8 Student Loan Tips for Recent College Grads

8 Student Loan Tips

Nothing says, “Welcome to adulthood” quite like getting your first student loan bill in the mail. If student loans are your reality, here are some tips that may help you (from someone who is going through this too).

1. Don’t ignore your student loans!

Affordable payment options

I think everyone can agree that student loans are no fun to pay back, but ignoring them can have serious consequences (and it won’t make them go away.) If you’re worried about your student loans or don’t think you can afford your payments, contact us for help. No matter what your financial situation is, we can help you find an affordable repayment option. For many, that could mean payments as low as $0 per month.

2. Set a budget.

Budgeting tips

Life after graduation gets real, real fast. To make a plan to tackle your student loans, you need to understand what money you have coming in, and what expenses you have going out. If you haven’t already, it’s important that you create a budget. This will help determine your repayment strategy. Here are some budgeting tips to help you get started.

3. Choose an affordable payment amount.

Repayment calculator | Apply for an income-driven repayment plan

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to paying back student loans. The key question you need to answer is: Do you want to get rid of your loans quickly or do you want to pay the lowest amount possible per month?

With our Standard Repayment Plan, the plan you’ll enter if you don’t take any action, you’ll have your loans paid off in 10 years. If you can’t afford that amount or if you need or want lower payments because you haven’t found a job, aren’t making much money, or want to free up room in your budget for other expenses and goals, you should apply for an income-driven repayment plan. Your monthly payments will likely be lower than they would on the standard plan—in fact they could be as low as $0 per month—but you’ll likely be paying more and for a longer period of time. If you choose an income-driven plan, you must provide documentation of your income to your loan servicer each year (even if your income hasn’t changed) so that your payment can be recalculated. To compare the different repayment options based on your loan debt, family size, and income, use our repayment calculator.

repayment estimator output

 

4. Research forgiveness options.

Loan forgiveness options

There are legitimate ways to have your loans forgiven, but there are often very specific requirements you must meet in order to qualify. Research forgiveness programs ASAP, as it may affect your repayment strategy. For example, if you’re interested in Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you’ll want to make sure you have the right type of loans from the get-go (which may mean you have to consolidate), and you’ll want to make sure to get on an income-driven repayment plan.

5. Sign up for automatic payments.

Sign up for automatic debit

If you don’t like thinking about your student loans, this is a great solution! Ok, ok, so you’ll still have to think about your loans and make sure you have the money in your account to cover your monthly payments, but you won’t have to worry about missing payments, writing checks, or logging into websites every month to pay your loans manually. Sign up for automatic debit through your loan servicer and your payments will be automatically taken from your bank account each month. As an added bonus, you get a 0.25% interest rate deduction when you enroll!

6. Make extra payments whenever you can (and specify how you want those payments applied).

How to make extra payments

Pay early. Pay often. Pay extra. If you want to ensure that your loan is paid off faster, tell your servicer two things. First, tell them that the extra you pay is not intended to be put toward future payments. Second, tell them to apply the additional payments to your loan with the highest interest rate. By doing this, you can reduce the amount of interest you pay and reduce the total cost of your loan over time.

7. Don’t postpone payments unless you really need to.

Affordable payment options

One of the flexible repayment options we offer is the ability to temporarily stop (postpone) your student loan payments. This is called a deferment or forbearance. While they can be helpful solutions if you’re experiencing a temporary hardship, these are not good long-term solutions. Why? Because in most cases, interest will continue to accrue (accumulate) on your loan while you’re not making payments and may be capitalized (cause interest to accrue on interest). When you resume repayment (which you will have to do eventually) your loan balance will probably be even higher than it was before. If you’re having financial trouble, why set yourself back even further by doing this? There are often better solutions available. Before choosing deferment or forbearance, ask about enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan. Under those plans, if you make little or nothing, you pay little or nothing. Additionally, with the income-driven repayment plans, you’re working toward loan forgiveness while making a lower payment. Before postponing your payments, consider your other options.

8. Take advantage of the FREE federal student loan assistance the government provides.

Contact your loan servicer

Each federal student loan borrower is assigned to a loan servicer (some borrowers may have more than one servicer, depending on the types of loans you have). Your loan servicer is a company that collects your student loan payments and provides customer service on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. This is a FREE service. There are many companies out there who offer to help you with your student loans for a fee. Do not trust these companies. Remember: You never have to pay for help with your student loans. If you need advice, assistance, or help applying for one of our repayment programs, contact your loan servicer. They can help you for free. Just remember to keep your contact information up to date so they can reach you when they need to.

Student loans can seem overwhelming at first, but by taking this advice and setting up a repayment strategy that works for you, you’ll master your student loans in no time!

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

15 Comments

  1. Students need more time on their studies. We can help students on their ongoing loans, but of course, they need budgeting for their daily allowance and the amount they need to pay off their debts. Visit loansolutions.ph for more information. Make the smart move!

  2. I’ll be resuming my first semester at Limkokwing Creative University of Swaziland but I think I’ll be struggling to pay tuition fees. Would you please help me. I’m admitted under the Business Information Technology coarse already. Classes resume on August.

  3. The only problem is that you cannot benefit from most of these student loan repayment options if you are married and filing jointly. You must be filing separately to participate in most of these repayment plans and then you are hit with penalties when filing taxes. You cannot win. I am going to be paying off my student loans until I am 72. Unfortunately, job prospects in Illinois are scarce and I am stuck working part-time in the education field and making one-fourth of the salary I should be making in my field.

  4. For public service forgiveness, if my full time job complies (attorney for NYC), can I try to take a teaching or tutoring job on the side and still be eligible or will the second job disqualify me? NYC is a hard city to live in!

    • No, as long as you continue to work full-time for a government or not-for-profit agency (and meet all the other requirements), a second job won’t impact your eligibility. That said, the additional income from the second job will probably cause your payment to go up assuming you’re on an income-driven repayment plan (which you should be if you want PSLF.)

  5. I was realy disappointed because I read that you can withdraw 6 times. So I assumed that when I withdraw from my 4 classes their wasn’t going to be a problem, until I was told by one of the ladies in the cashier department that you can not withdraw from all of your classes in one semester. I told her it did not specified that you could not withdraw from all your classes in one semester. I felt that wasn’t right that I have to pay back the amount I was told. So I couldn’t finish my career. I was really dissapointed. So if I could get some help to pay back that amount, then I could finish my career. I was going to school to learn a trade to get a better job.

  6. Loan tip#9: Since the Department of Education sets virtually no student loan borrowing standards to vet would-be borrowers, and outstanding student debt is now reported to be 1.3 trillion dollars, many bad-actors in the business of education have been for years falling over themselves attempting to gain access to this seemingly endless taxpayer funded pot of gold. Isn’t it past time that the DoED became more seriously proactive in protecting the hoards of naive student borrowers on the front-end before they fall victim to many post secondary schools that spend more on marketing than insuring that retention and graduation rates along with educational standards do not perpetuate the moral hazard of not having to perform to be enriched. The quid pro quo for schools that derive 80-90% of their revenue from these loans should not be measured arbitrarily in ever changing arcane regulations but in the firm expectation that graduation rates of 3% or even 30% (over a six year allowable tabulation period) are clearly unacceptable. Without this firm line in the sand drawn, there is no impetus for these businesses to effect positive change. Good, bad or indifferent, they know they will get a payday. Until strictly quantifiable measures are undertaken, the department’s purported advocacy for for the underserved student will continue to be gamed by some ingenuous students and many avarice colleges alike.

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