Many students graduate college with piles of debt, and millennials are no exception. It's not completely surprising, then, to learn that 15% of millennial borrowers aged 22 to 28 expect to still be paying off their student loans in their 50s, according to a recent survey by TD Ameritrade. 

Clearly, that's a pretty bleak fate to resign yourself to. But even if you did borrow quite a bit of money for college, there are steps you can take to knock out that debt well before you reach 50.

A middle-aged man looking over bills at his desk with a calculator and his hand on his head.

Image source: Getty Images

1. Live on a tight budget

Once you graduate college, you'll be required to start paying back your student debt. But if you force yourself to live extremely frugally for a few years, you may find that you're able to carve out extra money toward your loans, which will help you eliminate them sooner. 

To this end, you'll really want to get in the habit of following a budget, because having one will help you keep your spending in check and manage your limited resources wisely. Of course, you can take frugal living to varying extremes. For some people, it means moving in with their parents until their late 20s to save money on rent. For others, it simply means being more judicious about spending money on luxuries like restaurant meals and entertainment. But if you're willing to make some sacrifices, there's a good chance you can knock out your student debt sooner than expected. 

2. Boost your income with a side job

If you're used to living on a certain income, here's the beauty of a second job: Your extra earnings aren't earmarked for existing bills, so you get the option to do whatever you want with that money. And if paying off your student loans quickly is important to you, you can use your side earnings (minus the sum you owe in taxes, of course) to accelerate the repayment process.

3. Refinance costly loans

If you took out federal student loans for college, you're generally looking at a pretty reasonable interest rate on your debt. That's because federal loans are regulated, and the interest rates attached to them are fixed for the life of your repayment period. 

If you took out private loans for college, however, it's a different story. Private lenders can charge whatever interest they'd like -- in many cases, double the interest attached to federal loans, or even more. And, private loans can come with variable interest rates, so while you might start out with a reasonable amount of interest, that figure could climb over the course of your repayment period.

If you're dealing with private loans, it pays to look into refinancing. In doing so, your goal is to swap your existing debt for a new loan with a lower interest rate, thereby lowering your monthly payments. Once that happens, if you continue to make your old, more expensive payments, you'll be able to apply the difference to your loan's outstanding principal and knock it out sooner. Best of all, there's no cost associated with refinancing student debt, and if your credit is great, it's really worth looking into. 

The last thing you want is to carry your student debt with you all the way into your 50s. Rather than assume that's where you're headed, take steps to get ahead of that debt. Once you do, your finances and outlook are likely to change for the better.