Between living on your own, figuring out varied schedules, and managing your classes, it can be easy to lose track of how much money you’ve taken out in student loans. While knowing your overall debt load can seem overwhelming or stressful, the more you know, the more in control you can be to set your future self up for success. Calculating how much you owe in relation to what you can expect to make after graduation can help you identify your options after graduation as well as what you can be doing now.
Keep track along the way
One easy way to know what you owe in student loans is to keep track of all documents you received when taking out the loans. This may be letters or emails you’ve received confirming the amounts borrowed, interest rates, and the type of loan. Keep any physical information in a safe place and electronic documents on a password protected device, as these have personal information. If you know your student loan provider, you should be able to create a login and password on their website to log on, monitor your balances, and even start making early payments if you’re able.
Finding your debt load
Don’t worry if you deleted these emails or shredded the documents. StudentAid.gov will provide information on your federal student loan details. After logging in with your FSA ID (the username and password used when signing your FAFSA), you’ll be able to see your student loan amounts, their balances, the student loan provider, interest rates, and loan statuses. Another option for viewing federal loans and grant data is the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). This is another site that will require you to use your FSA ID to login.
Private loans taken out will not appear in StudentAid.gov. Instead, for private loan information utilize AnnualCreditReport.com. This site will show the status of your loans (active, deferment, forbearance, etc.), amounts owed, and your student loan provider. It’s also a great tool to monitor your credit report for potential fraud. For specific information like interest rates, you’ll need to create a login and password, or contact the company directly.
Again, it might be overwhelming to see it all added up and that’s normal. However, now you are able to empower yourself and make a plan. Utilize the “What will my student loans payments be?” calculator on website and mobile app to get an idea of what your monthly payments might look like. Once the amount of debt taken out for student loans feels like real money (which it is) and you can see the impact it’ll have on your future finances, it can be easier to convince yourself it’s time to start budgeting or make a few changes to lessen the amount you’ll owe later on.
Tips to keep student loan debt as low as possible
- Only borrow what you need
- Know you can give back money you received in refunds and don’t need
- Pay what you can toward interest accruing on unsubsidized student loans
- Look into work-study programs
- Take summer classes to reduce time at school
- Track what you already owe and what those payments will look like after graduation
- Talk to friends and family for tips on better allocating funds