Avoid These 4 Mistakes I Made With My Student Loans

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8 Common Student Loan Mistakes


It’s been tough for me to come to terms with, but, unfortunately for me, I am not in college anymore. In fact, this spring marked three years since I graduated from college and went into repayment on my student loans. I know, not the most exciting thing in the world, but important. So while I don’t claim to be a student loan expert, I have learned a lot of lessons along the way, mostly through trial and error. In hopes that you won’t make the same mistakes I did, here are some things I wish I had known when I was graduating and getting ready to start repaying my student loans:

1. I should have kept track of what I was borrowing

Let’s be real. When you take out student loans to help pay for college, it’s easy to forget that the money will eventually have to be paid back … with interest. The money just doesn’t seem real when you’re in college, and I didn’t do a good job of keeping track of what I was borrowing and how it was building up. When it was time to start repaying my loans, I was quite overwhelmed. I had different types of loans and different interest rates. When I did eventually see my loan balance, I was pretty shocked.

You can avoid this problem. Had I known there was a super easy way to keep track of how much I’d borrowed in federal student loans, I would have been much better off. You can view all your federal student loans in one place by going to StudentAid.gov/login.

2. I should have made interest payments while I was still in school

If you’re anything like me, you probably consumed your fair share of instant noodles while trying to survive on a college student’s budget. Trust me, I get it. But one thing I really regret when it comes to my student loans was not paying interest while I was in school or during my grace period. Like I said, I was far from rich, but when I was in college, I did have a work-study job and waited tables on the side. I probably could have spared a few dollars each month to pay down some student loan interest. Remember, student loans are borrowed money that you have to repay with interest and more importantly, that interest may capitalize, or be added to your total balance. My advice: Even though you don’t have to, do yourself a favor and consider paying at least some of your student loan interest while you’re in school. It will save you money in the long run.

3. I should have kept my loan servicer in the loop

If you’re getting ready to graduate or have graduated recently and haven’t heard from your loan servicer, make sure you check that your loan servicer has up-to-date contact info for you. When I graduated and moved into my first big-girl apartment, I forgot to change my address with my loan servicer. I found out that all of my student loan correspondence was going to my mom’s address. I hadn’t even thought to update my loan servicer with my new contact information. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Keep your servicer informed of address, email, and phone changes.

4. I should have figured out what my monthly loan payments were going to be BEFORE I went into repayment

By the time my grace period was over, I had a decent idea of how much I had borrowed in total, but I had no idea what my monthly payments would be. I thought I was fine. I had started my new job and been paying rent and other bills for about six months. Then my grace period ended, and I got my first bill from my loan servicer. It was definitely an expense I hadn’t fully taken into account.

Don’t make the same mistake. Federal Student Aid has an awesome repayment estimator that allows you to pull in your federal student loan information and compare what your monthly payments would be under the different repayment plans that are offered. That way, you can choose the right repayment plan, know how much you can expect to pay monthly, and budget accordingly … unlike me.

I’ll be the first to admit that this whole process can be a little overwhelming, especially when you’re new at it. But just remember, your loan servicer is there to help you. If you need advice or have questions about your student loans, don’t hesitate to contact your loan servicer. Their assistance is FREE!

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


  1. It is truly a great and helpful piece of information. I am happy that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Unfortunately employment after college graduation, does not necessarily mean that there is enough earned income to pay off student loan debt. I feel that college education is the biggest rip off. Colleges and loan servicers are making a killing off graduates. The economy stinks.

  3. One problem is everyone thinks free college money is a right and no one considers the fact that it has to be paid back.

  4. If you can’t afford to pay back your student loan, then you shouldn’t have borrowed it in the first place. Or perhaps you should have partied less and picked up a job while in school to pay as you go. I went to school for 6 years and walked away with two degrees and no debt. It’s all in the planning.

    • And when did you go to college? When I went between 2003 and 2007, tuition at the State school I went to was well over 17 grand a year. Factor in living expenses and books, and the total cost of attending was more that 21 grand a year. A part time job is not going to cover that, and you’re probably not going to be considered for a full time job since you have no college degree and weird hour requirements since you’re in college.

      The cost of college tuition right now is astronomical. It is not possible to pay your way through college without some sort of financial assistance. There are a few very lucky people who can do it, but for the vast majority of folks, they’re working a job AND still having to take loans.

  5. Best student loan advice I received in law school: “Live like a lawyer now, and you’ll live like a student for the rest of your career.”

    Their way of telling us to use loan money sparingly and ONLY for what it was intended (tuition and books). They reminded us everything else should come from another source – like jobs (very few of us had parent help).

    • Rose very good advise!! Our daughter is going for Vet school and we are trying to get her to understand the final cost when she is done. We are having her stay home for her first 4yrs of college before she goes to the DVM program. And she didn’t like that, but we told her along the same message you received in law school. But its still hard to get her to understand why we are doing what we are doing. Anyway Great Post!

    • My biggest advice for you is to only take federal loans. Subsidized ones are the best, but may not cover the full amount. Do not take private loans if you can help it.

  6. Contact your loan servicer? I did that. Guess what the answer was? “Pay what you owe now or pay the whole amount. There’s no other choice.”

    Admittedly, it was 20 years ago. Still, there was zero wiggle room for being unemployed.

    I still remember several conversations with Mr. Nixon in the federal program telling me that I could either pay what I owed, or just pay everything. And the next question, “What’s your bank routing number?”

    No. Student loan companies are in it for student loans. Not to make it easier to pay back. They couldn’t care less.

    By the by, I paid back every cent I owed. Ruined my credit for a decade because I wasn’t allowed to work out any rescheduled payment or alternate payment programs (those were available if you could pay 40% of your outstanding debt…not something usually available to those asking for help in setting up a payment schedule).

    Please don’t mislead students that the loan people are there to help them out or to help them get an education. They are there solely to make money for the institution.

  7. Tuition is out of control in this country. It’s ridiculous that minorities get handed all these grants and practically given a free ride while the rest of us hard working Americans have to pick up their tab. Everything gets handed to them and the cost gets passed down to us, including health care now…and yet, they still can’t make anything of themselves!

    • Dear Bill go to sleep good things will never happen from that ignorant tongue. FYI minorities are the ones struggling the most. Corporate America rejects us how about you research that.

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