exterior of condos

What’s the Difference Between a Co-op and a Condo?

Both co-ops and condos give a resident the right to use certain common areas, such as pools, gyms, roof decks, and courtyards. But there are big differences when it comes to what you actually own when you purchase a condo vs a co-op.

It’s easy to get confused about the difference between the two properties. If you pulled up pictures of co-ops and condos during a home search, they might seem exactly the same. But if you’re in the market for a home — especially in a large city where both housing types are popular — you’ll learn quickly that the terms are not interchangeable.

You might have wondered if you’d prefer a house or a condo. But if you’re moving in the direction of co-op vs. condo, it’s important to understand their many distinct features. You’ve done the work of budgeting for a home. Now, before you spend that budget, let’s get a handle on the difference between a condo and a co-op.


💡 Quick Tip: You deserve a more zen mortgage. Look for a mortgage lender who’s dedicated to closing your loan on time.

What Is a Condo?

With a condominium, you own your home, but you don’t solely own anything outside your unit — not even the exterior walls. Common areas of the complex are owned and shared by all the condo owners collectively.

Buying a condo is not all that different from securing any other type of real estate. Typically, the complex will be managed by an association that is responsible for maintaining the property and enforcing any covenants, conditions, and restrictions that govern property usage. The association sets the regular fees owners pay to cover repairs, landscaping, other services, and insurance for the shared parts of the property. Special assessments also might be levied to pay for unexpected repairs and needed improvements that aren’t in the normal operating budget.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.


What Is a Co-op?

In the co-op vs. condo debate, it’s key to know that with a housing cooperative, residents don’t own their units. Instead, they hold shares in a nonprofit corporation that has the title to the property and grants proprietary leases to residents. The lease grants you the right to live in your specific unit and use the common elements of the co-op according to its bylaws and regulations. A co-op manager usually collects monthly maintenance fees; enforces covenants, conditions and restrictions; and makes sure the property is well kept.

As a shareholder, you become a voting manager of the building, and as such have a say in how the co-op is run and maintained. Residents generally vote on any decision that affects the building. Should a resident wish to sell their shares, members of the board of directors will have to approve the new buyer. They will be much more involved than would be the case with a condo. That can make it a lengthy process.

Co-ops and condos are both common-interest communities, but their governing documents have different legal mechanisms that determine how they operate and can affect residents’ costs, control over their units, and even the feeling of community. (If you’re curious about another option, there’s always a townhouse, so read up on the difference between a condo and a townhouse as well.)


💡 Quick Tip: Your parents or grandparents probably got mortgages for 30 years. But these days, you can get them for 20, 15, or 10 years — and pay less interest over the life of the loan.

Some Pros & Cons of Co-Ops vs Condos

Financing

It’s important to drill down on the details of buying an apartment. Because you aren’t actually buying any real estate with a co-op, the price per square foot is usually lower than it would be for a condo. Eligibility for financing may depend on credit score, down payment, minimum square footage of a unit, and more.

However, it might be somewhat harder to get a mortgage for a co-op than a condo, even if the bottom-line price is less. It might not have all that much to do with you. Some lenders are reluctant to underwrite a loan for shares in a corporation vs. real property. Most condo associations don’t restrict lending or financing in the building. If you can get a mortgage loan, the condo association will usually let you buy a place.

Fees

Because a co-op’s monthly fee can include payments for the building’s underlying mortgage and property taxes as well as amenities, maintenance, security, and utilities, it’s usually higher than the monthly fee for a condo. Either way, though, generally the more perks that come with your unit, the more there is to maintain and in turn, the more you’re likely to pay.

If you’re concerned about an increase in fees, you might want to ask the association or board about any improvements that may lead to an increase in the future — and what the rules are for those who do not pay their assessed dues. All of these factors are important to weigh when you’re making a home-buying checklist, which includes figuring out how much money you’ll need and the best financing strategy.

Taxes

If you itemize on your income tax return, you may be able to deduct the portion of a co-op’s monthly fee that goes to property taxes and mortgage interest. However, none of a condo’s monthly maintenance fee is tax deductible. You might want to consult a tax professional about these nuances before moving forward with a co-op or condo purchase.

Privacy vs Community

If you’ve ever lived in one of those neighborhoods where the only time you saw your fellow residents was just before they pulled their cars into their garages, it could take you a while to adjust to cooperative or association living. Because you share ownership with your neighbors, you may be more likely to see them at meetings and other events. And you can trust that they’ll know who you are.

