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Student Loans

You’re in college and on your own, but you may still experience the occasional financial pitfall. Below are money mistakes many students make, and some tips on how to avoid them.

Financial Pitfall #1: Spending all your living expense money early in the semester.

You’ve probably set aside spending money for personal expenses if you live off campus. Or, you may have financial aid funds to use for room, board, or other educational expenses. That money needs to last through the entire semester, but many students spend it within the first few months. How can you avoid spending your money too early? Use a budgeting app like Mint to help you keep track of your available money and expenses.

Financial Pitfall #2: Not taking advantage of part-time employment opportunities.

Most schools offer part-time employment options for students through Federal Work-Study, and by posting on- and off-campus jobs. You might worry that a job will conflict with academic work, but studies show that students who work between 15 and 20 hours while in school are generally more confident and successful. Having a job helps bring in money regularly throughout the semester and can help build your resume. Your college financial aid office awards Federal Work-Study and generally posts related job opportunities. Work-Study is based on financial need and requires a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) . Other part-time jobs may be posted by the Career Office, Student Affairs, or other places on campus. Check your school website for more information.

Financial Pitfall #3: Accumulating credit card debt.

You’ve probably already received credit card offers in the mail. You may also notice giveaways and travel rewards that make the offers sound appealing. Be careful – as a new credit card holder, your interest rates will be high, and credit card offers tend to have many fees attached. Be sure to read the fine print and note that the initial low interest rate offered may expire in just a few months. You can quickly accumulate credit card balances that can swell out of control, especially if you’re only making minimum payments. Here’s an overview of credit card pros and cons, along with additional information about other matters to consider.

Financial Pitfall #4: Taking out student loans without understanding them.

Student loans are so common that students often see them as just another type of financial aid. There is an important difference; student loans must be paid back. While student loans can be a useful way to pay for your education, keep your borrowing to a minimum. Know what your monthly loan payment will be when you get out of school. Understand what you can realistically afford to borrow. It is also important to know the types of loans, the terms of those loans, and the options available. To get a general idea of what your monthly loan payment may be when you finish school, Federal Student Aid provides an easy-to-use repayment calculator.

The earlier you can learn the basics about managing your finances, the better off you’ll be in the long run. These simple steps should help you build the foundation you need for a successful financial future.

If you borrowed student loans to help pay for college, you may not be required to make any payments until after you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment. That sounds like a pretty good deal; no payments and no worries while you focus on your studies. But remember, if you take out a federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, a federal Direct PLUS Loan, or a private loan, interest accumulates during those months (or years) you’re in school and not making any payments. Here are some ways you can save on your student loans while you’re still in school.

Accruing Interest

Interest that accrues on your student loan will typically be capitalized when you begin repayment. That means any accrued interest during those months you are not making payments is added to the original principal amount of your loan. For instance, if you borrowed a $15,000 student loan with an interest rate of 6% as a freshman and made no payments for the four years you were in school, plus your grace period, 51 months would have passed. In this scenario, when you begin your repayment period, you would actually have a balance of $18,825 when you start repaying your loan 51 months later. That’s because $3,825 in interest (also known as capitalized interest) would have accrued during those 51 months and was added to your original loan amount.

In-School Payments Can Help

Now, let’s say you have a part-time job while you’re in school, working 15-20 hours a week to help with some of your expenses. If you could simply pay around $75 a month toward that $15,000 student loan, you could actually pay all the accruing interest (remember, that’s $3,825 total that would have been added to your loan when your first scheduled monthly payment is due). If you’re able to pay $75 towards your student loan’s accruing interest, the total cost you could ultimately save over the life of a 10-year repayment period would be nearly $1,300.

