If you graduated from college this year, you’ve likely just hit your 6-month anniversary in the real world. And if you’ve graduated with student loan debt, you’re likely about to hit another major anniversary: the end of your grace period. The grace period on your student loans is the time after you leave school and before you have to begin repayments, and with a 6 month grace period for most student loans, your time is up.
Whether or not you’re living on your own with a job in the real-world or still trying to figure out your plans while living at home, it’s time to start paying back that debt. Here’s how to get organized and start making student loan payments:
- Find out who is servicing your loan. Knowing who is servicing your loan is critical to begin making your student loan payments. Regardless of whether or not you are contacted by your loan servicer, you will need to begin to repay your student loans after your grace period ends. You can look up your federal student loans through the National Student Loan Data System.
- Pay the minimums on all of your loans and put any extra money toward private loans first. Be sure you’re paying at least the minimum on all of your loans so you can avoid penalties and defaulting on your debt. If you do find that you have extra money to put toward your debt, consider paying down your private loans first. Federal student loans tend to offer better repayment, deferment and forgiveness options than private loans.
- Look up your terms and student loan interest rates and make a repayment plan. The interest rates on your student loans will play a big role in determining which debt you choose to pay down first. You may want to consider paying down your loans with a higher interest rate loan first. Be sure to check to see if you have loans with variable interest rates, and keep in mind the points above about paying off your private loans before your federal loans.
- Communicate if you need help. Don’t wait until you’ve missed a few months of loan payments to reach out for help. If don’t think you’ll be able to meet your minimum monthly payments, contact your loan servicer. They may be able to offer you more accommodating repayment options, like an income-based repayment program.