Ace your exit interview. If you've received federal loans, law requires the exit interview. You'll go over your rights and responsibilities concerning your loans. But don't worry if you miss it - your school can mail you the materials.
Get reacquainted with your loans. Contact your lenders and clarify all the terms of repayment. Make sure you know how much each payment will be, when they're due, and where to send the check.
Stick to a budget. Loan repayments will be a major expense for a long time and you don’t ever want to be default. So when you figure out your budget, just take your loan repayments right off the top.
Investigate your options. If you plan on going to graduate school, or if you're unemployed, you can ask your lender to defer the loan. Forbearance is similar to deferment, allowing you to hold off on your monthly payments. Unlike deferment, however, interest will accumulate during the time you don't make payments.
Loan Consolidation. If you have several student loans, consider consolidating them with one lender to save on monthly repayments, and take advantage of the lowest interest rates in recent history. In addition it is possible to access certain ‘borrower benefits’ that can substantially reduce your interest payments. (For more information, read story on The Essentials of Loan Consolidation.)
Adjust your payment schedule. Normally, people make more money later in their career than earlier. You can modify your payment schedule to fit that model with graduated repayment. Your monthly payments will start small and grow slowly. This may cost you a little more in the long run because you are paying off your loans over a longer period of time, but it also minimizes your chances of defaulting and enables you to live a little more comfortably in the short term.
Don't default. If you fail to pay your loans for six months, you'll be in default. The federal lending agency will contact the IRS, which will withhold your tax refund and your credit history will be seriously marred. It’s not worth it.
Make the most of your grace period. Consolidating your student loans while you are in your grace period (before you make any repayments) can enable you to reduce the interest rate on all your loans by 0.60%! This can save you thousands of dollars. If you are interested in consolidating don’t be like so many graduates and leave your application until it’s too late. The consolidation process can take up to two months (sometimes longer) and you only get the special interest rate discount if you are still in grace when the application is finally processed. For more information, talk to a loan counselor at the Student Loan Consolidation Program at 1-866-311-8076.