If you’re borrowing loans to attend college in the US, you’ll have to pay off that student debt sooner or later.
Whether you’re ready to enter college or ready to graduate, it’s never too soon to think of a plan to manage your student debt.
Luckily, you’re not alone — and there are a lot of resources to help you!
If You’re Still in College
Most lenders don’t require you to make payments on your student loans while you’re enrolled in a degree program. If you are able to start paying off student debt while in college, however, consider doing so. Earlier payments will reduce your overall interest accumulation.
Make sure you understand the terms of your loan, such as how high the interest rate is and whether or not the government will pay the interest while you’re still in college. Also, if you’re considering a part-time class schedule, find out whether your loans require you to be a full-time student in order to defer payment.
If You’re Ready To Graduate
Begin to pay off student debt as soon as you can. In many cases you will receive a six-month grace period after you leave school before repayment is required. Check with your lender to see if this applies to you.
Lenders will frequently offer income-sensitive repayment plans. These payments can be increased or reduced as your income situation changes. You may also want to consider consolidation if you have multiple loans, which could allow you to make one payment per month rather than several payments.
However, if you can afford it, you should choose a standard repayment plan instead of an income-sensitive one. In fact, paying as much as you reasonably can toward your loan each month will save you a lot of money in interest.
Work your student debt payment plan into your budget. This doesn’t necessarily mean austerity – it just means careful money management. Since you’ve had practice budgeting money as a US college student, you should feel confident in your ability to pay off student debt smartly.
If You Need to Consider Deferment
An option that many recent graduates choose is requesting a deferment or forbearance in order to pay off student debt over time. Common reasons for deferment are financial hardship (lenders will understand if you don’t land a job right away!) or continued school enrollment, e.g. grad school.
If you want to defer or forebear your student loans, you need to ask; it won’t be granted automatically. With a deferment, the government will continue to pay the interest on a loan, if it was paying the interest while you were in college. With forbearance, you are responsible for the interest regardless of the loan type.
It is possible to request multiple deferments, but be wary of this option. In general, it’s better to make payments (however small) than to defer repeatedly and accumulate interest. You will have to pay off your student debt eventually!
Defaulting on your student debt — failing to make payments or deferral arrangements for a long period of time — can have serious consequences. Fortunately, your lenders don’t want your loans to be in default any more than you do, and they will work with you to figure out a repayment plan that works for your budget.
The prospect of repaying loans may seem overwhelming right now. The good news is that it is possible to pay off student debt completely and relatively quickly provided that you know how your loan works and what resources and options are available to you.