Co-op boards often require prospective buyers — who are potential shareholders — to provide substantial personal information before a purchase is approved, including personal tax returns, personal and business references. Many require in-person interviews. You may find that you like the sense of community and that everyone knows and looks out for each other. Or you may not. Again, you might want to ask some questions about socialization and privacy while checking out a particular co-op or an active condo community.

Restrictions

In a co-op, you might run into more rules regarding how you can renovate or even decorate your unit. And don’t forget: You’ll also have to deal with that rigorous application approval process if you ever decide to sell.

Both condos and co-ops frequently have restrictions on renting out extra rooms (or renting the entire unit), as well as on how many people can stay overnight or park in the parking lot, the type of pets you can have and their size, and more. Before you look at a unit, you may want to ask your agent about covenants, conditions, and restrictions that could be difficult to handle.

The Takeaway

Whether you end up buying a co-op or a condo, ownership offers many benefits you won’t find in a rental. When you’re ready to start a serious search, take the time to look for a lender that will work with you on whatever type of loan you might require. In the co-op vs. condo terrain, there are specialists for both sides.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


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 Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.


*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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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Can You Go to Jail for Not Paying Student Loans?

Can You Go to Jail for Not Paying Student Loans?

Staying on top of student loans and other financial obligations can be challenging. If you’re having trouble making monthly payments, or you’re concerned about how you’ll repay your loans down the road, you might be wondering what happens if you don’t pay your debt.

While you cannot be arrested or put in jail for failing to pay your student loans, there are repercussions for missing student loan payments, including damage to your credit and wage garnishment.

Here’s a look at the potential legal and financial consequences of not paying debt, as well as tips for tackling student loan debt after you graduate.

Going to Jail for Debt

No matter how much or what type of outstanding debt you have, a debt collector cannot threaten to or have you arrested for that unpaid debt. Doing so is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and would be considered harassment.

A lender can, however, file a lawsuit against you to collect on an outstanding debt. If the court orders you to appear or to provide certain information, but you don’t comply, a judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. A judge can also issue a warrant for your arrest if you don’t comply with a court-ordered installment plan (such as child support).

Bottom line: You never want to ignore a court order, since doing could result in an arrest and, potentially, jail time.


💡 Quick Tip: Pay down your student loans faster with SoFi reward points you earn along the way.

Can You Go to Jail for Not Paying Student Loans?

No, you can’t be arrested or put in prison for not making payments on student loan debt. The police won’t come after you if you miss a payment. While you can be sued over defaulted student loans, this would be a civil case — not a criminal one. As a result, you don’t have to worry about doing any jail time if you lose.

As mentioned above, however, ignoring an order to appear in court could result in an arrest. And, unless you want to deal with a long, messy legal process and added expenses on top of your debt (in the form of attorney and court fees), it’s in your best interest to do whatever you can to avoid defaulting on your student loans.

Statute of Limitations on Debt

In terms of debt collection, the statute of limitations refers to the amount of time that creditors have to sue borrowers for debt that’s past due.

Federal student loans don’t have a statute of limitations. This means that federal loan servicers can collect your remaining student loan balance at any point. Keep in mind that the federal government doesn’t have to sue you to start garnishing wages, tax refunds, and Social Security checks.

For other types of debt, including private student loans, many states have statutes of limitations between three and six years, but some may be longer. The timeframe can vary based on the type of debt and the state law named in your credit agreement.

If you’re sued by a debt collector and the debt is too old, you may have a defense to the lawsuit. You may also have a claim against the collector for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prohibits suing or threatening to sue for a debt that is past the statute of limitations.

Recommended: Private Student Loans vs Federal Student Loans

What Are the Consequences of Not Paying Off Student Loan Debt?

The consequences of not paying your student loan debt differ depending on what type of student loans you have.

Federal Student Loans

Typically, with federal student loans, the loan becomes delinquent the first day after a payment is missed. If you don’t make a payment within 90 days, your loan servicer will report the delinquency to the three national credit bureaus.

If you don’t make a payment for 270 days (roughly nine months), the loan will go into default. A default can cause long-term damage to your credit score. You may also see your federal tax refund withheld or some of your wages garnished.

Once your federal student loan is in default, you can no longer receive deferment or forbearance or any additional federal student aid. Plus, you’re no longer eligible for an income-driven repayment plan, and your lender can sue you for the money you owe.

If, however, you had student loans that were on the pandemic-related pause, there is good news: Until September 30, 2024, borrowers who miss making payments on their federal student loans won’t be penalized in the ways described above. The Biden administration is providing a 12-month “on-ramp period,” during which a borrower won’t be reported as being in default to the national credit agencies. Interest will still accrue, though, so you’re not completely off the hook.