Example

Paying Interest While In School (No Capitalized Interest) Fully Deferred Payments While In School – No Payments (Capitalized Interest)
Original Loan Amount $15,000 $15,000
Interest Accrued During In School and Grace Period (51 months) $3,825 $3,825
Interest Paid During In-School and Grace Period $3,825 $0
Loan Amount When Entering Repayment $15,000 $18,825
Number of Months of Repayment 120 120
Monthly Payment $166.53 $209
Total Interest Paid on Loan (including any payments during in school and grace period) $8,808.60 $10,080
Total Paid on Student Loan (original loan amount plus interest) $23,808.60 $25,080

As you can see from this example, making interest payments while you’re in school and during your grace period can help you save on your student loans down the road. Plus, making payments during your in-school and grace period also gets you in the habit of making payments on your student loan and better prepares you for successful repayment. Remember, this is just an example of borrowing one loan during your freshman year of college. Imagine what the capitalized interest could look like if you borrow each year of college, or what your savings would be by making continued interest payments while you’re in school. You can learn more ways to save on your student loans and get additional helpful information by visiting our student loan resources.

If you graduated from college this year, you may realize just how much student loan debt you have. With the average student loan debt at around $29,000 per student, it can be overwhelming to see that number and you may wonder how you are going to pay it back. Well, take a deep breath: you have several options when it comes to repayment. Don’t hesitate to give your student loan servicer a call because they will help you work through your options. Or, you can also follow these 4 steps to get ready for student loan repayment. It’s important to investigate your options and be prepared. It’s equally important to know a few things you should avoid.

Deferment & Forbearance

Deferment and forbearance allow you to temporarily postpone making payments or can reduce your payment for a period of time. Sounds great, right? So, what’s the problem? Your student loans continue to accrue interest. That interest could cost you thousands of dollars a year, depending on your student loan debt. Don’t delay the inevitable. You will have to pay back your student loans whether you pay them now or pay them later. Deferment and forbearance are great options if you have no financial means when you enter repayment. However, you shouldn’t use them as a way to delay paying your student loans. If you do need to go this route, try to at least make interest payments on your loans. If you don’t, the interest will capitalize leading to higher student loan debt and higher monthly payments once your deferment or forbearance expires.

Don’t Miss Payments

Make your payments every month and on time. If a loan payment is not made by the due date, the loan becomes delinquent until payment is received. Depending on your servicer or lender, this delinquency can affect your credit report as a negative mark, therefore negatively affecting your credit score. In addition, when you miss monthly payments, your payment will double, then triple, and continue to snowball which may put you in a situation that’s difficult to catch up on.

Avoid Scams

We’ve all heard the saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” It may seem enticing to pay a company to handle the stress of your student loans and promise you low payments or loan forgiveness, which are why these companies exist, but you’ll be wasting your money. Student loan servicers and lenders will not charge fees for finding a repayment plan that fits your needs. The U.S. Department of Education offers several student loan repayment plans and loan forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge for certain circumstances, but all of their services are free of charge.

Being prepared for repayment and understanding what you should avoid are two big steps to successfully paying off your student loans. Just remember, your student loan servicer is there to help you. If you need to adjust your repayment plan or just have questions about your student loans, give them a call (844.307.3451).

It may seem as though summer break just started, but with August comes the start of another school year is just around the corner. You’ve probably received your college bill and are starting to make plans to transition back into school. We’ve developed a financial checklist to help you get ready.

1. Save summer earnings for college expenses

Although it’s tempting to spend what you earn, save as much of your summer paycheck as possible for college expenses. If your college bill is covered, you can use your summer earning for books, supplies, and personal expenses while in school.

2. Be sure you have taken all required steps to secure your financial aid

Have you returned your award acceptance and responded to any information requests from your financial aid office? If you are a new federal borrower, you will need to complete federal entrance counseling and sign your loan promissory note. Your financial aid office would have reached out to you with directions and steps you need to take along with completion dates. If you haven’t already, locate that information now and make sure you have completed all the steps.

3. Pay your college bill in full and on time

Most colleges require students to pay bills for the semester in full before they arrive. If you are unable to cover the bill after financial aid is applied, you may still be able to obtain additional student loan funds. Check with your financial aid office for guidance on any additional federal loans you or your parents may be eligible to borrow. If needed, private student loans may also be available to bridge the gap. Just be sure to pay whatever you can before borrowing funds that you will need to pay back later, with interest. Information on private student loan programs can be located on your school website.

