It's not too late to return your student loan

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U.S. Cities Offering Student Loan Repayment Programs


Student loans make it all too easy to take out more than you actually need to cover the cost of your education. So you take that leftover money and you start financing your lifestyle choices. Suddenly, student loans are getting used to buy Red Bulls between classes and 24-packs of cheap beer. After all, you've already got the loans and you don't need to spend any more on tuition, so why not use it to cover living it up at college?

[See: 12 Ways to Be a More Mindful Spender.]

Here's the thing: You don't have to keep the money. You actually can return a student loan with no interest or fees charged.

The Option to Return Unnecessary Student Loans

It's within your right as a borrower to cancel all or a portion of your federal student loan with one caveat: You must do it within 30 to 120 days of the date your school disbursed your loan money.

You should be able to realize within 120 days if you really need the full student loan for which you were approved and took on. Keeping just the bare minimum you need for student loans will save you hundreds to thousands of dollars over the life of your repayment journey.

RELATED: The best part-time jobs for students

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Best part-time job for college students

Nanny 
If you grew up babysitting younger family members, then this position is perfect for you. Not only is being a nanny one of the most flexible part-time jobs, but you can set your own rate. 

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Receptionist
While the hours for this position may not be as flexible, working as an office assistant or receptionist for a major company is a great way to get your foot in the door. As a receptionist you will be tasked with entry-level responsibilities, which will give you a great advantage when applying to your first full-time job. 

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Waiter/Waitress  
Possibly one of the most demanding jobs, working as a server in a restaurant comes with just as much stress as reward. The hours may be long, but at some restaurants, wages can be worth it. 

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Tutor  
Similar to working as a nanny, being a tutor is one of the most flexible job opportunities. As a tutor, you can help others in a variety of subjects. This is a great job for a college student because not only will you be helping others, but you will also be strengthening your knowledge in whatever subject you teach. 

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Freelance Work 
Much like serving, being a freelancer can be very rewarding financially. As a freelancer, you can choose which industry you want to work in and begin to gain experience while still in school. 

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Work-Study Job  
If you are a student who meets the qualifications for financial aid, you can apply for your school's work study program. Work study schedules your shifts around your class schedule and the best part is that most jobs are on campus and the money you make can go directly towards paying off your tuition or any other university balances. 

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How to Take Action

There are two main ways to cancel federal student loans:

1. Notify your school within a 14-day window after your school tells you that you have a right to cancel the loan or by the first day of your school's payment period. If you don't alert your school before the loans are disbursed, then you still have some resources. The first option is to, again, notify your school within 30 days. Missing these timeframes leaves your financial fate in the hands of your school's financial aid office, which could still elect to return your loans, but isn't legally obligated to do so.

It won't be enough to just call up your school's financial aid office. You'll need to submit your request to return the funds in writing and preferably via certified mail so you can keep a paper trail of your request and prove when you asked for the funds to be returned, just in case there's any issue.

[See: How to Live on $13,000 a Year.]

2. Know that Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program are also eligible to be returned. This gives you some longer leeway, as you have up to 120 days to return some or all of your loan. You should contact the Direct Loan Servicing Center for help on how to properly return the loan and avoid paying any fees or interest.

If You Just Repay the Loan

You could just repay the loan if the funds are sitting in your bank account, unused. However, repaying instead of canceling means you will still have at least paid the origination fee and may have allowed some interest to accrue while you debated whether you needed the money.

[See: 9 Scary Things Consumers Do With Their Money.]

Ways to Take Out Less in Loans Moving Forward

In addition to taking out loans for only the bare minimum, plus maybe a tiny buffer, you should also strive to minimize the cost of college each year you attend. There are three simple ways to do this:

1. Keep applying for scholarships and grants. Scholarships and grants keep getting awarded long after you graduate high school. You could even be applying all summer before going to college. Once you're in school, keep an eye out for community scholarships, national opportunities and, of course, college-sponsored scholarships. Most colleges offer scholarships and grants to current students, some of which you may not even be eligible for until you advance beyond freshman year. Keep searching and applying for scholarships all four years and be sure to subtract that amount from the total you request in loans.

2. Get on a work-study job or become a resident assistant. Your campus has jobs open to you, as does the local community, so go get one! If you're not eligible for work study, then consider other employment opportunities on campus like being a resident assistant. You could probably shave several thousand dollars a year off your loans.

3. Get a summer job. Use the summer to get a job, be it an internship or not, and save up money for the following semester. These funds can be used to at least fund lifestyle expenses and minimize your temptation to request more in loans just to be able to live it up a little during your college years.

RELATED: 5 tips to help you get your first job out of college

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Take advantage of your college career center
Most universities offer career coaching from trained professionals who specialize in development and advancement. Whether or not you have an idea of your career plans post-college, it can be beneficial to take a few hours out of your day and set up an appointment with one of the counselors. Many times, these professionals can review and help you tailor your resumé and cover letter. To top it off, because of their experience and networks in various industries, counselors have the potential to connect you with hiring managers.

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Begin creating and using your network 
One of the most important aspects to finding a job is taking advantage of your professional and personal network. Your connections can vary from your family members and friends to your professors and alumni. If you feel as if you're lacking a valuable network, however, business association events and gatherings are the best way to gain important contacts.

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Participate in recruiting and career fairs 
This piece of advice may be the most obvious, but many students fail to take advantage of it. Careers fairs orchestrated by your specific college are invaluable. They allow you to not only learn about opportunities in your respective career, but it also allows you the opportunity to network with hiring managers and employers of the companies present.

Use your social media wisely 
It goes without saying that we live in a social media world. Everything you do online can be tracked, so it's important to make sure you are representing your personality and style accurately, and in the best possible light -- you never know who may be looking at your page.


 
Always follow up  
With the advancement of modern technology, most job applications are done online. Because of this new process, it oftentimes makes it harder to find the person of contact to follow up with. However, you shouldn't let that initial obstacle prevent you from following up. If you can't find the name of the hiring manager directly reviewing your application, use LinkedIn to do a search of the next best person to reach out to. Many potential employees miss out on interviews by not being proactive and sending follow up emails.
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