Private Student Loans

If you don’t pay private student loans, the consequences will depend on the lender. Generally, however, this is what happens: As soon as you miss a payment, your loan will be considered delinquent. You’ll get hit with a late fee and, after 30 days, your lender can report your delinquency to major credit agencies.

After 90 days, your loan will typically go into default. At that point, your loan may be sold to a collections company. Your (and any cosigner’s) credit score will also take a hit. In addition, your lender can sue you for the money you owe. They may also be able to get a court order to garnish your wages. However, they can’t take any money from your tax refunds or Social Security checks.

Tips for Getting Out of Student Loan Debt

You won’t go to jail for not paying back your student loans, but you can still face some significant consequences for missing payments. Here are some ways to stay (or get back) on track.

1. Set up a Budget

It can be hard to manage your finances without a plan. Creating a monthly budget is a helpful way to keep your spending in check and make sure you have enough money for your loan payments. Once you write down everything you’re spending on each month, you may find some easy places to cut back, such as getting rid of streaming services you rarely watch or spending less on takeout and afternoon coffees. Any money you free up can then go towards loan repayment.

2. Increase Cash Flow

Reining in your spending with a budget is a good place to start, but it may not be enough for getting out of debt. Having some extra cash on hand can help manage debt payments and offer some breathing room within your monthly budget.

To boost your income, you might consider taking on more hours at your current job, getting some freelance work, or picking up a side gig (such as food delivery, dog walking, or babysitting). You don’t have to do this forever — just until your student debt is paid off, or at least well under control.

3. Create a Debt Reduction Plan

If you have multiple debts, it’s a good idea to take an inventory of everything you owe and then set up a comprehensive debt reduction plan.

A popular system is the avalanche method, which calls for putting any extra cash toward the debt with the highest interest rate while making minimum payments on other balances. When that debt is paid off, you put your extra money towards the debt with the next-highest interest rate, and so on.

Another option is the snowball method, which focuses on ticking off debts in order of size, starting with the smallest debt balance, while still taking care of minimum payments on other debt.

4. Apply for an Income-Based Repayment Plan

If you have federal student loans, there are four income-driven repayment plans you can apply for to make your monthly payments more manageable. These include:

•   Saving on a Valuable Education Plan (SAVE; replacing Revised Pay As You Earn)

•   Pay As You Earn

•   Income-Based Repayment Plan

•   Income-Contingent Repayment Plan

Monthly payments are a percentage of your discretionary income, usually 10% or 20%. What’s more, all four plans forgive any remaining balance at the end of the 20- or 25-year repayment period. Note that in some situations, you may be required to pay taxes on the forgiven amount, according to IRS rules.

5. Find Another Repayment Plan

Besides income-based repayment, borrowers can explore a variety of other federal repayment plans to help pay off debt. For example, the graduated repayment plan helps recent college grads find their financial footing by setting smaller monthly payments at first before increasing every two years.

Some private lenders also offer a choice of different repayment options.

6. Look Into Forgiveness Programs

The federal government offers student loan forgiveness to borrowers who meet certain eligibility criteria, such as working in a certain profession, having a permanent disability, or after making payments for a certain amount of time on an income-driven repayment plan. Similar programs are available at the state-level across the country, and generally base eligibility on specific professions or financial hardship.

The Rural Iowa Primary Care Loan Repayment Program, for instance, provides up to $200,000 toward repaying eligible student loans for doctors who commit to working five years in designated locations.

The NYS Get on Your Feet Loan Forgiveness Program, on the other hand, offers up to 24 months of debt relief to recent graduates in New York who are participating in a federal income-driven repayment plan.

7. Ask About Employer Tuition Reimbursement Programs

Besides health insurance and a 401(k), your employer may provide other benefits, including tuition reimbursement programs, to support and retain their employees.

Often, these programs are focused on annual tuition expenses that employees incur while studying and working concurrently. Still, employers may offer to contribute to student loan payments as well.


💡 Quick Tip: Master’s degree or graduate certificate? Private or federal student loans can smooth the path to either goal.

8. Explore Refinancing Your Student Loans

Student loan refinancing could help you save interest and make your monthly payments easier to manage. Generally, though, refinancing only makes sense if you can qualify for a lower interest rate.

Refinancing involves taking out a new loan with a private lender and using it to pay off your existing federal or private student loans. You can often shop around and “browse rates” without any impact to your credit scores (prequalifying typically involves a soft credit check). Just keep in mind that refinancing federal loans with a private lender means losing access to government protections like income-driven repayment plans, student loan forgiveness programs, and deferment and forbearance.

