If you’ve recently graduated or finished school, it’s likely that you’ve used some federal student loans to help pay for tuition. Now that you’re no longer in school, those loans will soon go into repayment.
Here are five tips to help you prepare for paying back your student loans:
1. Take advantage of exit counseling
Exit counseling provides information to borrowers about their specific federal loan situation, such as balance, interest rate, monthly payment amount and loan servicer. You can access exit counseling services by logging into your account at studentloans.gov. The system will ask you to enter some personal information, such as your income and family size, and will then provide you with estimates for different repayment options. In addition to this, you can learn how to make payments, what to do if you’re having trouble making payments and tips for financial planning. Keep in mind that if you have any private student loans or debts directly with your school, they will not be shown in exit counseling or in your federal student loan account.
2. Contact your servicer
Your federal student loan servicer is available to help you determine which repayment option is the best fit for you and your current situation. The servicer may also ask you questions about your income and family size, which allows them to determine payment plans and if you would qualify for deferment or forbearance options. Depending on which payment plan you choose, you may be required to fill out paperwork and provide income documentation. If so, your servicer will send you the document and assist you with any questions you might have. You can find your federal student loan servicer, or servicers, through exit counseling or by creating an account with the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). If you have more than one servicer, it’s important to contact each servicer.
3. Review your repayment options
When federal student loans first enter repayment, they are typically placed on a standard plan. This plan is strictly based off of a student’s total loan debt and paying off the balance in 10 years. These payments can be quite high and are often unaffordable. Luckily, there are different options for lowering or temporarily postponing your payments. You can also learn more and choose a payment plan that best fits you through the U.S. Department of Education.
4. Update your contact information
If you move to a new address or get a new phone number or email address, remember to update your contact information in your account. Loan servicers need to have your current contact information on file in order to send you updates about upcoming payments and notices about your account. It can be easy to fall behind on payments if you’re not receiving statements, so make sure this section is up to date.
5. Understand your other educational debts
In addition to your federal student loans, you may have private loans or loans directly through your school. If you receive a bill or statement about a debt, don’t ignore it. Call your school immediately to find out more information.
Understanding and regularly checking on your federal student loan debt is a good way to make sure your loans stay in good standing. If you can’t afford your monthly payments, contact your servicer to look into other options.
Also, remember that you never have to pay for help with your student loans. Herzing University’s Alumni Support Center can help you with all of your federal, private and school debts.