with professors you had good relationships with. For doctoral programs, in particular, you’ll need the majority of your letters to be academic references (rather than professional).

You can start early by discussing grad school with your faculty mentor(s), and later on, giving them a portfolio of information to help them write the letter (a list of the schools you’re applying to, a draft of your SOP, etc.). If it’s been a while since you took their class, it can be helpful to supply a copy of a project you completed for them—but in any event, try to meet with them in person if possible, and give them sufficient time to write your letter (a month is good). Follow up with a gracious thank you note.

You can also start learning about graduate funding opportunities right away. Find out about what kind of funding packages are available at the schools you’re considering. Do they fund MA/MS students, or just PhDs? What percentage of students is offered funding each year? Is there funding for international students? Does the school offer advising to help students apply for national grant programs like the NSF? Will you be considered for Teaching Assistant positions automatically, or must you apply?

Research your funding options and stay organized!

Download our free report: GET YOUR GAME ON: Preparing for Your Grad School Application

Rebecca Blustein By , Accepted.com editor and former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Rebecca will be happy to assist you with your grad school applications.

Related Resources:

• The President Wrote My Letter of Recommendation!
• Timing & Funding for Grad School Applicants
• Financial Aid and Health Insurance for International Students

Medical School Funding

Learn how to navigate the med school maze! Click here to download your free guide!

It’s no secret that medical school is expensive!

It’s no secret that medical school is expensive! There are several types of funding to help you with the expense—for most people, loans are the primary source of support, but it’s also worth applying for grants and scholarships. If you demonstrate financial need, you can sometimes qualify for low-interest or no-interest loans from various sources, which can also be a help.

Here are some resources and advice for medical and pre-med students applying for scholarships and financial aid:

•  First, make sure you file your FAFSA every year, by your state’s deadline. (If you are not a US citizen or permanent resident, consult the financial aid office at your institution for the appropriate forms to demonstrate your financial need.)

• Carefully review the financial aid information for each school you’re interested in. The med school’s financial aid office website is an important resource. If you have questions, contact someone there, or ask a financial aid representative in person when you visit campus.

• Many medical schools offer scholarships. When you apply for admission, check to see whether your application will automatically be considered for any scholarships the school offers, or whether you need to submit any additional materials.

• Consult lists of scholarships, and search online. If you find awards that you are not eligible for yet, but will be in a year, bookmark them. Keep a file of funding opportunities.

• When looking for funding opportunities, think BROAD: you might find scholarships based on your hobbies, your community service, your religious involvement, minority status, work experience, etc. Some foundations fund scholarships for people with disabilities or illnesses, often covering the cost of equipment you may need for school. Local organizations often fund small scholarships for people from their hometowns. You get the idea– a little research can pay off!

Here are some helpful resources to guide you:

AAMC Grants & Awards

American Osteopathic Foundation Grants Awards

General Financial Aid Info for MD Programs

General Financial Aid Info for DO Programs

Medical Scholarships

DO Scholarships

Free searchable databases: scholarships.com; schoolsoup.com

Careful budgeting can also save you a lot. It can be very helpful to meet with a financial aid counselor at your school. Good luck!

Download your free special report: Navigate the Med School Maze!

Rebecca Blustein By , Accepted.com editor and former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Rebecca will be happy to assist you with your grad school applications.

Related Resources:

• How to Write the Statement of Disadvantage
• Financial Aid and Health Insurance for International Students
• Ask the Experts: Medical School Admissions Q&A [Transcript/Recording]