Also know that lenders typically require your loans to be in good standing before approving a refinance. That means you generally can’t refinance a student loan in default. You can, however, consider refinancing after recovering from a student loan default.

The Takeaway

Although you won’t go to jail for failing to pay your student loans, there are a number of negative consequences, like late fees, a damaged credit score, wage garnishment, and even being taken to court. The current “on ramp” to repayment of federal student loans, however, removes these consequences until September 30, 2024.

Whatever type of student loan you have, you can help the road to repayment go smoothly by setting up a budget that makes room for monthly loan payments, picking a repayment plan that fits your needs and budget, and investigating forgiveness options.

Finding a student loan with a competitive interest rate and flexible repayment terms can help avoid the stress and repercussions of not paying student loans down the line.

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.

FAQ

Do student loans go away after 7 years?

No, student loans won’t disappear after seven years. Negative information about your student loans (such as late payments or defaulting on a loan) will be removed from your credit report after seven years, but the loans themselves will stay on your reports until you pay them off or have them forgiven.

Many states have statutes of limitations of between three and six years to prevent creditors and debt collectors from using legal action to collect on older debts. However, federal student loans don’t have a statute of limitations.

How long before student loans are forgiven?

The Public Service Forgiveness Program requires making the equivalent of 120 qualifying monthly payments under an accepted repayment plan (while working full-time for an eligible employer) for student loan forgiveness. With an income-based repayment plan, you need to make payments for 20 to 25 years to have the remaining balance forgiven. State programs may offer more rapid repayment assistance and forgiveness.

Can student loans seize bank accounts?

Yes, but not right away. If you have federal student loans, your wages or bank accounts can be garnished only if you have officially defaulted on your loans (i.e., you haven’t made a payment for at least 270 days). The government does not need a court order or judgment to garnish your wages.

If you default on a private student loan, your creditor must first sue you to obtain a judgment and submit a court order to your employer before your wages can be garnished.


Photo credit: iStock/shadrin_andrey

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.

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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5 Alternatives to Emergency Student Loans

You thought you had your college costs covered. Then something unexpected happened — a sudden job loss, unplanned expense, family emergency — and now you’re short on funds and wondering how you’ll make ends meet.

Fortunately, some schools offer emergency student loans to help students rebound from a financial set-back and manage the unexpected. While these tend to be smaller amounts, an emergency loan can help you get through a rough financial patch, allowing you to stay in school and complete your degree.

However, not every college and university offers emergency student loans, and those that do may have limited funds for emergency student loans and varying eligibility requirements.

Here are key things to know about emergency or fast student loans, plus other ways to access quick funds when you hit a set-back or unexpected college expense.

The Basics of Emergency Student Loans

The term emergency student loan generally refers to a loan offered to actively enrolled students in dire financial situations, typically by colleges and universities. If you have experienced an unexpected financial hardship, whether due to a job loss, a death in the family, or any life circumstance that results in immediate financial need, you may be eligible to apply.

Emergency loans are generally disbursed and repaid on rapid schedules. Repayment terms may be as short as 30 to 90 days. The amount you can borrow varies by school but the cap is typically between $500 to $1,500. Some emergency student loans are interest-free, while others charge a low interest rate.

Typically, you cannot use an emergency student loan to cover your tuition for the semester. However, you can use it to cover other expenses, like food, housing, childcare, and medical expenses.


💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

How to Get Emergency Student Loans

If you need an emergency or instant student loan, a good first step is to contact your school’s financial aid office. If your school offers emergency loans, you will likely need to:

•   Find out if you are eligible. You’ll want to check your school’s eligibility requirements to make sure you qualify before you go through the application process.

•   Fill out the emergency student loan application. You may be able to do this online or you might need to do it in person at the financial aid office. You’ll likely need to have your student ID and enrollment information. Your school may also ask for documentation of your financial emergency before it will approve the loan.

•   Make a plan to repay your loan on time. You may need to repay the loan within just a few months, so you’ll want to determine how you will make those payments. If you miss a payment, the school might charge fees and/or hold your academic records.

Are Emergency Student Loans a Good Idea?

While emergency student loans can be helpful, they may not be the right solution for everyone. For one, the loan might not offer enough money to help you out. For another, schools typically have strict qualification criteria for emergency student loans. For example, you typically need to have experienced an unexpected event that triggered a dire and sudden financial need, such as:

•   Loss of a parent

•   Dismissal from a job or unexpected reduction in income

•   Natural disaster

•   Significant crime or theft

Also keep in mind that an emergency loan is still a loan, so you’ll want to make sure you can handle more debt before you tap a fast student loan. Also be sure you can manage the short repayment period. Having a loan go into default may jeopardize your education and your eligibility for future financial aid. In other words, it’s a good idea to establish a plan before you borrow money.

