Struggling? Confused? You're not alone.
Firsthand advice from people just like you.
If you feel like you’re not getting the best information from your servicer, don’t be afraid to ask to speak to a supervisor. They’re counting on the idea that a person calling about their loans will not necessarily know to keep asking questions. I’ve gotten stock answers a handful of times that, when I have pushed for more information or countered with pretty basic facts can often throw the person off and they have to actually think about and check their answers before spitting them out. Ellen W.
It’s easy to be misled by Facebook and Twitter ads, or letters in the mail that say for a fee they’ll lower your monthly payments or forgive your student loans. You don’t have to pay to enroll in these programs, these ads are a scam. You can enroll in Income-Based repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness for free. Don’t let scam artists tell you otherwise. Daniela G.
The first thing I’d recommend is to apply for Income-Based Repayment as soon as possible. It takes a long time for them to process the five-page application (up to 10 weeks!) and you are required to pay the standard payment amount until they process it, even if you can’t afford it. In addition to lower payments each month, Income-Based Repayment also gives you more flexibility to pay more than your minimum amount on months where you find yourself with some extra savings. Also, if you haven’t finished paying your loans off in 25 years, IBR forgives whatever is left. Sawyeh M.
I think my biggest piece of advice is: have a repayment strategy that focuses on paying down the loans with the highest interest rates first, and then move on to the ones with the lower interest rates. I had eight separate loans, four subsidized and four unsubsidized, and I have been aggressively putting any extra money I have into paying off the high interest ones first so I am not getting charged as much. Lauren R.
I went into education and was able to find loan forgiveness options, but had to do this on my own. I wish this information was common knowledge. I taught with a person who was an educator for 15 years, and he had no idea these options were available! If there is a way your loans can be forgiven based on your career, it should be widely promoted by the faculty, administration, and in the financial aid office. But you should always be proactive and ask questions and research applicable forgiveness programs too. Rebecca S.
Future Educators: Make sure you get information about maximizing your loan forgiveness options while interviewing – what school you teach at can affect your ability to get loan forgiveness. Emily R.
Never assume you have been told the best option. It is critical that you continue to ask as many “what-if” scenario questions as possible to help gauge which option is the most affordable and relevant. Often, I was given default answers that were deemed universally applicable. But as somebody who was working with a variety of non-profits and experienced getting laid off, there were several ways I needed to change my loan repayment plan to fit my needs. If I hadn’t summoned enough patience to ask several questions and dig into each option, I would have likely caved and accepted the first one presented to me. Nobody on the other end of the loan repayment line necessarily has your best interest in mind, because they don’t know what that interest is; they only know what interest they’re charging. Chris Z.
Keep a file. Check every week. It’s easy to get behind and grab at any readjustment offer they send. Sam S.
If you submit multiple pay stubs from different employers to your loan servicer, be sure to confirm they have correctly determined your annual disposable income and not over-estimated it by mistake. Dannie D.
The one piece of advice I would give is that when you’re first setting up payments, just call your loan handler person with whatever company is managing your loan. Those loan websites are a nightmare and if you call, you can talk to a real person who is actually really helpful and can answer your questions right then and there. I called and set up my automatic payments and confirm the timeline for when things would occur so that my first payment wasn’t late.
TL;DR the website will suck, just call and talk to a person. Rachel C.
I took the really important documents my lenders sent me or had me sign, and scanned them and sent them to myself in an email so that I couldn’t lose them. Then I tagged them with key words so I could easily search them. That way I didn’t lose important paperwork. Allison A.
Take a lot of time and sit down and read, everything, multiple times. It’s really complicated and there is a lot of information to process. It’s easy to screw up if you don’t dedicate enough time to fully understanding everything. Hannah K.
Relax, breathe… and know that with determination, you will get a handle on those loans. I was overwhelmed by the thought of not having a job right after college, but after discussing my options with my loan servicer rep (Great Lakes), I chose the “income-based repayment option” (my income was $0). I was initially skeptical about this option because I did not have any income and because of the interest that could potentially accrue towards the end of repayment, however, she explained to me that this status was flexible and renewed annually. My monthly payment was calculated at $0, which allowed me the flexibility to make payments on months that I was able to pay. Lucero A.
When you’re in default and getting collection calls, they read you this statement each time how they are “making an attempt to collect a debt” and remind you how much your debt is. Be prepared for that and understand that it’s an overwhelming thing, especially if you don’t have the luxury of parents guiding you each step of the way. Ask questions and make sure you understand each step. Angela L.
Watch your statements, and I don’t just mean check them periodically. Watch them like a hawk. If you do automatic payments like I do, things can change dramatically with zero warning. I knew I had to re-certify my Income Based Repayment plan sometime soon, so I logged into my servicer’s website. I found that my next scheduled payment–scheduled to be debited just a few days later–was more than triple what I had been paying for the last couple years. I received no notice, no reminder, no warning at all. I don’t have any savings to speak of (largely due to my student loan payments), so if I hadn’t caught this it would have (and may yet) ruined me for a long time to come. Wes W.
The one thing I would recommend is to try auto repayment. It takes the worry out of making your payments each month and sometimes they even give you a bit of a credit in a reduced interest rate. Johnathan P.
If the email you registered your loan account with is inactive, be sure to update that information, because if your servicer can’t get a hold of you, you might miss important deadlines or they might even move you into delinquency – or even default. Ben B.