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190622 - Loan repayment 2022

How I Repaid My $28,000 Student Loan In Full After Graduation

profileHui Juan Neo

“You must go to the University. It is the first ticket to success in life.” – My mother.

I’ve heard this countless times and I’m sure most of you have heard of it, too.

I was the typical Singaporean student who was spurred to pursue a university education because of my parent.

And when we’re talking about going to college, the first thing that comes to mind is usually… college fees.

Source: Tenor

An average Singaporean spends about $427,035 by the age of 30, and the first $30,000 is actually on a student loan.

For clarity, I’m referring to the Ministry Of Education’s Tuition Fee Loan, which would’ve easily set you on a $30,000 debt right when you’ve just entered college.

I could take up a personal loan, but I didn’t because the Tuition Fee Loan covers up to 90% of the subsidised tuition fees.

Regardless of whether you’re on DBS, OCBC or UOB Tuition Loan, the repayment starts no later than 2 years after the student graduates.

The student can pay the amount plus interest in cash either in one lump sum or via monthly instalment over a maximum of 20 years.

With this, my financial goal as a fresh grad was actually to stay debt-free. 

I didn’t start investing back then, so I saved strategically and worked throughout.

Here’s how I did it and I hope it’ll give you some glimpse of hope that you can also repay student loans immediately!

Disclaimer: The information provided by Seedly serves as an educational piece and is not intended to be personalised investment advice. ​Readers should always do their own due diligence and consider their financial goals before investing in any investment product.


TL;DR: Look Out For Financial Aid Programmes, Do Part-Time Internships & Find Cheap Leisures

These were my estimates from many years ago.

Actionable StepsEstimated Savings Per Year
Applied For University Financial Aid Programme$3,000
Part-time jobs & Internships$3,000
Saved 20% of daily allowance$520
Total Per Year$6,520

After our ‘Ordinary’ Levels, my sister and I had to choose between going to a junior college and a polytechnic.

Our financial circumstances back then would have created significant stress if we have both chosen to go to the latter.

There were student loans available, but we weren’t comfortable going into debt so early.

Similarly, my older sister was also schooling and needed money.

I simply wanted to go to a junior college (as school fees were subsidised), go to a local Uni, get the loan I need and pay it back.

Here are my actionable steps:

  1. Apply for Financial Aids and Bursaries
  2. Do part-time internships or jobs
  3. Scrimped, saved and be thrifty

Apply For University Financial Aid, Bursaries & Grants

Source: Tenor

In my case, I applied for the NUS Financial Aid Package.

You can apply for the NUS Financial Aid Package if you have been offered and have not rejected the MOE Tuition Grant for your undergraduate studies.

The MOE Tuition Grant is a grant provided by the Government of Singapore to help students manage the costs of full-time tertiary education in Singapore.

You would need to fulfil the household income per capita (PCI) criterion to be eligible for financial aid.

Currently, PCI is at S$2,700 for Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents, and S$1,200 for International Students.

Because I’ve applied for the financial package, I was also considered for other bursaries, grants and loans:

Schemes Covering Tuition Fees & Living ExpensesEligibilityAnnual Quantum for Full-time Undergraduates
Higher Education BursaryFull-time or part-time (Bachelor of Technology) Singapore Citizens Undergraduates whose monthly per capita household income is not more than $2,250 or total monthly household income is not more than $9,000+

The recipient must not concurrently hold the Higher Education Bursary with the Higher Education Community Bursary. The recipient must not hold any other scholarships or bursaries or free aid without prior approval from the University. The recipient may concurrently hold the following:
- Scholarships/bursaries/study awards which are specifically meant to cover the tuition fees only or
- Bursaries or grants meant to cover accommodation-related fees or
- Awards or bursaries related to overseas exchange programmes such as Student Exchange Programmes (SEP) and NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programmes
From S$1,350. Award is tenable for one year. A fresh application is required each academic year.
Higher Education Community BursaryFull-time Singapore Citizens Undergraduates whose monthly per capita household income is not more than $1,000 or total monthly household income is not more than $4,000.