Emergency Student Loan Alternatives

Emergency student loans can be a great resource for some students. However, they aren’t right for everyone. You may not qualify for your school’s emergency student loan program. Or, you might need a larger sum of money or a longer repayment timeline. Also, not all schools offer emergency loans. Luckily, there are other options on the table to help you through a cash crunch during college. Here are five you may want to explore.

1. Unused Federal Student Loans

If you’ve already submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) but turned down some or all of the federal student loans you were offered, there is good news: It’s possible to change your mind. Once you have filed a FAFSA, you are allowed to accept the funds at any time during the academic year.

For example, you might have been offered $5,000 in federal loans but only claimed $2,000 of that money. If you find yourself in financial hardship later in the academic year, you could still claim the unused portion of federal student aid. You can use federal student loans to cover tuition as well as living expenses. Your financial aid office can help you figure out if this is an option for you.

Since you’ve already been approved for the loan, funding time will likely be much faster compared to the regular waiting time for federal aid. It shouldn’t take more than 14 days to receive the funds.

If you’ve had a major change in your financial situation, such as a job loss or the passing of a parent, you may want to resubmit your FAFSA to reflect your new situation. Depending on the changes, you might qualify for more aid.

2. University Grants and Scholarships

Some colleges and universities offer emergency aid in other forms besides loans. Emergency grants and scholarships work in a similar way to emergency student loans in that they’re meant to help cover unexpected financial hardships. However, unlike loans, grants don’t have to be repaid.

For example, some schools offer completion scholarships or grants, which can forgive a portion or all of the outstanding balance that might otherwise keep a student from advancing or graduating. Other schools have voucher programs to help with specific on-campus costs like books and dining hall meals.

You’ll need to get in touch with your financial aid office to see if you qualify for any emergency assistance grants, scholarships, or vouchers under your circumstances. The school may require proof of hardship or emergency.

Recommended: Finding Free Money for College

3. Private Student Loans

If you’ve tapped all of your federal aid options, you might turn to private student loans to help cover emergency expenses. These are loans offered by banks, credit unions, and online lenders.

Private student loans typically come with higher interest rates than federal student loans and don’t offer the same borrower protections (like forbearance and forgiveness programs). However, you can often borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance with a private student loan, giving you more borrowing power than you can get with the federal government. Depending on the lender, you may be able to take advantage of quick student loan approval and disbursement and use the money to pay for your emergency expenses.

Some lenders send the money straight to the school and, once tuition is covered, the school will typically give you the remainder of the loan to cover living expenses. In other cases, lenders will send the funds to you to make the appropriate payments.

4. Tuition Payment Extension

If you’re not sure you can pay your tuition on time due to a sudden emergency, it’s worth asking your financial aid office if they provide temporary payment extensions or payment plans.

Some colleges may be willing to grant you an extension on paying your tuition. For example, they might offer an emergency deferment plan which allows enrolled students to postpone payments through a specific date, such as the 90th day of the term. This might give you a bit of extra breathing room in your budget.

You might also explore tuition payment plans. Many schools allow you to spread out your tuition into affordable monthly or bi-monthly payments. Typically, schools don’t charge interest on thes plans. However, when exploring this alternative, it’s a good idea to ask about any fees or interest charges that might apply.

5. Food Pantries

The cost of food is high these days, and this may be particularly burdensome during an emergency. Your school may have an on-campus food pantry that can help reduce your expenses until you’re back on your feet. Also keep in mind that local churches and other charitable organizations in your area may also offer food at no cost to those in need. Feeding America is a helpful resource to find food banks near you.These food pantries can provide basics like canned foods, pastas, dried breakfast items and more.


💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.

Where Can You Look for Other Forms of Emergency Student Aid and Assistance?

Outside of emergency student loans and grants, colleges and universities often offer additional resources that can help with unplanned costs during an emergency. You might find on-campus support in the form of housing opportunities, bus passes, or food pantries. Even if your school doesn’t offer emergency assistance directly, a financial aid administrator may know of off-campus organizations that will offer support.

You might also explore assistance from alumni-funded foundations or other nonprofit scholarships or grants that can provide emergency assistance. For example, the UNCF offers a “Just-in-time” emergency grant of up to $1,000 for students at risk of dropping out of college due to a financial hardship (like medical bills, a car repair, or a trip home to help a sick parent). Students must complete an online application form and show proof of financial hardship.

