4 Steps to Take Control of Your Student Loans

Plan your financial future in four steps

Student loans can make paying for college easier, but you'll need a plan for staying on top of the debt after graduation. That's especially true if you're about to begin repaying your loans.


It's important to make on-time loan payments to maintain a good credit history and build your credit scores. These tips can help you get a better grip on your student debt so nothing falls through the cracks.

1. Get organized

Creating a roadmap for managing your loans begins with knowing how much you owe and to whom. If you took out multiple loans while you were in school, the first thing you need to do is figure out where they're being held. The National Student Loan Data System can help. This database houses all the details for your federal student loans, including the type of loan, the amount borrowed, and which lenders issued the loans. It's free to create a Federal Student Aid ID and access this information.


If you took out private loans, you'll need to reach out to each lender individually to get the rundown of what you owe. Your credit report should list each of your lenders and their contact information.

2. Understand the types of loans you have

Federal student loans and private student loans aren't created equal. It's important to understand how they differ.


With federal loans, for instance, certain protections are built-in, such as forbearance or deferment periods in the case of financial hardship. With private loans, it's up to the lender to decide whether to offer these options.


Both federal and private loans generally offer a six-month grace period after graduation before your first payment is due. Lenders may also offer an extended grace period to borrowers under certain circumstances like financial hardship, for example. If you’re near or at the end of your grace period and find you may have trouble making your monthly payments, contact the lender to determine the options available to you.

3. Assess your student loan repayment options

When you take out federal student loans, you're automatically enrolled in the 10-year standard repayment plan. You do, however, have the option of applying for one of the income-driven repayment plans offered by the Department of Education. That includes income-based repayment, income-contingent repayment, and Pay As You Earn (PAYE).


Private lenders offer a variety of repayment options, and the length of your repayment period is determined when the loan is taken out. Check with your lender to see what your options are and how they fit with your budget.

4. Consider consolidating and/or refinancing

If you have multiple loans, consolidating or refinancing them into a single loan can make them easier to manage. For example, instead of making multiple payments to several different loan servicers each month, you can make a single payment to one larger loan. Refinancing could also lead to a lower interest rate. Just remember that refinancing federal loans into a private loan could cause you to lose some of those protections mentioned earlier, so it's important to weigh the pros and cons.


If you're planning to refinance, there are a few documents you'll need, including your most recent pay stubs, the previous year's tax returns, your bank statements, and a list of your assets and debts. If the lender you're refinancing with requires a cosigner, they'll need these documents as well.


Comparing rates with different lenders can help you find the best deal. If you're ready to refinance your private student loans, get started by requesting a free rate quote from Citizens Bank. Or call 877-464-6340 to speak to a Student Lending Specialist.