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How To Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

Disappointed by your financial aid package? Sometimes students don’t get as much aid as they hoped for. Occasionally, they’re denied any aid at all. Before you give up on going to your dream school, know that the decision isn’t necessarily final.

A financial aid appeal letter allows you to plead your case and share any new information. However, it’s essential to know how to write a letter compelling enough to change minds.

Here we’ll offer proven tips for building a persuasive argument, and a sample financial aid appeal letter template to get you started.

When To Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

At what point in time after you receive your financial aid offer should you send an appeal letter? As soon as possible. That’s because some financial aid is handed out on a first come, first served basis. The sooner you appeal the decision, generally the more funds there will be to draw on.


💡 Quick Tip: You can fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

Why Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

There are two main reasons why students appeal their financial aid offer: not getting the amount of aid they need and getting denied outright.

The Financial Aid Offer Fell Short

A student’s financial aid offer is based on the school’s certified cost of attendance (COA) and the student’s Student Aid Index, or SAI (formerly called Expected Family Contribution, or EFC). The latter is calculated based on information provided in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

But a lot can happen between when you file your FAFSA and when you receive your student aid offer letter. Your circumstances may have changed. Some common life changes that can affect your financial aid calculation include:

•   Parent’s job loss or switch to a lower-paying position

•   Medical emergency or other financial commitment that ate up the cash your family had set aside to help you

•   Parents’ divorce

•   New member joined the family, through birth, adoption, or guardianship

•   Death of a parent

Recommended: Independent vs Dependent Student: Which One Are You?

Not Meeting Eligibility Requirements

In order to qualify for federal financial aid, students need to meet a handful of eligibility requirements. The criteria include being enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an eligible degree program, and maintaining “satisfactory academic progress,” including a 2.0 GPA. The full list of eligibility requirements is available on the Federal Student Aid website at StudentAid.gov.

If you don’t meet one of the requirements before the financial aid office makes its decision or you lose eligibility after receiving an offer, you may not get the help you need.

Recommended: What Are the FAFSA Income Limits for Eligibility?

What To Say in a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

Before you begin writing your letter, you’ll want to verify if your school has an official appeals application or form. In addition, you can check your school’s financial aid office for details on the financial aid appeal process. Some schools offer appeal forms online or have walk-in hours to address appeal questions.

If your school doesn’t offer a form, here’s a look at some specific things you may want to include in your appeals letter.

Address a Specific Person

It’s a good idea to avoid generic greetings like “To Whom It May Concern.” Instead, you’ll want to identify a specific individual at the financial aid office. If you are unsure whom to address, reach out to the financial aid office to ask.

Highlight Examples

Your case will likely be more compelling if you can provide details about your situation and why you are unable to pay for college. Consider writing a bulleted list so you can provide straightforward facts about your family’s financial situation. A bulleted list will also make it easier to connect details with support documentation.

Provide Documentation

If you have any relevant documents that can help support your case, you will want to include them with the letter. For example, a death certificate, doctor’s note, or unemployment benefits letter can give the financial aid office the evidence that it needs.

State a Dollar Amount

If you’re asking for a specific amount, consider including a budget breakdown of how you’d spend that money, including tuition, room and board, supplies, books, and transportation costs. (SoFi’s Ca$h Course: A Student’s Guide to Money may help with this.)

Recommended: Ca$h Course: A Student’s Guide to Money

Add a “Thank You”

You may want to end your letter by thanking the person you’re sending it to. You may also want to express your excitement about attending this school.

Sample Financial Aid Appeal Letter

Date
Person’s name (if available)
OR
Financial Aid Appeal Committee
Name of School
Office of Financial Aid

Dear Name Here,

I am writing to appeal the financial aid offer I received. My proposed package included $00,000 in scholarships and grants, and $00,000 in federal student loans, for a total award of $00,000. However, the amount I will need to cover my cost of attendance this year and living expenses this year is $00,000. I am requesting an increase in student loans or gift aid to cover the remaining $00,000.

Since completing and submitting the FAFSA, my family has experienced a change in circumstances. My father was laid off from his job in February and is still looking for work. He provided the primary income for our household, so our family’s total income has dropped from $00,000 to $00,000 per year.

My family and I would be grateful if you would approve an increased aid amount of $00,000 to help me afford the cost of school this year. I’m thrilled to have been accepted at my school of choice and am eagerly looking forward to starting in the fall.

I appreciate your taking the time to consider my appeal. Thank you very much.

Sincerely,
Your name

3 Tips for Writing a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

A good financial aid appeal letter can potentially shift your financial aid office’s decision in your favor. Here are some things to keep in mind while you’re writing it.

1. Be Polite

Not getting the financial aid you feel you need can be a frustrating experience. When it comes time to direct your request to someone specific, look for a contact in your school’s financial aid office and address the letter to them directly. If you’ve received some aid, you could thank them for the amount and perhaps explain how much you appreciate them considering your appeal.