After You Graduate

If you took out federal or private student loans during college to cover expenses (both planned and unplanned) and you’re now in the repayment stage, you might want to look into refinancing. When you refinance your student loans, a lender pays off your existing loans with a new one, ideally at a lower interest rate. That can potentially save you money in the long run — and from the first payment you make.

Just keep in mind that if you refinance federal student loans with a private lender you forfeit federal protections, such as income-driven repayment plans and forgiveness programs.

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.

Check out what kind of rates and terms you can get in just a few minutes.


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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.

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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How to Study for the MCATs

So you want to go to medical school and become a doctor? Then you know that the MCAT, a rigorous test, is likely in your future. Since it’s an important qualifying test for medical school and can be challenging, you likely want to arm yourself with info and prepare well for it.

Here, you’ll learn some of the most important information, such as:

•   What are the MCATs

•   How to start studying for the MCATs

•   How to pay for the MCATs and medical school.

Read on, and hey: You’ve got this!

What Are the MCATs?

MCAT stands for Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®). The test, which the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) creates and administers every year, is multiple-choice and standardized. Some important facts:

•   Medical schools have been utilizing it for more than 90 years to determine which students should gain admission.

•   Most medical schools in the United States and some in Canada will require that students take the MCATs. Every year, more than 85,000 prospective medical school students take it.

•   There are four sections to the MCATs:

◦   Critical analysis and reasoning skills

◦   Biological and biochemical functions of living systems

◦   Chemical and physical foundations of biological systems

◦   Psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior.

•   Students will receive five scores: one for each section, and then one total score.

◦   In each section, they can get a score ranging from 118 to 132, and the total score ranges from 472 to 528.

◦   Generally, a competitive MCAT score is a total of 511 or above, which would place a student in the 81st percentile.

The average MCAT score for all medical school applicants is currently 501.3. Usually, students will receive scores 30 to 35 days after they take the exam.

Keep in mind that MCAT scores, while important, are just one part of a medical school application. Medical schools often review other factors, including things like a student’s:

•   GPA

•   Undergraduate coursework

•   Experience related to the medical field, including research and volunteer work

•   Letters of recommendation

•   Extracurricular activities

•   Personal statement.

Because of this array of inputs, If a student has a high GPA from a competitive undergraduate school, for instance, and they don’t score very high on the MCATs, they may still have a chance of getting into a medical school.

Getting a competitive score on the MCAT can give applicants an edge, especially when applying to ultra-competitive medical schools. One way students can help improve their chances of getting a desirable score on the MCAT is to learn how to study for the unique demands of this test.


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

Studying for the MCAT

One of the first things a student can do when determining how to prepare for the MCAT is to create a study plan. A well-crafted study plan will review what materials the student should review in order to prepare for the exam.

That said, there’s no one best way to prep for the MCAT. Consider these options; you might use one or a variety of techniques.

The AAMC Website

One great place to get started is the AAMC website, which provides an in-depth outline of the test on their website. Obviously, the same questions students will see on the actual exam won’t be listed, but sample questions that are similar to the real questions are. Students may find helpful tutorials and other content as well.

Online Resources

There are a variety of other online resources students can explore to help them review. For example, the AAMC currently recommends students take a look at Khan Academy’s MCAT Video Collection, where there are more than 1,000 videos as well as thousands of questions that students can use to review.

There are also MCAT study apps like MCAT Prep from Varsity Tutors and MCAT Prep by Magoosh that students can download and use to study.

Books, Textbooks, and Class Resources

How else to prep for the MCATs? It may also help to buy or borrow books from the library that go into detail on the MCAT. One word of advice: Students should just make sure that the books they’re reading are up to date. Information (and the MCAT) get refreshed often; you don’t want to be studying yesterday’s medical data.

It can also be helpful to review class notes and study guides from courses you’ve taken that are related to MCAT materials. Some schools have study groups and other academic support resources for students who are studying for the MCAT. If you’re currently enrolled in classes, take a look to see what might be offered at your campus. You might luck out with some great ways to learn more.

Practice Tests

AAMC offers official sample MCAT practice exams online. You can access two for free, and others for a cost of $35 each. Taking practice tests can help students familiarize themselves with the exam. Taking practice tests can also be important in helping students understand the timing of each section.

Study Groups and Tutors

Here are other ideas for how to start studying for the MCAT:

•   Getting an MCAT tutor who has taken the test could also be helpful. A tutor will generally be able to provide guidance on what kind of questions a student can expect. Plus, they will likely have hands-on experience with effective methods and tips for studying.