4. Look for discounts on books and supplies

Many instructors will provide a list of books and supplies online before school begins. Some schools will also provide links and resources for purchasing used books. You can save money by looking to those resources first before buying your books new. You can generally pick up general supplies like paper, notebooks, pens, etc. more reasonably at home than at school. Check your school’s website to see if discounts are available on equipment like computers and printers.

5. Set up an in-school budget

Whether you’re going to school with money you’ve saved for personal expenses, a family-provided bank account, or with financial aid designated for living costs, you probably have a lump sum which will need to last throughout the semester or even the entire year. Establishing a budget that considers your available funds and your expenses will help you stretch that money over an extended period instead of spending it all upfront. Budgets take self-discipline and planning but they are well worth the effort.

6. Try to arrange for a part-time job now

There are two different types of jobs during college. One is Federal Work-Study, which is included on your financial aid award letter. The other is a part-time job that you obtain on your own. Colleges often help students by posting opportunities on job boards which identify positions as one or the other. You can also look on local jobs websites for part-time jobs. If you apply for jobs now, you’ll be ahead of the rush. You’ll also demonstrate your initiative to prospective employers. When students return to campus, it will be more competitive as many students search for jobs at the same time.

Taking the time to prepare now will pay great dividends later. By taking care of financial matters in advance, you can focus more on your studies and enjoy your time in college.

Special Note: If you have not yet applied for financial aid, you can still complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Don’t assume you won’t be eligible. If you need help for college, apply! Your time is getting short though, so file the FAFSA as soon as possible to be sure your financial aid eligibility has been assessed before school starts.

You may have heard about private student loans. Some information about private loans is like a Bigfoot sighting. There are a lot of stories, but they often aren’t based on facts. In this article, we’ll look at each private loan myth and give you the facts.

Private Loan Myth #1: Private Student Loans Only Offer Variable Interest Rates

One of the most common myths about private student loans is that they’re only available with riskier variable interest rates. In reality, most private loan providers offer borrowers a choice between a fixed interest rate and a variable interest rate. Depending on your individual circumstances, one may be more appealing than the other. Read more about choosing a variable or fixed interest rate to see what important factors should be considered when choosing your type of interest rate. Additionally, highly qualified borrowers can likely find private student loans with low interest rate options.

Private Loan Myth #2: Private Student Loans Have High Origination or Application Fees

The reality is that most private loan providers currently charge NO upfront fees, also known as origination or application fees. There is no fee to make extra payments or to pay off loans early. Although most loan providers offer loans with no upfront fees, research your options. Be sure to verify any fees or charges associated with loan products.

Private Loan Myth #3: Private Student Loans Require Immediate Repayment While You are Still in School

As a borrower, you have various repayment options offered by different private loan providers. Most lenders have an option to delay or postpone payments while enrolled at least half-time. They also offer a six-month grace period following your graduation or last date of at least half-time enrollment. This gives you the option to not make payments while enrolled in school as long as you are enrolled on at least a half-time basis. This can give you some added flexibility while you are focused on your studies. However, if you can make payments in school, even if only the accruing interest, you can save money and keep your loan costs lower. You can find additional ways to save money on your student loans here.

Private Loan Myth #4: Private Student Loans Have No Deferment or Forbearance Options if You Have Difficulty Making Payments

Most lenders offer options to postpone payments if you encounter some type of financial hardship. (You may want to check to be sure.) Most private loan lenders provide a hardship forbearance to temporarily postpone payments if you find it difficult to make payments.

Many private loan lenders also offer deferments. Deferments can postpone payments for certain circumstances. These circumstances include returning to school, having an internship or residency, or during other approved events. Again, check with your private loan lenders to see what options are specifically available.

Private Loan Myth #5: Federal Student Loans are Always Cheaper than Private Student Loans

As a general rule, explore your federal student loan options first before taking out any private loans. Federal student loans will typically provide you a greater degree of flexibility with repayment options and various forgiveness provisions. You can read a good overview of federal and private student loans here.

However, many private student loans can have interest rates as low as or even lower than federal student loans. Federal student loans also have a nominal origination fee charged to borrowers. As discussed earlier, most private loans do not have any origination or application fees. Several lenders now offer private loans designed specifically for parents for their students’ educational expenses. Parents find these loan options often have lower interest rates compared to federal Parent PLUS loans.

