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How to use this calculator
Enter the total amount you borrowed. If you don’t know how much you owe, search for your federal loans in the National Student Loan Data System or look for private student loans on your credit report.
If you’re like most borrowers, you may have a mix of federal and private loans or have several federal loans disbursed during various semesters. To get the most precise estimate of your monthly payments, enter your loans into the calculator individually and add the monthly payments together for your total. To get a rough estimate, you can use the sum of all your student loans.
Annual interest rate
Your student loan interest rates will vary depending on whether they’re federal or private, the year you borrowed and, in some cases, your credit score. Check with your federal loan servicer or your private lender to find out your interest rate.
Again, you’ll get the most accurate results if you enter your loans separately with their precise interest rates. But if you want a quick estimate, you can use an average interest rate.
The loan term is the amount of time you have to repay your loan. For federal loans, the standard term is 10 years, but you can extend the term to 20 or 25 years with an income-driven repayment plan. Income-driven plans lower your monthly loan payments but increase the total interest you’ll pay throughout the life of your loan.
Regardless of the repayment plan you’re on, you can pay more than your monthly minimum to pay off your loan faster. The quicker you pay off your loans, the more you’ll save in interest.
Understanding your results
Each of your loans has a monthly minimum you have to pay to stay current. If you can’t afford the minimum payment, you may be able to lower it by signing up for an income-driven plan or, if you have private loans, talking to your lender.
Total interest paid
This number represents the total amount of interest you’ll pay throughout the life of your loan. You’ll save money in interest if you can pay more than your monthly minimum, but contribute to a retirement account and emergency savings fund before you pay extra on your student loans.
You can also lower the total by refinancing your student loans to get a lower interest rate. You can refinance private or federal loans, but if you refinance federal loans, you lose the ability to sign up for income-driven plans and take advantage of federal loan forgiveness programs.
Total principal paid
Your loan principal is the amount you originally borrowed. If it’s higher than that initial amount, it’s likely because some of your interest was capitalized, or added to your loan balance at the end of a grace period or deferment.
This number is equal to your total interest plus your total principal. You can lower this amount by paying your loans off faster, refinancing and avoiding capitalized interest.Dreaming about the day you’ll be done with your student loan payments? Reach your debt-free goal faster by joining NerdWallet for free.
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Teddy Nykiel is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @teddynykiel.