If you decide that how to prep for the MCAT should involve a tutor, ask friends and fellow students who have taken the MCATs recently for recommendations. There are also test preparation companies that provide resources for students to find tutors online or in person. Do check reviews and references.

•   Study groups can also be a tool to help students who are preparing for the MCATs. Students can find others who are on the same path and work together to build proficiency. If possible, find a group where each student has a different strength and weakness. This can maximize students learning from one another.

•   It may help to use a shared calendar or another tool to make sure everyone is on the same page for dates, times, and locations for when the study group will meet.

•   Want to find a study group as part of how to prepare for the MCATs? Search engines, professors’ recommendations, school bulletin boards/online groups, and fellow students are good bets.



💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.

Important Dates to Keep in Mind

Now that you know the ins and outs of preparing for the MCAT, what about taking the test itself? Students can take the MCATs several times throughout the year, from late January through September. There are hundreds of test locations around the U.S. and Canada as well as select locations around the globe.

If a student’s preferred MCAT test date or location is not available, they can sign up for email notifications to see if it becomes available down the line.

Recommended: Refinancing Student Loans During Medical School

Paying for the MCATs and Medical School

As you explore the best way to prepare for the MCAT and plan your medical school journey, you’ll likely be keeping costs in mind. Here are details to note.

Paying for the MCATs

The registration fee for the MCAT exam is $330, and that includes distribution of scores. There may be additional fees for changes to a registration, a late registration, and for taking the test at international sites.

The AAMC does offer a Fee Assistance Program to students who are struggling to pay for the test and/or medical school applications. To be eligible for the Fee Assistance Program, students must meet the following eligibility requirements:

•   Be a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident of the US.

•   Meet specific income guidelines for their family size.

Note that the Fee Assistance Program will review financial information of the student and the student’s parents, even if the student is considered independent.

Keep in mind that along with the MCAT fee, applying to medical school can be quite expensive. Most medical schools in the US utilize the AAMC’s American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®). To apply to medical schools, students will generally pay a first-time application fee of $170, as well as $40 for each additional school.

Some medical schools may require a secondary application, and those fees range depending on the school. Students may also need additional money to travel to and tour schools.

Recommended: Cash Course: A Student Guide to Money

Medical School Costs

The application process is just one portion of the expense of med school. After being accepted, there’s the cost of tuition, books, and more, and these medical school costs have been rising steeply lately.

•   The average cost of the first year of medical school at a public school with in-state tuition is $67,641, which includes tuition, fees, and living expenses.

•   The average cost for the first-year at a private medical school is $93,186. The average debt for medical school graduates is currently $202,453. Debt after medical school can go even higher when you add in undergraduate loans.

Obviously, that’s a significant number and can make you wonder how to pay for medical school. First, do remember that medical school is a path to a rewarding and challenging career, as well as potentially a lucrative one. The average medical school graduate earns more than $150,000, with high earners enjoying salaries above the $400K mark, according to ZipRecruiter data.

Paying for School with the Help of SoFi

Paying for the MCATs and medical school can be a challenge. SoFi understands this, which is why they offer students private student loans and the opportunity to refinance their current student loans.

Keep in mind, however, that if you refinance with an extended term, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan. Also note that refinancing federal student loans means forfeiting their benefits and protections, so it may not be the right choice for everyone.

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.

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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Strategies for Lowering Your Student Loan Interest Rate

When you’re in college, you don’t have a lot of control over the interest rates on your student loans. With federal loans, the U.S. Department of Education sets the rate each year for all borrowers. And if you get private student loans, a limited credit history can make it hard for young people to score favorable terms.

But once you graduate, there are a few things you can try to save money on interest. Here are a few tips that may lower your interest rate on student loans.

Refinancing Your Student Loans

Scoring discounts with your current servicer can help you get a lower student loan interest rate, but there is another option to consider. Depending on your financial profile, you may qualify for a lower student loan interest rate than what you’re currently paying with student loan refinancing.

There are multiple advantages to refinancing student loans. You can potentially lower your interest rate by bundling several loans (federal and private) into one new loan. And if you shorten your loan term, you may be able to pay off your student loans much faster and pay less in interest over the life of your loan.

Student Loan RefinancingStudent Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is ideal for borrowers with high-interest student loans who have good credit scores and know they won’t use any of the federal loan benefits, like student loan forgiveness. (All federal loan benefits, including income-based repayment, will be lost if you refinance.)

Here are a few things that can help you improve your chances of getting a lower student loan interest rate with refinancing:

•   A high credit score: Lenders typically have a minimum credit score requirement, so the higher your score, the better your chances of getting a low rate usually are.

