Learn about loans before graduation

For some Gannon University students, May 7 – graduation day – is circled and highlighted as the day “real life” begins. But as commencement approaches, so does the inevitable string of student loan bills.

Once graduating seniors move on – after they peel the sticky tack off all those movie posters on their walls, take the last stack of pizza boxes to the dumpster and turn in their on-campus apartment keys to Student Living – reality sets in. And reality means coming up with a strategy to pay off student loans.

Student loan debt is all too much of a reality for graduating seniors. It’s a necessarily evil – a “good debt,” the experts say; an investment, like a mortgage, that is truly worth its monetary price tag.

The Project on Student Debt reported last year that the average student loan debt was $24,000, a 6 percent increase from 2009’s number and the highest amount on record. Also in 2010, student loan debt passed credit card debt as the largest source of debt for Americans, reports The Huffington Post.

Whether you’re donning a cap and gown in May or you still have another three years to go, educate yourself on how student loans work.

If you still have a few semesters to go, are you aware of all the financial aid opportunities you are eligible for?

If you are graduating, look into how much your monthly student loan payments will be and budget accordingly. It’s common sense.

As much as students would like to run and hide from tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, that’s not the most practical way to obtain a good credit score.

Instead of spending the final weeks of your semester partying, learn about exit counseling, as well as your rights and responsibilities as a borrower.

You’ll be glad you did.