Student loan debt continues to be crippling for many new graduates. According to Make Lemonade, student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category. This puts it behind only mortgage debt, and above debt from both credit cards and auto loans.

Make Lemonade also reports there is a total of 44 million borrowers and $1.3 trillion in student loan debt just in the U.S. The average student graduating in 2016 had more than $37,000 in student loan debt.

Delinquency or default rates are more than 11%.

Young people are seeing the effects of student loan debt well into their 20s and 30s. It makes it more difficult to achieve traditional milestones, such as buying a home.

One way to deal with student loan debt is to work on paying it off while in school, and the following are some realistic tips to do that.

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Join the Gig Economy

A lot of students aren’t able to get a full or part-time job while they’re in school because the demands would be too high.

Luckily, the gig economy means there are opportunities to earn money without sacrificing in school.

Examples of places you can earn in the gig economy include driving for Uber or Lyft, freelancing in an area where you have a skill or talent such as writing or web design, or working as an online tutor.

The gig economy is a viable option for students who aren’t able to commit to a traditional work environment.

Pay the Interest

If nothing else, make it a goal to pay the interest on your loans while you’re still in school. Most loans start accruing interest from the time they’re disbursed, and it can add up to a lot more money than the original amount you borrow.

Create a Budget and a Plan

You should sit down and come up with a budget for yourself while you’re in school, and also determine how much you’ll pay toward student loans each month.

It’s also important to be strategic when it comes to paying student loans. Decide what you’ll pay first, how much you’ll pay and how long it will take you to pay it off. Usually, the best loans to pay off first are the ones with the highest interest rates.

While you’re planning, if possible try to set up automatic, recurring payments for your loans. This will make it an effortless process for you.

Don’t Take A Refund

A lot of times when your loan is disbursed to your school, and all of your costs have been covered, you’ll get a refund check reflecting the remaining loan balance.

This happens when a student borrows more than they need, and when they receive that check, they may spend it.

That’s not a good idea, and if at all possible, that money should be sent back to the loan servicer.

Also, make sure you’re borrowing the smallest amount possible.

Finally, don’t think that you have to be paying off a huge amount each month for it to make a difference. Even just paying a little each month can benefit you significantly after you graduate,  so don’t look at it as all-or-nothing.