Here are a few ideas that might just cut the time in half:
- Prioritize - Try to focus on private student loans first as they tend to have high interest rates and might take very long to pay off if you don't tackle it aggressively. Also try to cut down on luxuries even when you may be dazzled by your first real paycheck. The sooner you are debt-free the sooner you can start investing in other things, so distinguish between luxuries and necessities whenever you hit the shops..
- Stay calm - Before you even begin worrying about the mountain before you, remember that thousands of other first-timers have been in your position and it's not as impossible as it might seem. If others can successfully eliminate study loans, so can you!
- Keep track - Be sure to keep correspondence and statements, and set goals for how much you would like to pay off each year. Work out a budget to keep you from overspending on other things - it's NEVER too early to start using a budget.
- Communicate - If you ever struggle to keep up with payments try swallowing your pride and giving your lender a call. Instead of disappearing off the face off the earth and ending up blacklisted, own up and see if there are alternative arrangements or extensions available.
- Synchronize - If you tend to forget to make payments, why not set monthly reminders or schedule automatic deductions from your bank account?
- Big bursts - If you can afford to pay bigger installments, do it! You'll save lots of interest and cover the whole amount much sooner. Any additional income you receive during the year can also go straight to your loan in order to speed up the process as much as possible.
- Eyes on the prize - Remember your goals. As soon as you've paid off your debt you can start investing in other things. Regardless of what your goals are, set some sort of reward for yourself to keep you motivated until you make your last payment.
Self discipline and patience are crucial skills you will need to learn during the process so remember to keep your eyes on the prize. You can also have a look at this post where college grads share their student loan horror stories!