It can be difficult to leave emotion out of the equation, but a respectful tone can have a positive influence.

2. Keep It Concise

Be clear with your request and how much aid you need. Then give a straightforward explanation of why it’s needed. If you were denied aid for an issue with eligibility, you might want to explain the reason why it happened. For example, maybe your grades dipped because you were diagnosed with a severe illness, lost an immediate family member, or became homeless.

Try to keep your letter to one page. This is not the time for a manifesto. The financial aid office will likely be reviewing multiple letters, and brief messages can be surprisingly powerful.

3. Proofread the Letter

After writing and thoroughly proofreading the letter yourself, consider having a trusted friend or family member give the letter another read. It’s not always easy to catch errors on your own, and the easier your letter is to read, the better the impression you’ll make.

What To Do If Your Appeal Is Unsuccessful

If your appeal is denied, you may still have other options for covering college costs.

For example, you may be able to qualify for scholarships through your school or a private organization. Check your school’s website for opportunities, as well as websites like Scholarships.com, Fastweb, and the College Board. SoFi also offers a helpful Scholarship Search Tool.

Even if you were denied a federal Direct Subsidized Student Loan, you may have the option of taking out a Direct Unsubsidized Student Loan, which is not need-based. Or, if your parents are willing to help, they can apply for a Parent PLUS Loan through the Department of Education. These loans are also not need-based, and the maximum amount they can borrow is your school’s cost of attendance minus any financial aid you’ve already received.

Finally, you may also be able to apply for a private student loan. These loans are available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Loan amounts vary by lender but you can often borrow up to the full cost of attendance. These loans require a credit check, so if you’re still relatively new to credit, you may need a parent to cosign the loan. As you consider these options, take the time to research their costs and terms to make sure you get the best deal for you. You‘ll want to exhaust all federal aid options first before applying for a private student loan.


💡 Quick Tip: Parents and sponsors with strong credit and income may find much lower rates on no-fee private parent student loans than federal parent PLUS loans. Federal PLUS loans also come with an origination fee.

The Takeaway

Writing a financial aid appeal letter can help students qualify for additional financial aid. Appealing an aid offer won’t always result in an increased award, but writing an effective letter can potentially improve a student’s chances of getting more aid. A few suggestions to strengthen your letter include being concise, providing supporting documentation, being specific in how you’ll use the funds, and keeping the letter polite in tone.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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Understanding Capitalized Interest on Student Loans

Borrowing money to pay for school comes at a cost, in the form of interest. In certain situations, interest that has accrued may be “capitalized” on the loan. This means that the accrued interest is added to the principal, or the initial amount borrowed. This new value is then used to calculate the amount of interest owed each day, called student loan capitalized interest.

Interest capitalization can dramatically increase how much a borrower owes over time. Students who have subsidized federal student loans don’t have to worry about interest accruing while they are in school or during their grace period. For other types of federal student loans, including unsubsidized loans and PLUS loans, borrowers are responsible for paying the accrued interest.

Read on for more information about capitalized interest and student loans plus ways that can help reduce the impact of capitalized interest.

What Is Capitalized Interest On A Student Loan?

The simple answer to “What is capitalized interest?” is this: When accrued interest is unpaid, it is sometimes added to the principal value of the loan. This new loan principal becomes the value that is used to calculate the interest. Because the borrower is now paying interest on top of this new, higher loan balance, future payments will also be higher.

How Does Interest Capitalization Work on Student Loans?

Capitalized interest can happen on student loans in several scenarios. First, it may happen after a borrower graduates from school or after a grace period, and unpaid interest is added to the balance of the loan. Second, it could happen after periods of student loan deferment on direct loans and the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans managed by the U.S. Department of Education. Private student loans that are in forbearance may also be subject to capitalized interest.

Even though payments are not due during these periods, interest is often calculated and added to the balance of the loan once that period is over. This is the process of capitalization, which will likely increase the student loan balance.

Borrowers utilizing income-driven repayment plans may want to pay attention to capitalized interest as well. In these situations, unpaid interest may be capitalized on the loan:

•   If an individual voluntarily leaves an Income-Driven Repayment plan, does not recertify their income and family size annually, or does not have a partial financial hardship

•   If a deferment period ends

•   If a borrower consolidates their loans

In general, unpaid interest is added to the principal of a loan under an IDR plan under the following circumstances:

•   During times of forbearance or deferment

•   While the borrower is enrolled in school and has an unsubsidized loan

•   The borrower has a grace period.

Can You Avoid Student Loan Interest Capitalization?

There are a few ways that borrowers can try to minimize capitalized interest. Once interest is capitalized, there is little a borrower can do about it, so the trick is to avoid scenarios where interest is capitalized in the first place.