The following undergraduates who meet the above criteria are also eligible:
- Graduate LL.B students who are under the MOE Tuition Grant Scheme
- Full fee paying transfer or re-admitted students who are pursuing/her first undergraduate degree and not already holding qualifications higher than a bachelor's degree

Note: Undergraduates who are reading the Concurrent Degree Programmes are not eligible for the bursary once they are charged a graduate tuition fee.

The recipient must not concurrently hold the Higher Education Community Bursary with the Higher Education Bursary. The recipient must not hold any other scholarships or bursaries or free aid without prior approval from the University. The recipient may concurrently hold the following:
- NUS Donated Bursary or
- Scholarships/bursaries/study awards which are specifically meant to cover the tuition fees only or
- Bursaries or grants meant to cover accommodation-related fees or
- Awards or bursaries related to overseas exchange programmes such as Student Exchange Programmes (SEP) and NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programmes
From S$5,000. Award is tenable for one year. A fresh application is required each academic year.
NUS Donated BursariesNeedy full-time undergraduates. Eligibility is dependent on the assessed level of neediness of the applicant.

Undergraduates who are reading the Concurrent Degree Programmes are not eligible for the bursary once they are charged a graduate tuition fee.

Successful recipients are required to:
- submit appreciation letters to donors;
- meet-up session with donors (if requested); and
- provide assistance at Faculty or University events (if requested)

Recipients may not concurrently hold the NUS Donated Bursary with any other scholarship/bursary/free aid but will be allowed to hold the following if offered:
- Higher Education Community Bursary or Higher Education Bursary
- MENDAKI Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy
- Awards or bursaries related to overseas exchange programmes such as Student Exchange Programmes (SEP) and NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programmes
- A bursary is tenable for up to and only one year, therefore a fresh application is required each academic year.
Each bursary quantum is at least $1,500 per annum.

These bursaries will be offered in July or August and are funded by donations. Thus, eligible students will be contacted from July onwards and may be required to attend interviews.
Work Study Assistance Needy full-time undergraduates. Eligibility is dependent on the assessed level of neediness of the applicant.Provides letter requesting priority consideration for part-time employment
NUS Study Loan (Repayable after graduation)Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents with a monthly per capita household income is not more than S$2,700, or International Students with a per capita household income of not more than S$1,200.Up to 20% of SC subsidised tuition fees and S$3,600
Schemes Covering Tuition Fees & Living ExpensesEligibilityAnnual Quantum for Full-time Undergraduates
Residential Programme BursaryNeedy Singaporean full-time undergraduates residing in one of the five Residential Colleges or the seven Halls of Residence may be considered. The bursary is offered depending on the assessed level of neediness of the applicant. Re-application is required every year.From S$500
Residential College BursariesNeedy full-time undergraduates residing in and reading the College Programme at the Cinnamon College (NUSC), College of Alice & Peter Tan, Residential College 4, Ridge View Residential College and Tembusu College. Eligibility is dependent on the assessed level of neediness of the applicant.S$3,950 to S$6,000
Opportunity Enhancement GrantNeedy full-time Singaporean undergraduate students whose monthly per capita household income is not more than S$690 in any of the semesters during their candidature. Undergraduates who are pursuing the Concurrent Degree Programmes will not be eligible for the grant once they are charged graduate tuition fees.S$10,000 over 4 years to possibly top up existing coverage for an on-campus stay
College GrantsNeedy undergraduates Varies
Hall BursariesNeedy undergraduates Varies

I was eligible for the NUS Bursary, MOE Bursary and CDC/CCC Bursary AND I’ve also separately applied for the NUS Alumni Bursary.

I didn’t take up any loan because…I wanted to be debt-free.

This was a yearly application and I remembered collating tons of documents such as notice of assessment, medical documents, declaration forms, NRIC of all family members etc.

Back then, my tuition fee per academic year was about $7,850, and each of these bursaries was at least $2,000.

