4 Things to Do Before Making Your First Student Loan Payment

4.28 4 Things to Do Before

One perk of having a federal student loan instead of a private student loan is that you are not required to start making payments right away. In fact, many federal student loans have a grace period*, or a set amount of time after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment before you must begin repaying your student loans. For most student loans, the grace period is 6 months but in some instances, the grace period could be longer. The grace period gives you time to get financially settled and to select your repayment plan.

For those of you who are getting ready to graduate, your grace period is about to begin. You’ll be contacted by your loan servicer, a company that works on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education to process and manage student loan payments, letting you know how the repayment process will work.

In the meantime, here are four things you should do now, before your first student loan payment is due:

1. Get Organized

Start by tracking down all of your student loans. Did you know that there is a website that allows you to view all your federal student loans in one place?

You can log into www.nslds.ed.gov using your Federal Student Aid PIN to view your loan balances, information about your loan servicer(s), and more.

Note: Don’t forget to check your personal records to see if you have private student loans.

2. Contact Your Loan Servicer

Your loan servicer is the company that will be collecting payments on your federal student loan on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. They are also there to provide support. Your loan servicer can help you choose a repayment plan, understand loan consolidation, and complete other tasks related to your federal student loan, so it’s important to maintain contact with your loan servicer. If your circumstances change at any time during your repayment period, your loan servicer will be able to help.

To find out who your loan servicer is, visit www.nslds.ed.gov. You may have more than one loan servicer, so it is important that you look at each loan individually.

3. Estimate Your Monthly Payments Under Different Repayment Plans

Federal Student Aid has a great Repayment Estimator tool that allows you to compare our different repayment plan options side by side. Once you log in, the repayment estimator pulls in information about your federal student loans, such as your loan balance and your interest rates, and allows you to estimate what your monthly payment would be under each of our different repayment plans. It also allows you to compare the total amount you will pay for your loan over time depending on the repayment option you choose. Try it!

4. Select the Repayment Plan That Works for You

One of the greatest benefits of federal student loans is the flexible repayment options. Take advantage of them! Although you may select or be assigned a repayment plan when you first begin repaying your student loan, you can change repayment plans at any time. There are options to tie your monthly payments to your income and even ways you can have your loans forgiven if you are a teacher or employed in certain public service jobs. Once you have determined which repayment plan is right for you, you must contact your loan servicer to officially change your repayment plan.

* Not all federal student loans have a grace period. Note that for many loans, interest will accrue during your grace period.

Nicole Callahan is a digital engagement analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.


  1. Why not bail out the generation of student loans that have such a devasting effect on college graduates. We can bail out all kinds of banks and car manufactures, but not our next generaton. Shame on all of you that can fix this.

  2. The govt is making way too much money off such high interest on student loans. These students will never be able to pay off their loans. Congress should reduce the rate to at least 3%, not 8.5%! This is atrocious!

  3. The Govt Student Loan program is a very fine program, made available here in the US. Those of you that are angry and in some cases justly so, are directing your anger at the wrong organization.

    Weak Economy and poor job opportunities are more the responsibility of our elected leaders… not the Dept of Education. Yes, President Obama is at the head of this list, as is the Congress and the Senate (DEMs AND Rebublicans alike).

    The enormous balances due are because the college and university system can continue to raise tuition and costs, BECAUSE you can borrow the money to pay them. The college and university system should be working harder to reduce costs, like maybe give the profs a pay haircut ! They have a cushy life at the expense of the students.

  4. Why is everyone so angry about the debt? Didn’t you know how much you were borrowing and would then have to repay? Maybe you should have gone to a more affordable college. if everyone only applied to the affordable colleges, colleges would have to lower their costs to compete. As long as people are willing to borrow these insane amounts, colleges will continue to charge them. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

    • I disagree. When banks are bailed out by the government, and then are allowed to send their profits overseas; when “non-profits” allowed by the government are allowed to give hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars worth of “bonuses” to employees, it is time to re-think how students with no money are treated. We encourage high school seniors to go to college and to borrow money to pay for school, the cost of which increases more than inflation. Then we expect them to pay that back with jobs that pay piss poor salaries that barely allow them to pay for rent, pay for a car and other expenses, plus the cost of college. All to get a “good” job that they couldn’t get without a college degree. Our society is egregiously unfair.

  5. Richards Best posted:
    “If you have large loans now that you can not pay off you are basicly in the same place as someone who has NO degree. Would seem to me the better plan for someone starting out now would be comminity collage with very low costs OR a trade apprentice program. It seems not all people are cut out for collage. If you are collage material, you will end up with the ability to pay your bills…………………..”

    @Richards Best, what does “Collage” (a technique of an art production, primarily used in the visual arts, where the artwork is made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole) have to do with the ability to earn a living or impact the ability to pay back loans? So what if I’m not “cut out for collage,” (is that some sort of pun on making a collage from cut up pictures?) or am not “collage material,” whatever that is?

    Seriously, in response to what I think you mean, since your writing is so atrocious: a college graduate can at least spell common words (such as “basically,” “community” and “college”), also attaining a degree demonstrates the ability and skills to follow through on an often difficult to complete task, which is also useful to potential employers.

    As for this article: there are other ways to pay back loans, this article merely points out some important notable steps for anyone who is leaving school with some student loans. A college graduate should at least utilize the skills they’ve honed at college to figure out ways to pay back their loans or minimize their interest rate, click on the links above or perform a Google search of how to lower your interest rate or strategies to minimize your whole interest cost over the life of your loan. Here’s some good advice to those relying on loans to get through college: minimize the amount of loans you take and shop around for alternative ways to finance your education costs. It’s an ongoing process that helps you acquire skills that will prove useful down the road in this journey some of us call life.

  6. If you have large loans now that you can not pay off you are basicly in the same place as someone who has NO degree.
    Would seem to me the better plan for someone starting out now would be comminity collage with very low costs OR a trade apprentice program. It seems not all people are cut out for collage. If you are collage material, you will end up with the ability to pay your bills…………………..

  7. Frank Wilson: Employee of the USDE. How about, before you make your first payment, you should live your entire life then die because you cannot afford a single payment? That’s what many of us are doing, once we realize what a complete scam sham the college/usde/student loan ripoff is, and can barely afford to live in this dismal economy with essentially no incentive to work or start a business. Get bent, USDE. Everyone write your congress critters and tell them to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy after 10 years of default.

  8. Is it true that after 25 yrs from your loan origination date, the balance remaining is completely forgiven as long as you have been in good standing yet are still left with a large loan to repay. I currently have approximately $150k with almost half just from annual interest due to my inability to pay the large monthly payment. I have been on the income based repayment program for several years and doubt I will ever be able to repay my entire loan in my lifetime.

  9. What advice do you have for parents that are struggling to pay Parent Plus loans @ 8.5% ?

  10. Thanks for sharing the valuable information for all students. These tips will be extremely helpful in loan repayment.

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