Graduating? Here’s What to Know About Your Student Loans

To help things go smoothly, make sure your student loan servicer — the company that sends you statements, collects payments and otherwise manages your loan — has your correct contact information. That means not only your street address, but also your cellphone number and email address.

You’re responsible for making sure your servicer knows how to reach you, even if you move, said Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success. If statements go to an old address, you may end up making late payments — and that may cost you in late fees and added interest.

It’s important to know if you have a federal loan (borrowed from the government) or a private one (borrowed from a bank or other lender). Federal loans typically have more consumer protections, including the option of flexible repayment plans if you have trouble affording your payments.

If you don’t know whether you have federal or private loans, or both, check on the Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System, which lists federal loans. Loans not listed there are private, and you can usually get details about them from your college financial aid office or by checking your credit report.

Mark Kantrowitz, a financial-aid expert and publisher of college site Cappex.com, said that during the grace period, federal loan borrowers should choose a repayment plan, ideally with the highest monthly payment they can afford. The standard, 10-year repayment plan is usually the shortest and least expensive over all. Longer-term repayment plans lower the monthly payment but cost more in interest over the life of the loan.

The Department of Education offers a payment estimator tool on its website.

For some types of federal loans, interest accrues and is added to your balance at the end of the grace period. So it may be smart to make payments on those…

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