How Much Does Capitalized Interest Cost?

The actual cost of capitalized interest varies according to the amount of the principal and interest rate. For instance, if a borrower has $25,000 in student loans with an interest rate of 5%, the capitalized interest could be $3,083. This brings the total amount owed to $23,083.

Note: The monthly payment might be $117 under the SAVE plan, one of the repayment plans offered for federal student loans. The monthly payment can increase if the borrower decides to put the loans in deferment because during these times of non-payment, interest is capitalized.

When Does Interest Accrue?

Interest on federal student loans begins to accrue the day the loans are disbursed, and interest accrues daily through the life of the loan. This is likely the case for many private student loans, but be sure to confirm the terms with the lender before borrowing. Regardless of whether the student loan is federal or private, the promissory note generally includes all pertinent information on the loan.

Depending on the type of loan(s) a borrower has — subsidized or unsubsidized — they may or may not be responsible for paying for the interest charges accrued while they are enrolled in school and during periods of deferment or forbearance.

Immediately after graduation, most federal loans offer a six-month grace period where borrowers aren’t required to make loan payments. The grace period exists so recent graduates have time to find work. Not all loans have grace periods and even if they do, interest may still accrue during the grace period, but a borrower may not be responsible for paying it during this time.

Understanding Interest During Deferment or Forbearance

Students may be able to temporarily halt their student loan payments with programs such as deferment or forbearance due to economic hardship or job loss, but interest may accrue during these periods.

Borrowers with subsidized loans won’t have to pay interest accrued during periods of deferment because the government covers those interest charges. However, the government pays no interest charges on unsubsidized loans during deferment and does not make interest payments on any loan types during periods of forbearance.

It’s important to understand whether or not the interest will be capitalized on the loan before filing for deferment. This can help borrowers prepare for what lies ahead.


💡 Quick Tip: When refinancing a student loan, you may shorten or extend the loan term. Shortening your loan term may result in higher monthly payments but significantly less total interest paid. A longer loan term typically results in lower monthly payments but more total interest paid.

Ways to Minimize Capitalized Interest

Making Interest-Only Payments

Consider making interest-only payments while in school, during the loan’s grace period, or during periods of deferment or forbearance. If that isn’t in the cards, try to minimize the amount borrowed.

Applying for Scholarships and Grants

Continue to look for scholarships and grant money while enrolled in school and after receiving your financial aid award. Scholarships and grants are free in the sense that they are not required to be repaid.

Think Carefully Before Taking a Deferment

Graduates should be judicious about taking a deferment whether this period is immediately following school or arises after a borrower loses their job. While you shouldn’t feel bad about utilizing these programs when needed, it can be a wiser decision to do so only if it’s totally necessary.

If a borrower puts their loans in deferment, they can try making interest-only payments. Even if they’re not able to tackle the principal at this time, making interest payments makes it possible to minimize the amount of interest that may ultimately be capitalized on the loan.


💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? With SoFi’s no-fee loans, you could save thousands.

Repay your way. Find the monthly
payment & rate that fits your budget.


The Takeaway

When the accrued interest on federal student loans is unpaid, it may be added to the principal value of the loan under certain circumstances. This becomes the new principal value of the loan and is used to calculate the interest as it accrues moving forward. This is capitalized interest, which only applies…

•   When a borrower withdraws from an IDR plan.

•   When a borrower does not update their income and family size, or doesn’t have a financial hardship.

•   After deferment or consolidation of student loans.

In the long term, capitalized interest can make the cost of borrowing more expensive.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Getting Financial Aid When Your Parents Make Too Much

If your parents are high earners, you might assume you won’t get any financial aid to help pay for college. But that’s not necessarily the case. The Department of Education doesn’t have an official income cutoff to qualify for federal financial aid. So, even if you think your parents’ income is too high, it’s still worth applying (it’s also free to do so).

Read on to learn how to get financial aid for college when you think your parents make too much money, as well as how to pay for college costs if you don’t qualify for financial aid.

It All Starts With the FAFSA®

The first step to knowing whether or not you qualify for any financial aid is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even if you think your parents make too much to qualify for financial aid, it’s a smart idea to fill out and submit this form.

For one reason, there’s no income cutoff for federal student aid, so you may be surprised by what you are able to qualify for. For another, the FAFSA gives you access to non-need-based aid, such as Direct Unsubsidized Loans and institutional merit aid.


💡 Quick Tip: You’ll make no payments on some private student loans for six months after graduation.

Who Determines Aid Amount and Type?

The financial aid office at your chosen college or career school will determine how much financial aid you are eligible to receive. Here’s a look at what goes into the decision.

