As a college senior, you’re probably already dreaming about life after graduation. Going into your spring semester, you might start to get more serious about planning your next steps and even begin your job search over your holiday break. If you borrowed student loans to finance your education, consider taking some time during the break to brush up on the status of those loans.
Student loans are not top of mind for many students while they are in college, and it can be easy to lose track of how much is owed and to whom. This is why it’s a great idea to take advantage of this holiday break to take some early steps that will help you get ready for student loan repayment. It’s likely that you will have a lot on your plate after graduation, so using the break in this way can help you feel less overwhelmed when you leave college and better prepared for the next phase of your life.
If you have federal student loans, they will enter repayment six months after you leave school. That may feel like a long way off as you head into your spring semester, but the transition can be difficult for borrowers, especially those who haven’t taken the necessary steps to prepare.
For private student loan borrowers, your loans will enter repayment based on the terms outlined in your promissory note, and the timeline varies by lender. While some private student loans enter repayment immediately after the loan is disbursed, many of those lenders offer in-school deferment or require only small payments meant to keep you in the habit of making payments while you are in school.
Even if your private student loans have a deferment period, it’s less likely that they provide a grace period after graduation, so it’s even more important to be familiar with the terms of your promissory note and to prepare to make payments immediately after leaving school.
Here are four things college seniors can do over the holiday break to help lessen student loan stress after graduation:
— Know how much you owe.
— Update your contact information with your loan servicer or holder.
— Review student loan forgiveness options.
— Learn budgeting basics.
Know How Much You Owe
Before leaving college, you want to be sure you have a complete understanding of how much you owe in student loans and to whom. This is an important early step, because many people simply lose track of how much they have borrowed and are caught off guard when their bills become due.
Since tuition is typically set on an annual basis, you may have several different loans in various amounts, depending on whether you borrowed every year and how much you needed to borrow each year. If you borrowed private student loans, you may even have a few different lenders.
If you have federal student loans, log in to StudentAid.gov for a full list of your loans and the amounts you borrowed. You can also see how much you owe in federal student loans in total — a number that may be shocking depending on whether you were keeping track as you borrowed.
There is no central database to look up private student loans, but your school’s financial aid office can help you with the name of your loan holder or holders if you’ve forgotten. For more information about how much you owe, when you need to begin making payments and how much each of those payments will be, you can reach out to each lender.
Update Your Contact Information With Your Loan Servicer or Holder
Whether you have federal or private student loans, you should also find out who your loan servicer or loan holder is and update your contact information so that you don’t miss any bills or other important communications.
As a college student, you may have moved one or more times after you borrowed your first student loan and started school, so it’s important to make sure your loan servicer has your latest address, phone number and a permanent personal email address — not your school email address, which you will likely use less and less over time after graduation.
For federal student loans, you can look up your student loan servicer at StudentAid.gov. You may have more than one loan servicer, and in that case you will want to be sure to update your information with each. If you have not already done so, create an account on each servicer’s website to stay in touch.
For private student loans, check with your loan holder to make sure your contact information is current.
Review Student Loan Forgiveness Options
Before you start looking for employment, consider whether you are interested in a program that will qualify you to work toward student loan forgiveness. That’s because qualification for many of these programs depends on where you work and how you repay your student loans. You’ll want to learn the basic requirements for such programs now.
For example, if you have federal student loans and are interested in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which forgives the loan balances of borrowers who make 120 eligible monthly payments while working for a qualified employer, now is a great time to find out what types of payments and employers qualify.
You can use the database in the U.S. Department of Education’s PSLF help tool to check any potential employers through whom you may earn Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Some private student loan sources — for example, state-based or nonprofit organizations — also have programs to incentivize different types of work within their states. Check with your loan holder about any available loan forgiveness options.
Learn Budgeting Basics
It may be too early for college seniors to create a budget for student loan repayment, but it’s never too early to learn the basics. Starting a budget now that you can update when your salary changes or when your loans enter repayment will help you form good financial habits and be more aware of your spending.
Federal Student Aid, an office in the Department of Education, provides information that teaches about budgeting and explains the benefits of managing your finances well.
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How College Seniors Can Prep for Student Loan Repayment Over Holidays originally appeared on usnews.com