Lucky for people like us, many federal student loans have a grace period, which is a set period of time after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment before you must begin repaying your student loans. The grace period gives you time to get financially settled and to select your repayment plan. For those of you who have graduated within the last six months, chances are that time is almost up.
So to get you started, here are five things you should know about your student loans:
- Loan Types
You may have federal loans, private loans, state loans, loans from your school, or some combination. Different loan types can have very different terms and conditions, so be sure you know what types of loans you’ve got.
To see all of your federal student loan information in one place, you can visit www.nslds.ed.gov. Once you log in, you can access a list of your federal student loans, including the loan type and information for your loan servicer. A loan servicer is the company that will handle the billing and payments on your federal student loans.
For all other types of loans, consult your records. If you have questions about the type of a loan, you can try contacting the financial aid office at the school you were attending when you took out the loan.
- Loan Balance
Once you’ve tracked down all of your loans, you’ll want to find out what your total loan balance is. This will help you determine a plan for repayment.
For your federal student loans, www.nslds.ed.gov will display your loan balance. For private and other student loans, you’ll want to check with your lender.
- Loan Interest
Remember, a student loan is just like any other loan—it’s borrowed money that will have to be repaid with interest. As interest accrues, it may be added to the total balance of your loan if left unpaid. As a recent graduate, you may want to consider making student loan interest payments during your grace period to save money on the total cost of your loan.
- Repayment Options
Depending on the types of loans you have, you will have different repayment options.
Federal student loans offer great benefits, including flexible repayment options. Some options include tying your monthly payment to your income, extending your payments over a longer period of time, or combining multiple loans into one.
Want to compare what your monthly payment would be under each of our repayment plans? Try our Repayment Estimator! Once you figure out which repayment option is right for you, contact your loan servicer to enroll in that plan.
For non-federal loans, you’ll want to check with your lender to see what types of repayment options are offered.
- Repayment Terms and Benefits
Familiarize yourself with the repayment terms of all your loans. Here are some things to keep an eye out for:
- Ways to save on interest, like enrolling in automatic debit
- Options for paying more than your monthly required payment
- Forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge options
Ok, that’s a lot to take in, but hey, if you could survive the final exams, the all-nighters and even a crazy roommate or two, figuring out a plan for repaying your student loans should be a walk in the park. If any point you have questions or need advice, don’t hesitate to contact your loan servicer. That’s what they’re there for.
Nicole Callahan is a new media analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.