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Whether you are a first time freshman, a senior in your last semester or already a graduate, understanding student loan repayment is vital. Remember, student loans are like any other debt and they cannot be cancelled if you graduate and don't get the job you originally expected.

Steps for successful Stafford loan repayment
Loan Consolidation
Stafford loan repayment plans
PLUS loan repayment
Private loan repayment
Avoiding federal loan default
Trouble making payments/financial hardships
Stafford and Perkins loan forgiveness
Glossary of common loan terms

Steps for successful Stafford loan repayment

If you have Stafford loans you are entitled to a six-month grace period after you cease to be enrolled half-time before your first loan payment is due. Take these steps now to prepare for that first payment so that you can start off right and avoid the consequences of student loan default.

STEP 1: Know what you owe

Often students underestimate their outstanding college debt and fail to maintain complete loan records. You may forget that interest accumulates on your unsubsidized loans while you attend school. Create a loan portfolio and regularly check the National Student Loan Database to keep you informed on what and who you owe.

STEP 2: Determine how much you can afford to pay each month

If you have already been hired for your first job, you should know your starting pay. If you're still looking for employment, consult the Career Center about starting salaries for jobs in your field or consult the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. You can determine what would be an affordable monthly student loan payment by using the Salary/Debt Wizard. It is recommended that student loan payments do not exceed 8-10% of your gross monthly income.

STEP 3: Choose a repayment plan that works for you

You have several repayment options for your Stafford loans. Most borrowers use the Standard Repayment Plan, but using a loan repayment calculator to estimate your payments can help you decide if a different repayment plan is better for you. You may also consider loan consolidation which bundles multiple federal education loans into a single monthly payment and, depending on your total education debt, extends the repayment period.

STEP 4: Keep in touch

Students who move following graduation should notify their school and lender or loan servicer of any change in their address and telephone number. If this is not done, you may not receive important information about your student loan account and may incur additional charges for missed or late payments and risk severe penalties for student loan default. If you are experiencing financial hardships, don't skip or delay payments, get in touch with your lender or loan servicer to talk about the possibility of deferment or forbearance plans.

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Trouble making loan payments/financial hardships

If once you enter repayment you encounter financial hardships (such as an illness, loss of job, etc) and anticipate having difficulty making your student loan payment, contact your lender or loan servicer. Often you can request a deferment of payment or forbearance. You never want to NOT pay your student loans. This can lead to student loan default.

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PLUS (Graduate and Parent) Loan Repayment

If you or your parents have borrowed a Graduate PLUS or Parent PLUS loan, often the repayment begins 60 days after the loan is disbursed in full. If you have questions about repayment, for PLUS loans, please visit

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Private loan repayment

If you borrowed private educational loans, these cannot be consolidated with your federal student loans. You need to be in touch with your lender to find out what repayment plans are available. If you experience financial hardships, you must also contact your lender.

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Loan Consolidation

Loan consolidation involves combining your federal student loans into one loan so that you can make a single monthly loan payment. Consolidation generally extends the repayment period, resulting in a lower monthly payment. This may make it easier for you to repay your loans, however you will pay more interest if you extend your repayment period. Loan consolidation may not be the best choice for each borrower. Private student loans cannot be consolidated with federal loans. Find out more about federal loan consolidation. You can contact the Direct Loan Consolidation Center at (800) 557-7392.