We hope you have a better understanding of private student loans and are better equipped to make informed decisions regarding your education financing options. Research your options to find what works best for your individual circumstances and don’t believe every myth you hear. But, if you happen to see Bigfoot in the cafeteria on campus, snap a pic. You just might be able to sell it and pay off your student loans!

If you have received your financial aid award and still need money for college, private loans may be worth considering. Banks, credit unions, and other lending organizations offer private loans.

First Steps for Private Loans

You take out private loans in your own name. They often require you to apply with a qualified cosigner who has an established credit history. Even if you don’t need a cosigner, using one may still help you obtain a better interest rate. Lenders provide the best rates to borrowers and cosigners with the strongest credit qualifications.

As a general rule, private loans should be the last financial aid option. Always file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) first, and accept any grants, scholarships, work-study and federal loans offered by your school before taking out a private loan. Federal loans offer more repayment options, income-based programs, and in some cases, loan forgiveness alternatives.

If you decide a private loan is right for you, consider these things when selecting a program.

1. Check to see if your college has a recommended lender list.

Some schools investigate private loan programs and providers on behalf of their students. They provide lists of those they think would best meet their students’ needs. If your school has a list, you can begin there. Your school generally posts school lender lists on their financial aid website. In many cases, the website links you to a third party where your school provided a list of programs. In either case, loan programs are usually listed by feature, so you can compare to see which might best meet your needs. If your school does not have a lender list, you can investigate Credible or other websites which will provide loan program options and help you compare features.

2. Decide which features are the most important to you.

  • Rates – In comparing interest rates, you will see some lenders use an index called London Interbank Offered Rates (LIBOR), and others use the Prime Rate index. Since they aren’t the same, look at the loan programs’ Annual Percentage Rates (APRs). The lowest and highest APR ranges are be displayed. If APRs aren’t listed, be aware that the Prime Rate is typically two to three points higher than LIBOR. The most current rates can be located in the Federal Reserve’s Statistical Release.
  • Fees – Most private loan lenders offer zero application and origination fees. Check all loan programs you are considering to make sure this is true and to determine if there are other fees associated with the loan.
  • Repayment plans and terms – Would you prefer in-school interest payments to keep your costs down? Perhaps multiple repayment period choices like a 5, 10, or a 15 year period are best for you. With private loans, you choose your repayment period at the time you take out your loan. You may also want to check to see if there are deferment or forbearance options if you run into difficulty in repayment.
  • Cosigner release – Your cosigner is responsible for making payments if you do not. The cosigner’s credit report reflects any late or missed payments as well. When investigating options, determine if the program offers a cosigner release, how many payments you will need to make before that is possible, and how involved the release process is.
  • Borrower benefits – Lenders offer a variety of benefits like interest discounts for auto-debit payments, cash back for achieving certain grades, or interest reductions after a specific number of on-time payments. Be sure you determine which are the most important to you and take the required action to meet the requirements.

3. Understand the difference between fixed and variable rates.

As you compare differences between programs, interest rates may be a primary factor. You will need to decide between fixed rates, which may be higher at first but remain the same throughout the life of your loan, or variable rates which may be lower at first but change periodically based on fluctuations in the economy. For more information about the factors to consider before making this decision, go to U-fi From Nelnet’s frequently asked questions.

4. Your rate is the one that matters most.

Lenders may advertise low rates when they share their program’s interest ranges, and many students assume they will receive the lowest rates. See if lenders allow you to use a calculator. If you can enter general information about you and your cosigner, you may be able to obtain a preview of what your interest rate will be before completing the application process and providing authorization for your credit to be pulled.

Private loans can provide a solid financial option for students who need help bridging the gap between financial aid and college costs. Be sure to first research programs fully and understand your responsibilities before taking out any type of education loan. If you have questions, your college financial aid office is the best source of information and guidance about your individual situation.