1. The first factor considered is the cost of attendance (COA), or what it costs a typical student to attend a particular college or university for one academic year. Cost of attendance includes tuition and fees, as well as books, lodging, food, transportation, loan fees, and eligible study-abroad programs.

2. Then the school considers your Student Aid Index, or SAI (formerly called Expected Family Contribution, or EFC). Your SAI is an eligibility index number that results from the information that you provide in your FAFSA.

3.   To determine how much need-based aid you can get, the school will subtract your SAI from the COA. Need-based aid includes Pell Grants, Direct Subsidized Loans, and federal work-study.

4. To determine how much non-need-based aid you qualify for, the school takes the COA and subtracts any financial aid you’ve already been awarded. Federal non-need-based aid includes Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and TEACH Grants.

One big difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans is when interest accrual starts. Because subsidized loans are need-based, the government covers any interest that accrues until loan repayment starts (typically six months after graduation). With unsubsidized loans, the interest starts to accrue from day one (though you don’t need to start making loan payments until six months after graduation).

You can estimate your eligibility for federal student aid by using either the Federal Student Aid Estimator or your school’s net price calculator (which you can find using the Department of Education’s search tool).

What Are Rules on Dependency, Divorce?

A student’s dependency status can make a big difference on their SAI. Not living with parents or being claimed on their taxes, however, does make you an independent student. To be considered independent for federal financial aid, a student must be at least 24 years of age, married, on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, financially supporting dependent children, an orphan (both parents deceased), a ward of the court, or an emancipated minor.

The rules regarding financial aid and divorce are changing for the 2024 – 2025 school year. The new FAFSA rules require the parent who provided the most financial support in the “prior-prior” tax year to complete the FAFSA application instead of the custodial parent. Prior-prior refers to the tax year two years ago from the beginning of the college semester. For the 2024 – 2025 award year, FAFSA would be looking at the 2022 tax year for this determination.

Other Routes to Meeting All Needs

The government isn’t the only path to money for school. Here are several other options you may want to consider.

Scholarships

The best thing about scholarships? You don’t need to pay them back. The second best thing is that they’re most often based on merit, not need.

So even if your parents make a good living, you may still be eligible. While many are awarded solely on academics, others are given for athletic talent, specific interests, or being a member of a specific group.

There are numerous college scholarships out there, offered by schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and professional and social organizations. To suss out scholarship opportunities you might be eligible for, talk to your high school guidance counselor, your college’s financial aid office, and/or check out one of the many online scholarships search tools.

An Appeal of Your SAI

If your financial aid offer is less than you need to be able to afford college, you are within your rights to appeal to the school’s financial aid director.

You might want to be prepared to back up your request with detailed information such as your SAI, the amount you’ll need to successfully attend school, or a change in circumstances that will affect your family’s actual ability to pay, such as a parent’s job loss.

Recommended: How To Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

Parent Loans

Parents can apply for a Parent Plus Loan through the Department of Education. These loans are available to parents regardless of income, provided they do not have an adverse credit history. For loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2023, and before July 1, 2024, the interest rate is 8.05%. This is a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan. There is also an origination fee of 4.228%, which is deducted from each loan disbursement.

Some private lenders also offer parent student loans. You can apply for a private parent student loan directly with the lender. Before signing up for a private parent loan, it’s a good idea to shop around to find the lowest student loan interest rate you qualify for. Some lenders have a pre-qualification process that allows you to see a personalized rate before the lender does a hard credit pull.

Both federal and private parent loans can be used to cover any gaps left over after scholarships, grants, and other financial aid have been applied, up to the full cost of attendance.


💡 Quick Tip: Parents and sponsors with strong credit and income may find much lower rates on no-fee private parent student loans than federal parent PLUS loans. Federal PLUS loans also come with an origination fee.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are also available to students to help them cover the costs of higher education, and they could be a good Plan B if there’s a gap between the aid you received (including federal student loans) and the cost of attendance.

Private student loans don’t have federal benefits like income-driven repayment plans and forgiveness programs, and interest rates are typically higher than undergraduate federal student loans. However, unlike federal student loans, you can apply for them at any time of the year. Plus, you can typically borrow up the full cost of attendance, which gives you more borrowing power than you get with federal student loans.

Private student loans can have either a fixed or variable interest rate; rates are determined by the lender. Qualifying for a private student loan is based on the borrower’s creditworthiness rather than need.

The Takeaway

What happens if your parents make too much money to qualify for financial aid? You may have to shift course a little bit, but there are other ways to get help paying for all of the expenses of college, including merit-based scholarships, non-need-based federal student loans, and private student loans.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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Should You Pay Off Your Student Loans Before You Buy a House?

If you have student debt and want to one day buy a home, you may wonder what to focus on first — paying off student loans or buying a house? If you wait until your student loans are paid off to buy a home, you may be renting for a very long time. If, on the other hand, you buy a house before you pay off your student loans, you may be stretching your finances too thin. Which goal should you focus on first?