Do note that the bursary quantum does differ from person to person and is usually tenable for one academic year.

If it wasn’t for the financial aid package, it could be a lot more difficult to collate my finances by the time I graduated.

Note: Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents who have not been offered or have rejected the MOE tuition grant can still apply for Financial Aid.

Don’t be too quick to give up as you can still be considered for some of the schemes under the Financial Aid Package.

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Do Part-Time Internships and Jobs During Your Free-Time

Source: Tenor

Some of us are pretty familiar with this.

I started tutoring when I had some free time after school.

Each class was 1.5-hour and I had an average of eight classes per month. This amounted to about $300 per month.

During the mid-year and year-end breaks, I was either doing a part-time at a restaurant, walking a dog, or doing an internship.

I’ve also extended my internship to be a part-timer as the organisation I was interning at, still required extra help for a project.

If you’re a student, internships are extremely important in today’s world, hence it would be good to do some and accumulate relevant experiences!

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Don’t Be Afraid To Scrimp, Save and Be Thrifty

I kid you not, my allowance in Uni was $10 per day. On good weekends, I would get an extra $10.

If my mother won 4D, I would have some extra cash.

Well, I made use of the 20-30-50 budget rule back then and tried saving about 20% of my allowance as much as I can.

Looking back, some of my friends probably thought that I was faking when I told them I didn’t have money.

What they didn’t know were the little day-to-day things I did.

Skip The Partying & Cafe Hopping

Source: Giphy

Uni’s usually the time for non-stop partying, but partying needs money.

So…I joined school activities instead and that didn’t require me to spend much.

Also, remember how Instagram kickstarted the whole cafe-hopping trend?

Skip all of those! You can eat in school or cook at home.

Source: Tenor

Fun fact, my friends actually cooked a whole Bak Ku Teh meal for me for my 20th birthday because…I didn’t want them to spend too much money.

Anyhow, both options didn’t require me to spend more than $25 per week.

On days when I was really stressed, my lunch could just be a $1.60 chocolate waffle and a cup of $1 coffee with milk.

Pro-tip: I squeezed my classes into a three- or four-day work week so that I don’t have to travel all the time. So saved on transport!

Don’t Change Your Electronic Devices Unnecessarily

Source: Tenor

We all know how expensive phones and laptops are.

Personally, I didn’t change my phone even though it was sh*tty.

It was not until my final year when my phone went on a blast in the library and the silent mode was no longer working that I knew it was time for a change.

Another pro-tip: Instead of buying student-priced electronics, visit an IT show or buy during the sales period because…freebies!

Made Use of Shopping Apps & Discounts

Source: Giphy

I’m glad that my years of shopping have helped cultivate discount tips.

I would jump on sales days to make all my purchases.

If not, I would join bulk purchases to shop, so that I can split shipping costs with my friends.

Taobao was also a good friend because everything was cheap then!

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Is It Wise To Pay off Student Loans Early?

Definitely.

But, would I do it again even though I was broke AF after that?

Yes, I would still do it.

The process to pay off my student loan was very smooth. I remembered signing some papers and that was it.

This was my reaction when I had to part ways with my money!

Source: Tenor

I only had a few hundred dollars left, but I was happy that I was debt-free.

As I was still a job seeker then, this decision really took away my mental load.

And it has also taught me that with willpower, I could push through to achieve my goals.

No one likes the feeling of being on the short end of the stick, so you should only do this if you’re comfortable with it.

This was my personal finance journey and I was accountable for it, be it cash flow or the life choices I made.

Everyone’s journey is different, you can always come up with a quick repayment plan and check out how others have paid back their loans within two years too!

Whatever choice you make, you must know that this is your personal finance journey. 

If you’re in doubt, the Seedly community is here to get your questions answered!

Share with us if you have any experience with these or even a better alternative by commenting below!

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About Hui Juan Neo
The typical friend you have when it comes to breaking down complex info, comparing prices of things and doing reviews.
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