For many Americans, student loans can be one of the most frustrating parts of your personal finances. And paying them off is likely one of your top personal finance priorities. However, for many, it can be hard to know how long your loans will last, or what your repayment timeline might look like.
That’s why we built a calculator: to help you estimate how long it might take to pay off your loans, how much you should think about contributing if you’re trying to pay them off in a certain time frame, and help you plan your finances with better insights. Keep in mind, this calculator is meant for illustrative purposes only, based on details you provide. Be sure to check with your bank or lender directly about your loan details.
If you’re not sure how to best use the calculator, or you’d like more general information on student loans, use the links below to navigate the rest of the content on the page.
- What are student loans?
- How does a student loan calculator work?
- What do I need to know for a student loan calculator
- What do my results mean?
- Find the loan that’s right for you
- Important Resources for Student Loans
What are student loans?
A student loan is money obtained to help you pay for college from the government or a private organization such as a bank. Depending on the type of loan you take out, you can get money to cover most, if not all, of your education and related expenses.
Federal and private student loans are the two types of loans available. Both can cover your school costs, but the interest rates and repayment options are vastly different. That’s because federal loans are overseen by federal programs, like FAFSA, while private loans’ terms are totally between the lender and the borrower.
There are 3 kinds of Federal loans:
- Direct Subsidized Loans: These loans are based on financial need, determined by the difference between the cost of attending your desired school and your family’s income. The Department of Education helps to cover some of the initial costs of interest on these loans, too.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These loans are not based on financial need, but instead the amount that your school costs to attend. Students are responsible for the full value of the interest on direct unsubsidized loans.
- Direct PLUS Loans: These are loans that students’ parents can take out if other forms of funding have been exhausted.
Private loans, on the other hand, are not as consistent because they are lent by private companies. Lenders such as a local bank, national bank, credit union, or internet lenders offer private student loans. Interest rates vary by lender, whereas federal loans often have set rates. Keep in mind that you’ll need to get your credit checked before applying.
Did you know that the average student loan debt is $39,351, according to EducationData.org? Looking for a more in-depth dive into everything you need to know about student loans? Check out the full-length article Student Loans Explained.
What else you should know about student loans
You’re not necessarily stuck with the loans that you took out when you were 18 years old. If you don’t like the terms of your current loans, or the companies you’re working with, you may be able to refinance your student loans.
Refinancing student loans often allow borrowers to qualify for a lower interest rate, which could save them thousands of dollars or more. Borrowers with a low debt-to-income ratio, a solid credit score, and a steady job are often preferred by student loan refinancing lenders. That said, even if you don’t have a high salary or a flawless credit score, you may be eligible for student loan refinancing.
You can refinance both private and federal loans, but it’s important to note that refinancing federal loans through a private lender could result in you losing special privileges like deferment and forbearance. Because private lenders rarely offer deferment or forbearance, consider refinancing a federal loan when you’re sure of your financial stability.
It’s also important to think about what repayment plan works best for you when determining which loan is your best option. When it comes to private and federal insurance, there are certain distinctions. Federal loans, for example, are frequently not paid until after your graduation and grace period, whereas private loans may require payments while you are still enrolled. Some federal loans also provide you the option of tying your monthly payment to your post-college income.
Ultimately, it just comes down to your personal financial situation, and the choices that you deem worthwhile in the long-term. For more details that are important to keep in mind, check out our article on important student loan info.
How does a student loan calculator work?
To use the calculator, follow the steps listed below:
- First, input the total amount of your loan.
- Then, input the number of years you plan on having the loan for. This should be included in the terms of your loan.
- Repeat this process for each loan that you currently hold
- Next, input the interest rate you currently pay on your loan.
Once you’ve input the right values, click calculate to see how much your estimated monthly payment will be. Keep in mind, this calculator is meant for illustrative purposes only, based on details you provide. Be sure to check with your bank or lender directly about your loan details.
What do I need to know for a student loan calculator
If you’re not sure of the information you need to get an accurate answer from the calculator, here’s how it works broken down by category.
This is the total amount that your loan is for. Most lenders will display the current balance of your loan on their website, or you may be able to call to find out where your balance stands.
This is the amount of interest applied to your loan balance each month. The calculator will account for the compounding accrual of interest on your loan over time.
Your loan term is the duration of your loan. It’s the number of years that you agreed you will pay off your loan within, and it can affect your interest rate and the size of your monthly payments.
Be sure to include all your federal loans when inputting data, including subsidized loans, unsubsidized loans, and direct PLUS loans.
Lastly, include the balance on any private loans you may hold.
What do my results mean?
Here’s what the different results you might get mean:
- Monthly payment is the total amount that you pay each month. It’s the amount that you are billed by the company based on the duration of the loan, the amount you borrowed, the interest rate, and any other fees associated with your loan.
- Interest paid is the amount that you pay your lender in interest, which is essentially the cost of your loan. For loans with higher interest rates, the proportion of your total bill that is purely interest will be higher than it would be for a loan with a lower interest rate. This is why many borrowers seek a low interest rate.
- Total principal is the amount that you borrowed in the first place, before taking into account interest or monthly payments. Your principal generally doesn’t change, but the total amount you owe can increase as interest is applied to your loan, and can decrease as you make payments on the loan.
Find the loan that’s right for you
Knowing which loan is right for your situation can be challenging, whether you’re just starting out on your education journey or looking to refinance outstanding loans for a better rate. That’s why Mint has put together an easy one-stop shop to help you find the best loan options for your personal finances.
- Visit our Student Loans page to find out more
Find the loan with a rate, origination fee, discounts, and terms that work best for you.
Important Resources for Student Loans
If you’re looking for more specific information on student loans and your finances, and what you can do to manage your loans while keeping up with your financial goals, check out the assortment of articles provided below.
- Refinancing can be a tricky process, and it’s important that you get a good deal. Check out our article for step-by-step tips that you can take when refinancing student loans.
- Student loans during COVID-19: the pandemic has had a devastating effect on many Americans’ finances over the past year and a half. Read to find out what steps the government has taken to help those struggling with student loans during the current downturn.
- Have you ever wanted to talk about your loans with friends? Read our guide to starting the conversation, and gaining camaraderie with your fellow loan-holders.
- Student loans can impact your discretionary income: our article breaks down what to know about the impact of your loan on your disposable income.
- Did you know that there are student loan forgiveness programs? Check out our explainer to find out if you may qualify for any.
In addition to our blog content, the Mint App can be a great resource for planning your finances around your student loan. The app lets you keep tabs on your outstanding debts, monthly bill payments, and monthly budget. If you’re not sure how your monthly loan payments might affect the rest of your finances, try creating a budget with the free Mint App and adding your monthly payments — then, receive immediate insights into ways how you can better plan and save.