There’s no one right answer for everyone. Whether you should pay off your student loans or buy a house first will depend on your priorities, time frame, and financial situation. Ideally, you want to work towards both goals at the same time, making progress on your debt while also saving up for a down payment on a home.

Here are some things to consider when deciding whether it’s better to pay off student loans or buy a house.

Reasons to Pay off Your Student Loans Before Buying a House

Depending on your financial situation, it may make sense to pay off your student loans before you buy a house. Here’s a look at some reasons why you might want to prioritize student loan repayment over saving for a down payment.

The Longer You Wait to Pay off Student Debt, the More Interest You’ll Pay

If you want to save money on interest, it’s a good idea to prioritize student loan repayment over buying a home. By paying more than the minimum payment each month, you can reduce the principal balance. This, in turn, will shorten the duration of the loan period — and the interest accrued. Just make sure that your lender puts any extra payments you make towards your principal (and not future payments).

Another way to speed up repayment is to refinance your student loans. Refinancing can fast forward repayment by helping you obtain a lower interest rate, a shorter repayment period, or both. You can refinance private or federal student loans. Just keep in mind that when you refinance federal student loans with a private lender, you forfeit certain federal benefits, such as forbearance and forgiveness programs.


💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? You could save thousands.

Your Debt-to-Income Ratio Is High

When you apply for a mortgage, lenders will look at your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which shows how much of your monthly income goes toward debt repayment each month. The ratio is expressed as a percentage, and mortgage lenders use it to determine how well you manage monthly debts — and if you can afford to repay a loan.

To calculate your current DTI, simply add up all of your monthly debt payments, then divide that number by your monthly gross income (before taxes and deductions). Take that number and multiply by 100. This is your DTI.

Ideally, mortgage lenders like to see a debt-to-income ratio lower than 36%, with no more than 28% of that debt going towards a mortgage or rent payment. While some lenders will allow you to go up to 43% (and sometimes higher), this may not be wise, since it can stress your finances and make you “house poor.”

You Don’t Have Enough Saved for a Substantial Down Payment

A standard rule of thumb is to put at least 20% down on a home’s purchase price. While you may be able to get a conventional mortgage for as little as 3% down, making a smaller down payment on a home purchase generally means paying a higher interest rate on your mortgage. On top of that, you’ll likely need to buy private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Also consider that the more you put down on a home, the more equity you’ll have in your home right away — and the lower your monthly mortgage payment will be.

You Might Move Within the Next Five Years

Renting provides more flexibility than home ownership, as you aren’t necessarily tied down to your property. If you think you may want to relocate in the next five or so years, it may make sense to pay off student loans before buying a house.

A common rule of thumb is that it takes around five to seven years to break even on a house, meaning you have enough equity to recoup that amount of money you put in the house (including closing costs, mortgage payments, and maintenance expenses). That’s why experts typically caution against buying unless you plan to live in the home at least that long.

Reasons to Buy a House Before Paying off Student Loans

In some cases, it makes more sense to buy a home before you pay off student loans. Here are some arguments for putting any extra funds you have towards a down payment on a home over paying down your student debt.

Student Loan Debt Is Not as Bad as Other Types of Debt

Not all debt is created equal. Student loans generally have longer repayment terms and typically feature lower interest rates than many other types of debt, such as credit cards and auto loans. Since your down payment will lower the overall cost of your mortgage, it may be smarter to save up money for a home than to pay off a low-interest student loan.

If you have $12,000 in credit card debt, you would want to make paying that off as quickly as possible your priority, thanks to double-digit interest rates. If you have $12,000 in student loans with a low interest rate, it’s a different story. Paying only the minimum to free up funds to buy a home can be a sensible idea.

Also keep in mind that your student loans may entitle you to a valuable tax deduction — with the student loan interest tax deduction, you may be able to deduct $2,500 or the amount of interest you paid toward your loans, whichever is less.

Recommended: Which Debt to Pay Off First: Student Loan or Credit Card

You Have a Low DTI

If your DTI is 35% or less (meaning a max of 35% of your gross monthly income will go toward your overall monthly debts, including the new mortgage payment), it’s a sign that you can manage home ownership and student loan debt repayment at the same time. With a low DTI, you may be able to comfortably afford your mortgage, monthly student debt payments, and likely still have money available to put into savings and retirement each month.

You Have a Lot in Savings

You’ll need to have access to a sizable amount of cash to purchase a home. In addition to making a down payment, you’ll also need to have funds to cover closing costs and moving expenses. Also keep in mind that when you own a home, you’ll be responsible for all of the home’s maintenance and repair expenses. A general rule is to have1% to 4% of the home’s value set aside for upkeep and repairs.