Most students need to borrow money to cover the cost of their college education. It’s important to understand the borrowing options available. If you completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and received an award letter from your college financial aid office, you’ll likely have the option to borrow through the federal loan program called the Direct Loan Program, or simply known as Direct Loans. In the Direct Loan Program, you can borrow through the Direct Subsidized Loan or the Direct Unsubsidized Loan programs. Graduate students and parents of dependent students can also borrow in the Direct PLUS Loan program. These are all federal loan programs as opposed to private, and are generally your first option.

Direct Loans

If you’re an undergraduate student, you’ll want to explore Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans first. A subsidized loan simply means that you do not incur any interest charges while you’re in school. You can receive a Direct Subsidized Loan if you have financial need as determined by the results of your FAFSA. A Direct Unsubsidized Loan may also be available to you. As you might guess, the unsubsidized loan means that you are responsible for interest that accrues on the loan while you are in school.

Private Loans

After you’ve exhausted your federal loan options, you may still have outstanding expenses at your college. That’s when you might seek additional funding options in the form of a private loan. While your college financial aid office will instruct you on how to apply for federal loans, you’ll need to determine which private loan lender you want to use. Some schools may provide you with a list of private loan providers for you to evaluate and select. Other schools may simply direct you to find a private loan provider on your own.

Federal vs. Private

A few years ago, there were significant differences in federal loans and private loans. Now, the programs have many similarities and offer unique benefits. The chart below outlines some key factors in the federal and private loan programs.

Ufi-Loan-Type-Comparison

As you can see from the chart, there are a lot of similarities in both programs. Trying to decide between the two? Here are some important factors to consider:

  • If you’re an undergraduate student, in most cases you will have a more favorable interest rate and loan terms with a federal loan. If you think you’ll be entering any type of career that might qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you will want to stay with federal loans when possible. Private loans do not typically offer any type of forgiveness for public service.
  • Federal loans typically provide a greater array of repayment options, including income-driven repayment plans. Most private loan providers do not offer repayment plans tied to your income.
  • If you can afford to make a higher monthly payment over a shorter repayment period, you may find a lower interest rate with a private loan.
  • Many borrowers, especially undergraduate students, find it necessary to use a cosigner for their private student loans. Learn more about the benefits of having a cosigners here.

Complete the FAFSA

Regardless of what type of funding you’re considering, you will generally still want to complete the FAFSA to take advantage of all the financial aid opportunities available to you before borrowing any type of loan. Check out your federal loan options first and then turn to private loans only when necessary to cover additional school costs. Do your research to get a full understanding to know your options and be an informed consumer. If you do consider private loan options, not all private loans or lenders are the same. You may find significant differences between private loan providers, so find one that best fits your needs and circumstances.

Thinking about applying for a new private student loan, or refinancing your existing federal and private student loans? Expect the lender to check your credit history and credit score. They do this to ensure you are not a credit risk. You can proactively take steps to improve your credit health and raise your credit score. Start with understanding what’s in your credit report, and what student loan lenders are looking for.

What is Credit?

Have you ever taken out a student loan or credit card? If so, you entered into an agreement to receive funds that must be paid back later. Unlike credit cards, student loans are repaid in installments over a set number of payments. This term is usually 5 to 25 years.

When you take out a student loan, most lenders or servicers notify at least one of the three major credit reporting agencies. These are Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. They do this so they can include the new account on your credit report as a trade line. Each trade line contains detailed information. This information includes account name and number, loan type, date opened, original and current balance, payment status, and monthly payment.

The lender or servicer notifies the credit agencies of all loan activity. This activity includes payment date, amount of payment applied to principal and interest, and timeliness of payments. The credit agency records this information, which makes up part of your credit history.

Understanding Your Credit Report

While each credit reporting agency’s reporting format may be slightly different, they essentially include the same information:

  • Personal Information, such as your name, address (current and previous), Social Security number, date of birth, and other information that identifies who you are.
  • Credit History, including your open and closed accounts, original loan amounts, current balances, and payment history.
  • Public Records, such as delinquent accounts, liens, and bankruptcies. Public records can remain on your credit report for many years, which will affect your ability to obtain future credit.
  • Credit Inquiries, which are placed on your credit report when you request credit. Credit inquiries remain on your file for two years.

