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Do's and Dont's of Student Loan Repayment

You got that student loan to pay for college, or maybe you used the cash for that spring break vacay. Whatever you used the money for, it is time to pay the piper. The problem is you are graduating and still looking for a job or planning to go to grad or professional school.

Related: Can I Afford My Student Loan Payments?

What are Your Options?

If you took out a student loan, it is a real loan, and like a car loan or a mortgage, you have to pay it back. Don’t ignore any notices; deal with them. It’s your debt. The only way your loan can be canceled is if the school you attended has shut down. That rarely happens. Here are four dos and a don’t to consider.

Do Get to Know Your Loan Servicer

The federal government uses several loan servicers that handle the billing and other services related to your federal student loan. Each has its own policies regarding repayment. Contact yours to make sure you understand what is required.

Do Know Your Repayment Plan Options

You are not expected to pay all the money back at once. Make sure your repayment plan takes into consideration your financial situation. After all, if you had the money, you wouldn’t have needed a loan in the first place. In some cases the company will give you more time to pay if you discuss it with them.

Do Consolidate

Listen up if you have multiple loans. You may want to consolidate. A Direct Consolidation Loan will allow you to combine federal education loans into one loan, leaving you with one monthly payment instead of several. It’s worth looking at how this will affect your finances.

Related Article: Money Lessons to Pass on to Your New Grad

Do Consider Deferment or Forbearance

In certain cases you can qualify for a deferment or forbearance, which allows you to temporarily postpone or reduce your federal student loan payments. This could help you avoid going into default.

With a deferment the repayment of the principal and interest of your loan is delayed for a period of time. Forbearance is a different bird; if you qualify you can stop making payments for up to 12 months, but interest will continue to accrue on your subsidized or unsubsidized loan. You need to contact your servicer to find out if you can qualify for either.

Don’t Default

All of the dos outlined above are to make sure you don’t default on your student loan. Your loan will be considered delinquent the first day after you miss a payment and will continue until you make the account current.

Loan servicers report delinquencies of at least 90 days to the three major credit bureaus. This means it will impact your credit rating. Your credit score affects many things from your ability to rent an apartment to buy a home to get a job or upgrade to a new cell phone. In addition, that tax refund you may expect won’t materialize as the government will take it to pay of your delinquent loan.

Related: How Does Credit Score Affect My Mortgage?

If you have not taken out a loan, go to studentaid.edu.gov to research before signing up for one. If you cannot get enough scholarship dollars it may be the way to go, but remember, you will eventually have to pay it back. There are some career choices or service opportunities that could offset student loan repayment and are worth checking out.

Related Article: 5 Careers That Will Help Pay Off Your Student Loan Debt

Photo Credit: SalFalko

Tonya McCleary Tonya McCleary is a veteran TV journalist and manager, talent coach, managing editor for Exhale for Women Empowerment Magazine and author of "How to Get Your Kid in College and Live to Tell the Tale." She is the owner of Tri M Media Marketing Maven LLC, providing crisis management and media-readiness coaching to businesses and athletes. For more info: www.MediaMarketingMaven.com

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