If you have enough money saved in the bank to cover those costs, you’re in good shape and can likely afford to buy a house before you pay off your student loans.

Buying a Home Is a Top Priority

When deciding whether to buy a house before you pay off student loans, you’ll also want to consider your priorities and personal goals. For example, if you want to have children (or expand your family) in the near future, you may need a larger space. Or, if you’re working at home (or plan to transition to remote work), you might require a home that allows you to set up a dedicated office. Perhaps you want to get a pet, but your rental doesn’t allow them. In some cases, prioritizing a home purchase over paying off student debt may be important in terms of your quality of life.

Options to Consider for Those Trying to Manage Student Debt and Buy Property

If you’ve decided that you can manage paying down student loans while also saving for a home, here are some tips that can help you focus on both goals at the same time.

•   Take an inventory of your debts: A good first step is to write down all of your current debts, including student loans, car loans, credit cards, and any other debt you hold. Make note of the interest rate, remaining balance, and minimum payment for each.

•   Knock down high-interest loans: Next, you may want to funnel any extra money you have towards the debt with the highest interest rate, while continuing to pay the minimum on the rest. Once that debt is paid off, focus on the debt with the next-highest interest rate debt, and so on. Eliminating expensive debt frees up funds that go towards a mortgage payment. It can help improve your DTI, which is helpful when qualifying for a mortgage.

•   Open a dedicated savings account: Consider opening a high-yield savings account specifically for your down payment and home-buying expenses. This will help you track your progress and ensure you won’t spend the money on other things.

Recommended: Student Loan Debt Guide

Saving Strategies

The more you can put down on a home, the less you will need to borrow. A solid down payment can also help you qualify for a lower interest rate on a mortgage and lead to lower monthly payments. These tips can help you reach your down payment savings goals faster.

•   Pay yourself first: Consider setting up an automatic transfer from checking to savings each month to take place right after you get paid. This can help you get used to managing living expenses with what looks like a smaller paycheck, when actually you’re building up your own savings.

•   Take advantage of windfalls: If you receive a lump sum of money, such as a work bonus, gift check, or tax refund, consider funneling it right into your down payment savings account. This will help you meet your down payment goal faster.

•   Reduce expenses: Take a look at where your money is going each month and see if there are any places to cut back. You might decide to cook a few more times a week and spend less on take-out, get rid of a streaming service you rarely watch, or finally cut the cable cord. Anything money you free up can now go into savings.

•   Pick up a side gig: Income from a part-time job or freelance work can be dedicated to savings, helping you reach your goal quicker. You might also consider asking for a raise at your current job or volunteering to work overtime.



💡 Quick Tip: It might be beneficial to look for a refinancing lender that offers extras. SoFi members, for instance, can qualify for rate discounts and have access to financial advisors, networking events, and more — at no extra cost.

How Refinancing Could Potentially Help Prospective Homebuyers

Buying a home and paying off your student loans may seem like competing goals, but that’s not necessarily the case. You can pay down your debt and save for a down payment at the same time by putting more money into savings each month and looking for ways to lower your student loan payments.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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46 Tips for Joining the Real World

30 Tips for Joining the Real World

Woo-hoo! You have your degree, perhaps a job offer, a place to live with a chill roommate, and you’ve found your favorite cafe where the cold brew is just right. Life is great, right?

Yes, it is. Even if you don’t have all of the items above checked off. Starting your independent, post-school life is an exciting time, and it’s a moment to learn all sorts of adulting skills.

To help you with that, here are 30 things to consider, learn, or do to help you as you discover everything from how to speak up in meetings to how to find an in-network doctor. Just as you were probably on the receiving end of a lot of tips for college or freshman advice, now it’s time to level up on post-grad life.

30 Tips for Recent College Grads

Whether you’re just out of college or several years out, you’re hardly alone if you feel you have lots of questions about post-grad life and how to live it. Read on for tips for joining the real world and finessing your finances, career, and personal life.

1. Tackle Your Overall Financial Situation

Your finances can include a ton of stuff, especially as you get older and your investments and income become more complex. But at its most basic, understanding your financial situation means knowing your credit score, taking stock of your outstanding debts, figuring out ways to pay off student loans (if you haven’t already), and understanding what your monthly bills are.


💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? You could save thousands.

2. Embrace a Budget

Here’s another bit of advice for college grads: Once you know how much money you have, owe, and make, it’s time to figure out your budget. Even if you have one already, post-graduation is a perfect time to reconsider your budget and make updates as needed. Never made one before? The popular 50/30/20 budget can be a smart start.

3. Learn About Job Perks

No matter if your job is still shiny and new or an old hat at this point, it’s good to take time to review your employee handbook for perks you may have overlooked. Check out your company’s retirement plan types and health insurance plans. You’ll also want to review potential bonuses and perks, such as free gym memberships, commuting stipends, and the like.