•   A low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: Your income is also an important factor that lenders consider, especially as it relates to your overall debt burden. If a smaller portion of your monthly income goes toward debt payments, it shows you may have more income to dedicate to your new loan’s payments.

•   A co-signer: Even if your credit and income situation is in good shape, having a co-signer with great credit and a solid income might help your case.

•   A variable rate: Some student loan refinance lenders offer both variable and fixed interest rates. Variable interest rates may start out lower but increase over time with market fluctuations. Fixed rates, stay the same over the life of the loan. If you’re planning on paying off your student loans quickly, a variable rate might save you money.

•   The right lender: Each lender has its own criteria for setting interest rates, so it’s important to shop around to find the best lender for your needs. Some lenders, including SoFi, even allow you to view rate offers before you officially apply.


💡 Quick Tip: Enjoy no hidden fees and special member benefits when you refinance student loans with SoFi.

Consolidate Your Student Loans

Have multiple student loans floating around that you’d love to combine into one? Consider loan consolidation, where you’ll merge all your student loans into one easy monthly payment with a single interest rate. Here’s the rub, though: Consolidation alone does not necessarily get you a lower student loan interest rate. It just offers you one payment instead of multiple.

When consolidating federal student loans, you can use a Direct Consolidation Loan. Your new interest rate is simply the weighted average of all your current student loan interest rates. The weighted average might be a smidge higher than the interest rates you were paying previously. Often folks utilize consolidation to stretch out the life of their student loan, which lowers your payments but may increase the amount you owe over time.

Even though consolidation itself is not a direct way to get a better rate on your student loans, it can be helpful if you’re having trouble keeping track of your monthly payments. Consolidation may also be useful if you want to merge non-direct federal loans (like Perkins loans) with direct loans, in order to qualify for income-driven repayment and/or loan forgiveness programs.

By the way, the term “consolidating” is often used interchangeably with “refinancing,” but they technically mean different things. When refinancing student loans, you also happen to be consolidating, but it is done with the goal of achieving a more favorable interest rate on your student loans.

Recommended: The Basics of the Student Loans

Set Up Automatic Payments

Many student loan servicers — both federal and private — offer an interest rate discount if you set up autopay on your account. Depending on the servicer, you can lower your student loan interest rate. SoFi, for example, offers a 0.25% autopay discount.

The reason servicers offer this discount is that by setting up automatic payments, you’re less likely to miss payments and default on the loan.

In addition to getting a lower student loan interest rate, you’ll also (hopefully!) have peace of mind knowing that you won’t accidentally miss a payment. If you feel you’re putting a little too much money toward student loans, check with your loan servicer to see whether they offer an autopay discount.


💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.

Get a Loyalty Discount

In addition to an autopay discount, some private student loan companies also offer a loyalty discount when you have another eligible account with them.

If you’re already a member with SoFi, for instance, you receive an interest rate discount of 0.125% on all new loans.

Other lenders may require that you have an eligible checking or savings account with them to qualify for the bonus, and you may even get a bigger discount if you make your monthly payments from that account.

To get an idea of how a change in interest rate would impact your loan, take advantage of a student loan refinance calculator to see what your new payments could be.

Choose the Right Repayment Plan

If you don’t choose a specific repayment path, you’re typically opted into the Standard Repayment Plan. In this plan, your payments are generally based on a 10-year timeline. But this one-size-fits-all plan is not the best option for everyone.

The federal government also offers four income-driven repayment (IDR) plans — Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) — where the monthly payments are based on your income and family size. While choosing one of these plans may lower your monthly payments, it will likely not alleviate how much interest you pay over time. In fact, you might even pay significantly more.

After 20 or 25 years, depending on the IDR plan, any remaining balance is forgiven. However, the amount forgiven may be considered taxable income by the IRS. So even though your student loan debt goes away, prepare yourself for a big tax bill that year.

Another money-saving repayment option for federal student loans is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. If you work in a qualifying public service job — for the government or a nonprofit organization — you might be eligible to have your student loans forgiven after 10 years of service.

You can confirm whether your work qualifies here. You’ll want to submit an Employment Certification as soon as possible to be sure that you’re on track to qualify.

Recommended: 4 Student Loan Repayment Options, and How to Choose

Lower Your Student Loan Interest Rate

There are several ways to get a lower student loan interest rate. It can be as easy as calling your servicer to find out what discounts are available. You can also choose a new repayment plan, consolidate your federal loans, or refinance federal and private loans. With refinancing, you may secure a lower interest rate if you have a high credit score, low debt-to-income ratio, a cosigner, or a variable interest rate. Just know that when refinancing federal student loans, borrowers lose federal protections and forgiveness.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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