Whether you take out government or private loans to finance your studies, you will be making a serious commitment by taking out loans. It may take years or even decades for you to pay back the debt you incur.
For this reason, UCD always recommends that students educate themselves about their various options and choose strategies that minimise the amount of money you will need to repay.
Ideally, loans should be seen as a ‘little bit extra’ to support you during your studies, and should not be relied on in their entirety to cover all your living costs and tuition fees.
Loan tips for North American students
Consider your options
While loans may be an easily accessible way of supporting your studies, make sure you look at other ways to supplement your income. If you are on a study visa or Stamp 2, you may be eligible to work part-time, up to 20 hours per week (look at the conditions on your immigration documentation). Use savings you may have. There are also a number of scholarships available for students at UCD, research and apply for any you may be eligible for.
Do your research
This may mean doing a little extra reading, but both Canadian Student Loans and U.S. Financial Student Aid have comprehensive online resources which explain their loans carefully. Both governments have made their loan information easy to find on Google. If you are a Canadian student, refer to your province’s Student Loans website. If you are a U.S. student, www.studentloans.gov contains extensive resources.
Always make sure you know how much you owe. If you have taken out U.S. Financial Aid, you can check your current and past loans at https://nslds.ed.gov/nslds/nslds_SA/
Avoid maximum allowances
As far as possible, avoid taking out the maximum allowance for loans for your academic year. You can decrease your loan request up until your last loan disbursement has been originated. If you are taking out U.S. Financial Aid, email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a Loan Decrease Form.
Look for favourable interest rates
As a rough rule, private loans have worse interest rates than public loans, which means you will spend more money to pay them back. If you are taking out U.S. Financial Aid, you should prioritise your loans as follows: (1) Subsidised loans; (2) Unsubsidised loans; (3) Parent or Graduate PLUS loans; (4) Private loans. Depending on each student’s circumstances, they can take out any combination of these loans. However, UCD advises that students try to take out all loans in categories 1 and 2.