7 tips to prepare yourself before student loan repayment.
Does it feel like graduation was yesterday? Maybe not, but if you have student loans you've probably enjoyed or are enjoying the time you have before repayment begins. It's a great time to look for a good paying job, take one last trip, and hang with some college friends before some serious adulting. This is also a good time to set up a little game plan a game plan to tackle your student loans. These steps will help you prepare quickly and make the next few years of your life easier.
1. Whom you owe. Like anything, let’s start with the basics: track down every loan you have. No matter the number, it is important to know how many loans you have and who will receive the payments. Remember, many loans have their own unique rules and policies. So be sure to ask your servicer any questions you have.
If you have federal loans, you can check out the National Student Loan Data System or the (NSLDS). This is an online data system that holds all of your loan information. Check out our blog post for help signing up.
Private loans can be tougher to track down so you will want to check with your college’s financial aid office. We suggest you write them all down (federal and private) along with how much you owe so you can see what you are working with. Got your list? Time for step two!
2. Grace Period. Now that you have your organized list of loans, you can find out how long your grace periods are. There are different grace periods for different types of loans.
Federal loans have the standard 6-month grace period, PLUS loans have no grace period and if you have Private loans, your grace period will depend on the policy of your lender. Some may offer a grace period, some may not. You will want to check with each servicer and find out their policy.
It is always good to have a head start here! If you know whom to pay and when to pay you can prepare yourself to budget. If possible, it is good to start making payments during your grace period; this will help you tackle any unpaid interest or principal early. Your future self will thank you!
Understand your grace period? If you answered yes, it’s next-step time!
3. Payment Plans. Find out what type of repayment plan you have and what works for you. Standard? Graduate? Extended? If you haven't looked into your repayment options yet, your grace period is a perfect opportunity to make sure you setup a plan that works with your budget. Most federal repayment plans start with a standard or graduate plan that sets you up to pay off your loans within 10 years.
You can always contact your servicer to work out a repayment plan that works for you. Extended or income-based plans are also great options to consider if your budget doesn't work to repay your student loans in 10 years.
Pro Tip: Your student loan servicer is always there to help. So if your repayment plan isn't working out three years after graduating be sure to give them a call to adjust anything needed.
4. Budgeting. Let's face it. Student loans aren't the only thing we have on our minds let's face it. All we have to do is find a good paying job, move out, focus on our health, pay all of our bills, have a social life, and only you know what other things come to mind.
Budgeting is something that has to be dynamic, which means it has to be revisited consistently. Getting out a sheet of paper or an Excel sheet is something that might not sound fun, but it is needed.
5. Relationship goals. Now that you know your grace period length, how much you owe, your repayment term and budget, it’s time you realized you’ve built one strong relationship with your student loan(s)…better than any dating app could give you.
This relationship is probably a little different and one you want to take steps to get out of quickly so let’s start thinking about taking steps to get you ahead. We'd like to share some easy hacks to do so!
First, prioritize which loans you feel you can tackle. Simply identify whether you want to tackle the highest interest loan, highest balance or just the smallest one to feel accomplished sooner; either way, make sure you set a goal. This will help you maintain focus and give you signs of progress.
Then, identify any unsubsidized loans. These charge interest while you're in school, so these are the loans you may want to put focus on especially while in school or during your grace period. If you can afford small contributions while in school, this can stop your loan from ballooning because of interest. We would even suggest using your spare change!
6. Make it fun. Student loans don't have to be so boring. Set a goal and find creative ways to stay on top. One way to remind yourself of your goal is to set your password for something you use every day that reminds you of your goal. Some suggestions are, 2023=studentloanfreedom or RIPStudent1oansin2025. This constant reminder keeps this goal on the top of your mind.
You can also check out the ChangEd debt tracking printout here. Smack this on your fridge and pull out your colorful markers each time a payment is made. Remember that colorful artwork from third grade your parents used to put on the fridge? #notmacoronibutmakingmoney
7. Breathe Ahhhh. The last step should be the easiest. Just because you have student loans doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life. Take some time to know your loans, set goals, and budget, but also plan a vacation or a trip out with friends and ways you can save for it. Soon enough, you’ll be on the road to a student-loan-debt-free life! #ripstudentloans
Here at ChangEd, we see great value in the little decisions. Taking some time just to peek into your student loans can transform one day of planning into repaying your loans years sooner. We recommend you visit our know your loan resource page to help prepare yourself and understand your student loans even more. RIP Student Loans!