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You’ve left college and are now the proud owner of student loans. Unfortunately, student loans don’t come with an owner’s manual – so you might be feeling kind of clueless about what comes next.
You might be asking yourself some questions: What’s the easiest way to manage my student loans? How can I see all my loans in one place? Where can track and ultimately pay them all off?
These are common questions recent and not-so-recent graduates might have about their education debt. Let’s start by reviewing ways to find your student loans, and once you’ve located them all, how to manage your repayment .
4 ways to see all your student loans
Many students take out a student loan or two each semester while they’re in school. That means you will likely have several student loans by the time you leave school.
However, transitioning from college to the real world can be a busy and chaotic process. Between applying for jobs, starting a career or moving to a new city, it can be all too easy to lose track of student loans.
Here’s how you can locate your student loans and make sure you’ve found them all.
1. Contact the financial aid office
Before you leave college, reach out to your financial aid office. It can give you a report of the federal student loans you borrowed there since it is in charge of disbursing those loans to students.
However, keep in mind that if you attended multiple schools and transferred, your financial aid office might not have records of loans you borrowed at other colleges.
You should also make sure the financial aid office has the most up-to-date contact information for you (including a non-student email address).
2. Pay attention to notifications from servicers
Closely watch your email and mail for notifications from student loan servicers. They will reach out to you with updates.
For instance, they should contact you to let you know when your post-college student loan grace period is up and when you should begin making payments.
If you lose track of even one student loan, it could go into default – which can add big fees to your student loan debt and destroy your credit.
If you’re not receiving correspondence from your lender or loan servicer, electronic or otherwise, they may not have your up-to-date contact information. To find your loan holder and correct this error, try the following step.
3. Find your financial aid via FSA
To access your loans via this site, log in with your FSA ID and click “Manage Loans.”
As before, the new setup (a stepping stone to the Next Gen student loan servicing platform), will help you keep track of all your federal loans. The site will also include the following information:
- Current balance and interest rate of each loan
- Status of each loan, including whether it is current or overdue on payments
- Type of student loan, such as subsidized or unsubsidized
- Student loan servicer that holds each loan
4. Review free annual credit reports
The FSA website is the best way to see all your federal student loans, but it won’t list any private student debt you might have. To see these student loans, you can request your free annual credit report.
Your credit report will include the following information:
- All the student loans you have, including both private and federal student loans.
- The lender or student loan servicer that holds each loan. You should also be able to see if a student loan was transferred or sold to a new servicer.
- The student loan’s initial balance and most recent balance.
- Payment history, including any missed payments and the date of the most recent payment on the loan.
While a credit report will likely list all your student loans, there are no guarantees. You might want to pull reports from all three major credit bureaus to be sure no loans are missed.
How to manage student loans in repayment
Although finding all your student loans may take only a few days, repaying them may take 10 years or longer. How can you track and manage your student loans in the meantime?
You might start by inputting your loan details into a spreadsheet — perhaps like the downloadable Excel sheet used by a borrower who paid off $15,000 in debt — and tracking your balance from month to month.
Once you’ve got your loans organized, consider the following steps, too …
Log into the FSA’s loan simulator
By inputting information about yourself and your financial situation, you can evaluate different federal loan repayment plans and options, including direct loan consolidation.
Unfortunately, there’s no similar tool that plug into all banks and could collect all your private student loans. You can employ our student loan calculators, however, to explore different possibilities and compare outcomes.
If you’re considering postponing your repayment to focus on finding a job, for example, you could figure the cost of accruing interest on your debt with this calculator:
Student Loan Deferment Calculator
Figure out your own student loan needs and goals
Ultimately, finding a repayment plan that works for you depends on your financial situation and your repayment personality.
That’s why it’s important to figure out your student loan goals. Ask yourself:
- Do I want to pay off my debt as quickly as possible?
- Are there other financial goals I should put before student loan repayment?
- Are my student loan payments affordable right now?
- Can I refinance my student loans to lower my interest rate?
For example, if you work in public service and don’t make much money, you might want to pursue the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Or if you make a decent income and can afford to pay extra on student loans, you might be more focused on paying them off.
Explore different student loan strategies
As you think through your loans, income and other financial factors, you can identify the plan of attack that best fits your situation.
The nice thing about the tools above is they take the focus off doing math and place it on creating a strategy that works for you.
With so much information out there and so many decisions to make, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Don’t let fear about your student loan situation paralyze you and prevent you from making decisions that will make your life easier in the long run.
With a little bit of ingenuity, hard work and help from Student Loan Hero, you can do more than manage your student loans — you can conquer them.
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