4. Start Saving for Retirement

Seriously? Yes! This may not be the most fun thing to review (and likely wasn’t part of your college advice), but your future self will thank you. Take time to learn about a 401(k) plan that may be available at work and hopefully enroll. You want to at least contribute enough to get any company match, which is like free money.

No job yet or retirement plan you qualify for? Spend a bit of time learning about the different kinds of IRAs.

5. Evaluate Your Housing Costs

Location, local, location, right? Depending on said location, it can be hard to find affordable housing or even a job if your industry isn’t hot in your market. Before signing on the dotted line, consider how much home you can afford to rent. It can be expensive to live alone; having roommates can be a great way to save money.

6. Check Your Social Media

Even if you’ve already got a job, you may want to take stock of your social media. A professional online presence may help prevent current or future employers from second-guessing about hiring you. Those wild nights out with friends definitely don’t need to be broadcast via an account that’s public.

7. Network

Networking is crucial to helping you achieve your career goals. Whether through industry conferences or social media sites like LinkedIn, it’s smart to stay connected with professionals in your industry to get career advice and learn about job openings you may be the perfect fit for.

8. Schedule Some “You” Time

Even if you’ve already got a job, you may want to take stock of your social media. A professional online presence may help prevent current or future employers from second-guessing hiring you.

9. Start an Emergency Fund

Life is full of the unexpected, and that’s why it’s smart to have an emergency fund. Once you have a steady income, it’s wise to start an emergency fund, perhaps by a recurring automatic transfer into savings. Start slow and steady, and aim to build up to at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in the bank. This will help protect you if you have an unexpected major car repair bill or job loss.

10. Find Your Medical Team

This tip is especially important if you’ve moved to a different state or city. Out-of-network bills can be costly, so having a doctor and knowing which hospitals are in-network can help you save money and stress in the long run. Ask coworkers, do online research, and don’t forget to explore where the nearest and best urgent care centers are.

11. Snag a First-Aid Kit and Emergency Bag

This may sound like your parents or grandparents talking, but no one sees an accident or disaster coming. You could get burned cooking brunch one Saturday, or a major storm could sweep through and leave you without power.

Store-bought first aid kits may be good starting points, but extra bandages, allergy relief pills, antacids, and other over-the-counter medicines will take your kit to the next level.

If you’re inclined to ready an emergency go-bag, consider packing at least three days’ worth of clothes, a mini first aid kit, cash, a flashlight, and other provisions you think you (and your pets or loved ones) may need if you need to leave your home in a rush.

12. Consider Life Insurance

Yes, you are young. But if your employer offers life insurance as a benefit, you may be wondering what it is — and whether you need it or should even pay more to increase the amount. So, how about a little research? Understanding life insurance policies can help you make the right decision for you. Even if you decide you don’t need it right now, you’ll be better prepared to sign up when the time is right.


💡 Quick Tip: If you have student loans with variable rates, you may want to consider refinancing to secure a fixed rate in case rates rise. But if you’re willing to take a risk to potentially save on interest — and will be able to pay off your student loans quickly — you might consider a variable rate.

13.Dive into Hobbies

Not everything you do has to relate to your career. In fact, it’s likely healthier if you have interests outside of your career. You can learn to play instruments, sing, run, join a local soccer team, play games online, or enjoy any other hobby that helps you unwind and relax. Or maybe you’ll want to give back and spend some time planting at a local park or prepping meals at a soup kitchen. Find some passions, and pursue them.

14. Tackle Your Taxes

Welcome to the world of taxes, which likely wasn’t part of your college advice. But now, if you’re employed (full-time, part-time, seasonally, side hustle, or whatever), it’s time to learn how to prepare for tax season, which can help you avoid filing them late. Whenever you get an important piece of paperwork that’ll affect your taxes (such as W2s, charitable contribution receipts, or even home office receipts), you can put these in a safe place so you’re ready to go come tax time.

Then, determine if you’ll do your taxes yourself (say, with tax software) or work with a income tax preparer to get your return in on time.

15. Find Your Work-Life Balance

Each person has their own idea for work-life balance. If you’re not sure what yours is, consider taking the first few months on the job to figure that out. Being a good employee, for instance, doesn’t have to mean being the first person at the office in the morning and the last one out at night. If you feel tired or overwhelmed, it may be time to dig into and renegotiate those work-life boundaries.

16. Master Basic Home Repairs

Home repair costs can add up (especially as the years unfurl). You could save a lot by doing them yourself, especially if or when you own your own place and don’t have a landlord to pay for those costs. Such problems as a clogged sink, broken light switch, and dripping shower head may be easier than you think to fix.

If you do have a landlord, you might even get a discount on your rent by making simple repairs yourself. Just be sure to get a signed agreement from your landlord outlining how that will work.

