When it comes to money, once you have a bit, there are so many decisions to make. For example, should I pay extra on my student loans or put more towards retirement? Should I have a 3 month emergency fund or a 6 month emergency fund (EF)? If I put more of my savings in my emergency fund, what do I cut? The problem is we cannot do everything we want, spending or savings wise.
For students the choices can be do I work or take student loans? Or should I take out the minimum I need or have some breathing room? All of these choices will affect our futures but we don't know which is the best choice. So how to choose?
Personally I think it is ok to take the max amount of subsidized student loans to give yourself an EF as long as you keep that money as EF and not an excuse to spend more. Also, I would assume that a student would repay the extra amount they took within the first 6 month after graduation to avoid having a large month expense. Also check what fees you pay to get the loan (discover is 0% but direct loans can have up to a 1.5% fee).
In regard to SL vs retirement it depends, if you have having trouble with cash flow maybe paying some the student loans off may be better for you or if you have private student loans (because they are variable) it may be a good idea to pay them off before the rate goes up. For my DF and I, we will be paying off my small loan while he is graduate school while saying 14% of our income to retirement. Because he started saving late, that amount is the least amount we feel comfortable saving. This will allow us some breathing room when he is a post doctoral fellow (which does not pay much).
To determine how much of an EF you need, I would look at your expenses, how easy it would be to get a job to cover those expenses and how stable your job is. As a graduate student my DF's job is extremely stable for the next three years so I am fine with a three month EF but once he becomes a post doctoral fellow it will be moved up to six months because a post doctoral fellow is not as stable.
But all of these are our choices and everyone makes their own, as it should be. Just make sure you know why you making your decisions and why they are right for you.