Tip: Federal law entitles you to a free copy of your credit report each year from all three credit reporting agencies. Take advantage of this and check your report from each credit bureau annually. This ensures your personal information is accurate and up to date. To get a free credit report, visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-FACTACT. If something on your report looks inaccurate, be sure to contact the credit agency immediately to have it addressed. Unfortunately, the credit reports will not include your credit score.

What Student Loan Lenders Look For When Checking Your Credit

When making a credit decision, private student loan lenders check your credit report and credit score. They do this to determine whether you are an acceptable risk, and what interest rate they should charge you. If you have a cosigner, lender checks their credit report and credit score too.  Most lenders, like U-fi From Nelnet, will want to see an adequate credit history, a track record of making on-time payments, how much debt you have outstanding, and a good credit score. Lenders also ask how much income you have to determine whether you, or your cosigner, have enough monthly income to make monthly payments.

To increase your chances of being approved and receiving a low interest rate for a new student loan or a student refinance loan, you and/or your cosigner will want to have at least two open trade lines, be no more than 30 days past due on more than one account, and have no public records for the past five years. Most lenders will also want to see a good credit score. While each lender is different, if you have a credit score above 700, you will generally be considered a good credit risk.

Tip: When shopping for a private student loan or student refinance loan you should complete all your applications within a short window (e.g. 30 days), since multiple credit inquiries within a brief time period will have little impact on your credit score.

How Does Your Credit History Affect Your Credit Score?

Your credit score is a number that summarizes your credit risk at any moment in time. While there are several types of credit scores, 90% of lending decisions use a FICO score. Fair Isaac Corporation creates the FICO score. FICO scores range from a low of 300 to a high of 850, with higher being better. FICO scores are made up of the following:

  • 35%: Payment History – have you made your past payments on time?
  • 30%: Amount Owed – how much debt do you owe and how much of your available credit has been used?
  • 15%: Length of Credit History – how long have you been using credit?
  • 10%: New Credit – how much of your debt has been opened recently?
  • 10%: Types of Credit Used – do you have different types of credit such as credit cards, installment loans, and mortgages?

Tip: FICO scores can change from month to month due to several factors. Not having too much debt, and making full payments on time, over a long period gives lenders more confidence you will repay them. That increases the likelihood they will extend you credit at a lower interest rate.

Understanding what’s on your credit report and how it impacts your ability to get a good credit rate is extremely important. If you notice something incorrect on your credit report, call the credit agency immediately. Work with them to correct any problems. A better credit history and higher credit score means a better shot at approval and a low interest rate. Your credit could save you a lot of money on your student loans. It can also ensure additional credit is there for you when you need it most.

Undergraduate students graduate with an average of $30,000 in student loan debt. This amount can feel overwhelming. However, there are several tips for saving money on student loans. You can do it while you are in school and after you graduate.

Saving Money on Student Loans Step 1: Only Borrow What You Need

The first step is to only borrow what you need to cover your college costs. Many students over-borrow and end up with more student loan debt than they are able to pay back after graduation. Grants and scholarships usually don’t have to be paid back as long as you continue to meet their requirements. However, these forms of financial aid generally won’t cover all of your college costs. Looking at your federal loan options is your next step. Federal loans will have to be paid back with interest. However, they usually offer borrowers lower interest rates and more flexible terms. Make sure you take advantage of these options before considering a private student loan. Private student loans are a great option when you’ve exhausted all federal aid options and still have college expenses. As with any loan, make sure you understand the terms and conditions.

Saving Money on Student Loans Step 2: Make In-School Payments

The second way to save money on your student loans is to make payments while in school. Most loans will give you a deferred payment option. This means you don’t have to make any payments on your student loans while you’re in school or during your grace period. While it sounds like a good option, interest accrues on your loans during this time. That could mean a larger bill at repayment. If you budget to make full principal and interest payments while still in school, you’ll save the most money over the life of the loan, but that isn’t always feasible for everyone. Another great way to save money is to make interest-only payments while in school. This monthly payment will be much less than a full principal and interest payment, but will set you up for success when you get to repayment.