17. Be Smart About Subscriptions

Monthly subscriptions can be so appealing, whether that means Japanese snack of the month club, exercise gear, or language lessons via a fun app. But these add up over time, and it’s easy to forget how many you have going at a given moment. Consider looking at what you’re actually subscribed to. Do you really need Max, Hulu, Peacock, and Netflix, or could you save on streaming services by dropping one (or two)? And do you really need so many gym passes and coffee clubs? Take a closer look, and spend less.

18. Learn to Cook

Takeout is great, but you could save money on food and healthy up your meals if you cook at home. It’s also helpful to plan your groceries ahead of time to avoid overspending and food waste. Plus, it’s a fun pursuit with loads of free recipes and cooking videos available online. Invite a friend over and make it a social occasion.

19. Speaking up in Meetings

If you think you don’t have much to add to the conversation, agreeing with what someone has said — and tacking on an extra thought — can be a way to participate and not feel like a wallflower.

20. Tweak Your Sleep Hygiene

Getting enough high-quality sleep can be a key contributor to your wellness. Going to sleep around the same time every night can help to ensure you get enough zzz’s so you can make good decisions and keep healthy habits. And here’s a reminder that taking your mobile device to bed with you is likely to lead to an hour or more of rabbit holes that rob you of your rest.

21. Invest Some Money

The idea of investing may sound intimidating, but you don’t have to be a Wall Street wolf to invest. Many rookies start small. Learn more about investing in your 20s and perhaps open an account.

22. Find a Mentor

If there’s someone higher up the ladder at your workplace with whom you click and who offers great guidance, ask them out for coffee to learn more about how their career progressed and see what advice they might share. You might wind up under their wing. You can also look for guidance via a professional group; you might find a mentor at a summit or similar event.

Mentors can often help you navigate your workplace, offer advice, and keep you motivated and sane when things get stressful. They also have contacts that may be helpful for you to know.

23. Change Your Mind

You’ve probably heard that tons of people end up with jobs outside of what they studied, even after getting a master’s or MBA. It could be that there aren’t a lot of jobs in that field –or maybe they realized that what’s interesting in theory is not in practice. If this turns out to be the case for you, just remember that fulfillment can be found outside of work. And people can change their minds.

24. Get Help

Unemployment, Medicaid, and other social nets exist for a reason. There are going to be choppy waters, and these services are meant to help. Using them because you got laid off or furloughed isn’t shameful. And if you can’t find employment, that’s another reason to get support vs. staying silent and toughing it out.

25. Put Home Maintenance on Your Calendar

When was the last time you cleaned your dryer vents? Do you know how to change the filter in your HVAC? Avoiding these kinds of things for too long can result in big maintenance bills — and potentially be a safety hazard. Not sure what to clean? Check out a house maintenance list and put reminders in your mobile device’s calendar.

26. Travel

Hopping on a plane and traveling to far-flung places can get a lot harder to do the more “adult” you become. It can be harder to take time off work, and perhaps you’ll have a family, meaning you will need a bigger travel budget. Now, when you’re young and probably okay with “roughing it,” it’s possible to travel cheap!

27. Learn to Say No

When you were younger, you probably didn’t have a lot of say in things; you did what your parents or professors said you had to. How times have changed! Don’t want to go out for drinks? Can’t finish that report by Monday? Your best bet may be to just be honest. Taking on too much may only backfire, so learning to say no without feeling guilty can be important for your mental health and work-life balance.

28. Avoid Lifestyle Creep

As time passes, you may well get raises and bonuses. And lifestyle creep can become a problem. What’s that? It’s the situation in which the more your income increases, the more you spend. While a pay raise may mean you can splurge a bit, if you wind up renting a bigger house, leasing a luxury car, and treating yourself to a week in Tulum, you could wind up in the hole. Instead, treat yourself within reason, and plow more money into savings, such as for a down payment on a future home.

Recommended: 9 Tips for Finding the Best Deals Online

29. Outfit Your Home Office

Are you going to be working from home for some or all of your week? Having ergonomic, comfortable, and functional furniture can help keep your back and neck from hurting and your mind from getting distracted. Don’t just perch on the couch or in bed with your laptop. Scan home office ideas if you’re in need of some inspiration.

30. Give Back

You’re joining the ranks of adults, so do the right thing and find a way to contribute and help others. Maybe you can spend some time on the weekend at a Habitat for Humanity site or make a charitable donation to a favorite cause.

The Takeaway

Your post-college years can be exciting and fun but also a bit confusing and challenging at times. Start with a few items on this list, and work your way through to build your life skills, launch your career, and manage your money confidently.

And if your student loan payments are getting in the way of you living your best post-college life, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

Photo credit: iStock/Rattankun Thongbun


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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