It’s getting near the time of year when students eagerly await their acceptance letters and begin to plan the next leg of their life. Before the common application, this was much easier. But with a new online application process students are applying to 10, 20 or 30 schools making their decision that much tougher.

If funding is an issue, and you plan to pay for the education using college loans, then the cost of your education should be a significant factor in deciding where to attend.  According to Marketwatch, total U.S. student loan debt increases by $2,726 each second. It is currently estimated that the total amount of student loans outstanding in the U.S. totals about $1.4 trillion.

There are federal student loans and privately issued student loans.

Depending upon your income, your federal loan can be subsidized or not. If a federal loan is subsidized, interest will not accrue while the student is enrolled.

Private loans and unsubsidized federal loans, however, do accrue interest while the student is enrolled. If your loan is unsubsidized, it may be wise to pay the interest as you go to avoid a much larger loan balance upon graduating.

Borrowers who regret the amount of loans that they have say they regret making personal sacrifices such as living at home for an extended period after graduation or not being able to spend like you had hoped upon completing your education and becoming gainfully employed.

And in my opinion, this is the soft stuff. These loans can really become a noose around your neck if you can’t find work, don’t earn as expected, become disabled and unable to make the payments or had a vision of owning real estate instead of tossing money out the window on rent.

Student loans are no longer dischargeable in bankruptcy. Not that this is the best way to retire your debt anyway, but the law was created for a reason. Taking any excessive risk while you have material amounts of student loans outstanding may not be such a good idea.

Furthermore, it is clear that large amounts of student debt may not bode well for your credit rating. If you are late or miss student loan payments, your credit score may get crushed.

If it’s too late, and your loved one is already saddled with student debt, make a plan to help out.

Start by helping the young grad with a budget. Slowly but surely these loans will get paid with the right effort. Don’t be shy about asking for help. Consider a credit counseling service or look for a job that offers loan paybacks as one of the benefits. And if the debtor is your child, see a financial planner to see if you can afford to help out.

John P. Napolitano CFP, CPA is CEO of U.S. Wealth Management in Braintree, Mass.  Visit JohnPNapolitano on LinkedIn or uswealthnapolitano.com. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. John Napolitano is a registered principal with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through US Financial Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. US Financial Advisors and US Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial. He can be reached at 781-849-9200.