Obtaining a college education is a wise financial choice that can pay serious dividends throughout your lifetime. However, student loans can represent a financial burden that many have difficulty overcoming. In order to secure the best student loan terms and ensure you pay them off as quickly as possible, it’s important to avoid these three common misconceptions related to student loan debt.

Student Loans are Basically All the Same

There is a huge variety of student loans on the market, and it’s important to do your research. Often, the best student loans are backed by the federal government. These allow you to start paying off your debt once you leave school, and they feature lower interest rates overall. You can sometimes claim financial hardship to delay the loan payment process with these types of loans after graduation.

On the other hand, some private loans out there are decent, but many are extremely unattractive. Try to avoid private loans with extremely high interest rates coupled with an overly burdensome loan repayment plan. Often, these predatory loans also feature hidden fees and serious penalties written into the contract language.

Private loan interest rates can range anywhere from 2.5 percent to more than 8 percent. Taking a loan with a higher interest rate means that you could end up with a small loan ballooning into a financial nightmare. Read the fine print of all private loans to ensure you’re getting a fair deal.

You’re Stuck With Horrible Loans for Life

Although student loan debt can be tough, you can take a proactive approach about it. Refinancing your loan makes a lot of sense if you’ve established a good credit history after you’ve graduated. When you refinance, you may be able to lower your monthly payment costs while also reducing your overall interest rate. Generally speaking, a credit score of 640 or higher means you should look into your refinancing options to see if your loan costs can be reduced. It’s also possible to refinance your student loans multiple times. If you don’t qualify for refinancing, you can also look into student debt relief services that can help you reduce your loans.

Many Students Get a Free Ride

Unfortunately, even with stellar grades, many students won’t receive a full ride for university, which means that student loans are often necessary. Both parents and students often harbor this misconception, which means they’re usually in for a shock when they realize how much college will actually cost. In fact, only 1 percent of students have 90 percent of their education paid for through scholarships, leaving many to pay tens of thousands of dollars.

Basically, it’s important to assume you won’t receive a full ride based on merit. Explore financial aid options based on “need” early on, which means filling out the FAFSA application for federal aid and grants. Speak with the university about student loan options they recommend. If you are a parent, look into 529 college savings plans like UPromise, which let you set aside money for your child’s education by buying everyday items.

Ultimately, these misconceptions can lead to bad financial decisions early on in life. Be smart as you get started with your education and make sure you pay for it the right way.