Devetra - Student loans can make it tough on you when you get out, but you need them to finish school. Best thing you can do is to use only what you need so that you limit your debt exposure when you graduate. Also, I would look into any and all possible options your student loans will allow. For instance, do your student loans allow a payment plan that is based on your income? When you graduate, some employers will pay your student loans, at least in part, if you commit to them for a certain period of time. For instance, this happens with teachers in some communities when they agree to teach in underserved areas. I am not sure of your year in college, but I would not worry about paying loans back until you are done. What you should do is only take out the amount you absolutely need for school, work when you can and be sure you look at financing options when you graduate to see if consolidating your loans into one payment option might help you.
First off avoid debt at all costs. There are many skilled trades that you don't have to go into debt to learn. Some actually pay you.
Pursue any and all grants and scholarships. Figure out what the typical career you want to do makes a year. A $20,000 loan is basically a car or rent payment. It's not worth your time to pursue a debt if their is no chance you can't pay it off. As you defer the payments, the interest charges will continue to compound. You maybe be paying hundreds per month and never actually ever making a dent in the principal.
Finally if you want smart advice on managing and paying off debt look into author Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University program taught at some churches. He has also authored some books and has a daily radio talk show. While what he speaks is common sense, hard work, and sacrifice, I have heard many people getting rid of massive amounts of credit card debt in just a few years time. Some even paying off their cars and homes and having money in the bank.
You are right not to want a lot of student loan debt when your finish college. That was one of my goals as well when I first began college.
When I obtained my bachelor's degree, I took out a student loan for $10,000. The first thing I did was place a "hold" on my loan so that I would not have to make monthly payments while I took classes. While in college, I worked full time, so I would pay the interest that accrued each year to keep the loan amount from increasing. By the time I earned my bachelor's degree about 4 1/2 years later, my loan debt was still only $10,000. So, then, off to graduate school I went.
While in graduate school, I paid for my classes each semester with my credit card, and paid the balance off by the end of the semester. I did this all through graduate school...twice ...because I earned 2 master's degrees. When I finished graduate school, I still only had $10,000 of college debt. This amount of debt is extremely low, considering I had earned a bachelor's degree and 2 master's degrees!! It was at this point that I obtained employment in my field and begin paying my loan off. It took me about 3 1/2 years to do so. I'm happy to say that I am completely free of all school debt!!! For now, anyway, because I'm thinking of returning to school to obtain my PH.D.
Your loans will likely go into deferment while you're a full time student, but as previously stated, if you can start putting away money now that will help a great deal when its time to pay. I'd recommended looking for a part-time job with your university that caterers specifically to students and may even allow you to study on the job (like a parking lot attendant) or earn valuable career experience (like a teaching or research assistant). I worked as a resident assistant, which in addition to paying me a stipend, also covered my housing costs. It also forced me to stay in and study a few nights a month when I had night duty. If you're interested in military service after college you could look at a ROTC program, which can pay your tuition costs in full.
Sticking to your major is key as changing disciplines can push back your graduation date. Many majors can be completed in 3 years or less if you carefully plan your courses early with the help of an adviser. If you can earn credits through AP classes, or take less expensive classes at a community college during the summer that can help as well, but make sure those classes will transfer first. Also remember that you can still apply for scholarships even while you're a college student!
I would recommend ensuring that you do the best that you can in school to make the loans worth while. What you can control is keeping the loan to a minimum to not incur extra debt.