I decided to not base my PhD start date on when my current student loans are paid off. If I do, it would take far too long, as I would be more likely to put it off. Instead, I'm setting a start date for my PhD: Fall of 2014. I have four years from this fall to be ready for and accepted into a PhD program. This target date will let me set more realistic goals for taking the GRE, applying to the programs, touring campuses, paying on my student loans, and much more.