- Make a complete list of all the loans you have. Not doing it won’t make them go away. Start with http://www.nslds.ed.gov/nslds_SA/to find all your federal loans, then check with your financial aid office or review your credit report www.annualcreditreport.com to track down your private loans. Update your contact information with all these lenders.
- Accept the fact that no one cares about your student loans as much as you do. No one will hand you a personalized repayment plan or a neat package of organized information about your loans. Read everything you get in the mail and ask questions until it makes sense.
- Decide whether it makes sense to consolidate your federal student loans. Direct Consolidation Loans are available from the Department of Education, and it might be easier to have all your loans in one place. Learn about the pros and cons of consolidation at www.studentloanborrowerassistance.org.
- Understand which repayment plan is best for you and ask for it. You’re going to have to take action to get into the right repayment plan. The faster you repay, the less interest you’ll pay. But if your income is low compared to your debt load, consider the benefits of income-based repayment (IBR). IBR is a great option while you’re looking for work. Visit www.ibrinfo.org.
- If you end up working for the government or a nonprofit, take action to qualify for public service loan forgiveness. You can earn loan forgiveness by making the right kind of payments on the right kind of loans while working in the right kind of job. But there is nothing automatic about it. Get the information at www.equaljusticeworks.org.
Checklist compiled by Heather Jarvis, senior program manager for Equal Justice Works. Equal Justice Works provides free, online resources and information about student loans and debt-relief programs, including downloadable checklists, podcasts, and an interactive forum. For more information, visit www.equaljusticeworks.org.