Many Americans are struggling to pay off their student loans, forcing them to put off major life events, such as getting married, having kids, and buying a home. While in school, you are usually just focused on graduating and soaking in the college experience. However, the true weight of the debt can often come as a surprise as you transition from being a student to entering the workforce. Students who are considering taking out loans to pay for college should take a step back and really consider these important questions.

Have I Explored Other Options Besides College?

College isn’t the answer for everyone. Although it has probably been something pushed on you by family, friends, and the educational system, there are other options outside of going to college. If you have a deep desire to serve the country, then you can consider joining the military. You can also look at trade schools, which can give the skills to start working in a field that pays well. Make sure you take the time to explore other interests and don’t write them off so quickly because of the influence of others. At the end of the day, you are going to be the one who has to pay off the debt—this is your decision and no one else.

Is It Worth Going Out of State for College?

If you have decided to go to college, and have been accepted to out of state institutions, you should factor in the extra cost of room and board. This can cost thousands of more dollars a year, and add to the overall debt you will have to pay when you graduate. If you are going into a high paying field, then this will probably seem worth it. However, you may want to consider staying in the state you currently live in for college.

To save even more money, you can consider going to a community college first and then transfer to a four year to complete your education. If you intend to do the latter, just make sure you don’t get complacent with your education. Make sure you have a clear educational plan so that you can move on from the community college to your desired four-year institution in the least amount of time.

Is the Debt to Potential Income Ratio Worth It?

You need to realistically look at how much you can potentially make with your major when you graduate. This is one of the most important questions you should ask because this will help you determine if the debt that is required to get the degree is worth it. If you are going to struggle to pay off the debt due to the field you are going into, then it may not seem worth it. You should also factor in financial aid or scholarships that can help you shoulder the weight of the debt.

Going with Private or Federal Student Loans?

The preferred method for most is getting a federal loan. This is because it comes with certain added perks that private loans do not have. Federal loans have more repayment options available to individuals than private loans. Furthermore, if you find yourself in a tough financial situation and are unable to make your loan payments, federal loans have more options for you to make sure that you don’t become delinquent, or worst, default on the loan.

Consider all of these questions and any others that you may have before deciding to take on any student loan debt. When it is all said in done, you will probably be thankful for the time and research you did before deciding on your education future.