Entering Repayment

Once you graduate your loans will go into repayment following your grace period. That means you will start making payments toward your full principal and interest payments until the loans are paid off. Federal loans have several repayment options to fit your budget, but keep in mind the lower your payment and the longer your loan term the more interest you will pay over the life of the loan. Make sure you are aware of and take advantage of any borrower benefits your loan servicer offers, such as a lowered interest rate for auto-debit payments.

Refinancing or consolidating your student loans may also be a good option for you.

These are a few of the main ways to save yourself money on your student loans while you’re in school and after you graduate. Knowing your options and paying what you can along the way will set you up for a successful future, free from student loans.

Have you decided to go to graduate school? You may be researching how to pay for tuition and other expenses. You have another decision to make as well – what to do about any undergraduate student loan debt you may have.

If you attend graduate school at least half-time, your loans can be deferred. That means you don’t have to make payments. Although that will provide immediate relief, there are other long-term financial implications to consider. It’s important to look at the kind of undergraduate loans you have before determining how to proceed.

What are the different types of education loans and their in-school interest rate charges?

Federal Subsidized Loans – With these loans, the federal government pays the interest while you are in school at least half-time. An in-school deferment on subsidized loans means you won’t move into repayment until you leave school.

Federal Unsubsidized Loans – Some or all of your federal undergraduate student loan may be unsubsidized, which basically means that you are responsible for the interest, even while in school. You can still defer your payments if you attend at least half-time. But, the interest continues to build, and is capitalized at repayment. Capitalization is unpaid interest that your lender adds to the principal balance of a loan. Future interest then accrues on the larger balance. That can add up.

Private Loans – These loans are taken out from banks, credit bureaus, and other lending organizations. You can generally defer private loan payments while in school at least half-time. However, interest accrues and capitalizes at repayment as well. More information about private loans is located in U-fi From Nelnet’s Frequently Asked Questions.

Tip: Paying any of the interest on private loans or unsubsidized loans each month while in graduate school can help. It can amount to significant savings in the long run.

How do I find out about my undergraduate student loan and my in-school options?

You can go to the National Student Loan Database (NSLDS) to obtain information about your federal undergraduate student loan. There, you will see the types of loans you have and the terms of each. You can also see the federal loan servicer(s) to whom your loans have been assigned. To find out about your private loans and servicers, check with your lender. Federal and private loan servicers work with you during school. They are also responsible for billing, collection, and information services provided throughout your undergraduate student loan repayment period.

You may wonder how servicers will know that you are in school and eligible for deferment. Your federal servicer(s) receive notification of your in-school status. This happens when your school reports enrollment information as part of their regular administrative procedures. Federal servicers automatically place you in deferment status and notify you. Make sure your private loan servicers know you are in school. Contact them and submit any required information, if needed.

Tip: Your servicers can advise you about the best in-school payment options. For example, working at a non-profit organization or at certain income levels may put you on a different repayment track for federal loans. It’s wise to take advantage of your servicers’ individualized counseling before making any decisions about how to handle your loans before, during, or after graduate school.

Do I have other loan management options for my private loans?

If you took out private loans as an undergraduate, you may want to explore whether refinancing your loans into one new private loan is a viable option before entering graduate school. If your undergraduate private loans have higher interest rates than those currently available, or if you would like to combine multiple loans into one loan, refinancing may be a good choice for you. Private refinance loans are based on credit and you may need a cosigner to get the best rate. Refinance loans usually offer in-school deferment options if you attend school at least half-time. Interest accrues and will be capitalized at repayment.

Be cautious about including federal loans in a refinance loan. Even if the rate is lower, you will lose loan forgiveness, income-driven repayment options, and some other features available only in federal programs.

What about the loans I’ll take out while in grad school?

Since subsidized federal loans are not available to graduate students, interest accrues on both federal and private loans while you’re in school. If you are unable to make interest payments on all of your loans while in graduate school, consider paying interest on the highest rate loan(s) first. Any progress you can make on paying interest will put you in a better position when you move into loan repayment.

Talking with your federal and private loans servicers can help you determine the best options in your specific situation. Education loan management can seem complicated. Your servicers can look at your accounts and provide information about the best choices for you.