If you want to refinance your student loans but are not sure if you will get approved, here are the inside tips that you need to know.
Refinancing your student loans allows you to consolidate your existing private and federal student loans into a new, single student loan with a lower interest rate. The result is lower monthly payments, which frees up extra money to repay more student loan debt, save or invest. Student loan refinancing could save you more than $20,000 over the life of your student loans.
If you have student loans from a health-related degree, your savings may be even higher. According to Doc Benjamins, an affiliate of Make Lemonade that is focused exclusively on new student loans and student loan refinancing for dentists, doctors, pharmacists and veterinarians, your cost savings can be even higher given the average student loan debt balance upon graduation for each degree type:
Dental School: $260,000
Medical School: $180,000
Pharmacy School: $160,000
Veterinary School: $140,000
So how exactly do you get approved to refinance student loans?
It is no secret that private student loan lenders have strict underwriting criteria. By lending you money, private lenders are putting their own capital at risk (not the federal government’s money). As such, private student loan companies lend to borrowers who they believe will repay their student loans.
Your credit score is a barometer of your financial responsibility. Most lenders evaluate your credit score (or its underlying components), and want to ensure that you meet your financial obligations and have a history of on-time payments. Generally, top lenders expect a minimum credit score in the mid to high 600’s, while others do not have a minimum.
Insider Tip: To maximize your chances for approval, you should aim for a credit score of 700 or higher.
Private student loan lenders want to ensure that you have sufficient income to repay your student loans. Lenders want proof that you have stable and recurring monthly income and cash flow. Examine your pay stubs and identify your after-tax monthly income. When you subtract your proposed monthly student loan payments, does a sufficient amount remain for other essential living expenses?
Insider Tip: If you do not have sufficient income, you can increase your chances for approval with a qualified co-signer who has a strong credit profile.
Your other consumer debt such as mortgage, credit card or auto debt will influence underwriting your student loan. If you have existing debt obligations, lenders will account for your total monthly debt payments as part of the underwriting process.
Insider Tip: Try to repay your other debt obligations as much as possible prior to applying to refinance student loans.
Student loan lenders will focus on your debt-to-income ratio, which is the ratio of your total monthly income compared with your monthly debt obligations. For example, if you have $10,000 of monthly income and $3,000 of monthly debt expenses, then your debt-to-income ratio is 30%.
Insider Tip: The lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better. You can improve your debt-to-income ratio by increasing income or decreasing debt (or both).
You should be employed or have a written job offer when you apply to refinance student loans. Some private student loan lenders will refinance your student loans while in school or residency, while others will require some work experience.
Insider Tip: If you are unemployed or underemployed, it will be difficult to be approved for student loan refinance (although you can try with a co-signer).
What To Do If You Get Rejected For Student Loan Refinance:
Apply to multiple lenders
There is no limit on the number of lenders to which you can apply to refinance your student loans. You should apply to multiple lenders to maximize your chances for approval.
Insider Tip: If you apply to multiple lenders within 30 days, typically this is treated as a single inquiry on your credit report.
Check your credit report
Make sure that you have reviewed your credit report for any errors. If there are any errors, you should dispute them.
Insider Tip: You can obtain a free copy of your credit report from all three bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) through AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you have outstanding debt, you should consolidate your debt into a lower interest rate loan.
Insider Tip: If you have outstanding credit card debt, you should consider debt consolidation with a personal loan to lower your interest rate.
Pay off your debt
Your debt-to-income ratio is driven by two factors: debt and income. If you lower your debt or increase your income (or preferably both), you will improve your debt-to-income ratio. Use a monthly budget to cut expenses and manage your finances. Use the cost savings to make extra debt payments.
Insider Tip: Avoid income repayment plans, which can increase your interest payments over time. Your goal is to reduce your loan principal so that your monthly payments decrease.
Increase your income
The flip side of lowering your debt is raising your income.
Insider Tip: Ask for a raise, negotiate a higher bonus or seek a side hustle.
Get a qualified co-signer
Ask your spouse, parent, grandparent or someone else close to you to act as a co-signer for your student loans. Your co-signer needs to have a strong credit profile and be willing to be equally responsible with you for your student loan.
Having a qualified co-signer can make the difference between “approved” and “not approved.”
Originally posted on Forbes