Refinancing Student Loans – SoFi Review
You know I have a mountain of debt. Most of it is federal student loans. But I do have one private loan, my bar loan. It was a variable interest loan and after the interest rate went up three times in six months, I decided it was time to refinance.
My Original Bar Loan
First things first, in case you don’t know what a bar loan is, it’s a loan you take out to help cover the costs of studying for and taking the bar exam. Studying for the bar exam can be a full-time job and it was for me. I honestly don’t know how people manage to work while studying for the exam.
Since it is its own full-time job, I used the loan to help cover the cost of travel to the bar exam as well as paying for the test itself. I studied for the bar while staying with my sister in Washington state.
However, I took the bar in New York followed by Massachusetts. Besides travel, the loan was used to pay for a bar prep class and the test themselves, which aren’t cheap. My loan total came to $11,000 and was co-signed by my parents.
How I Found Out About SoFi
I first learned about SoFi at FinCon 2015. After learning about other friend’s experiences, I started looking into SoFi a bit more. I really liked their approach of Social Finance. They care about their community and it’s not just words. They host dinners and parties for their borrowers.
Though I can’t be bought with a dinner (actually I missed out because I was out of town). I liked the culture of the company. Digging a little deeper I also found out that they take a different approach when evaluating whether to lend to a borrower or not.
SoFi looks at where you are going, weighing you career experience the most. They then look at your income, financial history, and education.
Why I Refinanced – SoFi Review
I had two reasons for refinancing. First, my original loan had a variable interest rate that had managed to increase three times in less than a year. It was getting frustrating to pay extra on it each month and every few months have more and more of that payment go towards interest.
Second, my parents had co-signed the loan, I didn’t have the best credit back then and needed a co-signer. I now have great credit so I wanted to pursue a loan on my own to allow my parents to be free of the loan.
I choose SoFi after comparing a few other lenders. SoFi had the best rate and the best reputation. Their company culture and logical approach to lending was refreshing. They actually work with their customers to help them succeed.
Pros and Cons
- Realistic approach to evaluating borrowers and their ability to repay the loan
- Great rates
- Excellent customer service
- Great company culture
- Ability to upload an additional documentation needed to make a decision
- If you refinance a federal student loan you will lose the flexible repayment plans available to you (true no matter where you refinance)
- No physical location to walk in and ask questions (it’s all online)
- As with any loan application, it will count as a hard check on your credit
The Refinancing Process
The process of refinancing was fairly easy, I filled out a form online. I then waited to be pre-approved and debated which loan I wanted.
There were several options and I could have gotten an even lower interest rate with a shorter loan term. However, the monthly amount due would have exceeded what I’m used to paying on the loan. I didn’t want to stretch myself too thin. There were also great variable interest rates, but I was already frustrated with my current variable interest rate loan.
I ultimately picked a fixed 7% loan saving me 1.5%, not huge, but enough to make a difference. Since there is no prepayment penalty I’ll still be paying a little extra on the loan each month. While still having some cushion in case something comes up.
Once I selected the loan, I had to submit some paperwork to verify my identity and my education. After the information was processed I was sent my loan documents to sign online. I signed and a few days later received information on how to log into my new loan servicer. I made my first payment last week.
If you have federal student loans and are struggling with your payments, consider utilizing an income-driven repayment plan at least temporarily.
Why I Chose My Bar Loan to Refinance
If you have been around the blog, you know that I have more than one education-related loan. So you might be wondering why this was the only loan I refinanced. The reason I refinanced this one was that it was a private loan, the rest of my loans are federal loans.
Federal loans have many perks including flexible repayment. One thing I really liked about SoFi is that in all their paperwork etc. they emphasize that you may lose repayment options if you refinance a federal loan. So if you only have federal loans, think twice before refinancing.
In case you don’t know, refinancing means you are taking out a new loan (with hopefully better rates but possibly fewer options) to pay off the old loan.
If on the other hand, you have private loans, I think you should always be on the lookout for a better rate. This is especially true if you went to school when rates were high. Shop around, but if you are interested in refinancing your student loans with SoFi you can get $100 as a welcome bonus (through my link).
Any questions about my SoFi Review? Let me know in the comments!