Congratulations! You have graduated from college and are now the proud owner of a diploma — along with a pile of student loan bills. The transition to adulthood can be quite jarring, especially if you have never really had to worry about your own finances before. You might be confused about your options, unsure about what to do, or afraid that you won’t be able to make your payments.
It is never a good idea to try to hide, run away, or ignore your student loans completely. You used them to achieve your goal; now it is time to pay the bill. If you don’t know what to do, the first step is to do some research and gather all the information you can. Not surprisingly, the federal government has a vested interest in making sure you repay your federal student loans. As such, they provide a wealth of information to help recent college graduates come to terms with their student loan responsibilities. In fact, they have eight student loan payment suggestions that should be of help.
8 Suggestions for Student Loan Repayment
- Take action now: Don’t ignore those student loans all summer while you have fun, and then work yourself into a frenzy when the payment notices start arriving. There are actions you can take now that will make your life much simpler in the fall. Learn about the available student loan repayment plans so you can find something that fits your post-college financial situation. You might be able to pay nothing for a specified period of time, but you need to talk to your loan servicer to determine if you qualify.
- Get a budgeting mindset: If your parents kept you on a tight budget in college, you are already a step ahead. You will need those skills to get you through your student loan repayment years. Put together a budget for your estimated income and living expenses to estimate how much you have left to earmark for these payments.
- Learn your options: If you do nothing, you will be entered into the Standard Repayment Plan, which allows you to repay your student loans over 10 years. While this is usually the fastest way to repay that debt, the monthly payments might be a stretch for some students. Check out available repayment plans which could extend the term of your loan, or adjust the payments based on the income you earn.
- Your loan might be forgiven: In some specific situations, the government may forgive part of your loan or even provide money to help you repay it, depending on your post-college plans. Don’t make any repayment decisions without first learning whether you are eligible for loan forgiveness.
- Start a direct pay relationship: Most students today are already familiar with online banking, which can come in very handy for making student loan payments. Ask your loan servicer how to sign up for automatic debit so your payments will be automatically taken from your bank account each month. You’ll also get a 0.25% interest rate reduction when you enroll.
- Make extra payments: Once you become employed, you might find that you are actually earning more money than your expenses. However, that might not be true if you decide to get married or buy a home of your own, so it makes sense to use any extra money you might have now to pay down your student loans. Inform your loan servicer that any extra amount is not to be put toward future payments. If you have not consolidated your loans, you’ll also need to tell them to apply any additional amount to the loan with the highest interest rate.
- Think twice about postponing payments: Although you might be able to participate in a deferment or forbearance option, think twice before you take advantage of this opportunity. In most cases, interest will continue to build.
- Get help: Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Your loan servicer provides help at no charge. Above all, never pay outside companies which say they can help, but only for a fee.