So you’ve completed your classes, walked across the stage to receive your diploma, and you’ve been hired. What’s next? As you take the next steps in your life, an important thing to do is prepare to pay back your student loans.
At Center for Advanced Legal Studies, where I work in the Financial Aid department, students who complete one of our paralegal programs and apply for student loans receive the following information. This way, they can take charge of their financial situation and begin planning early for their future and their loan repayment.
Make sure to read through to the end. No matter where you go to school and use your student loans, these steps are sure to help you.
Step 1: Find out how much you owe!
Hopefully, you have been keeping up with the amount you borrowed while attending school. But in case you are in need of a reminder of how much you owe, visit www.nslds.ed.gov. Once you log in, this website will show you all the student loans you have ever received. You will be able to find out how much you owe and who your servicer is for each loan.
Step 2: Research loan forgiveness options
This step is not mandatory, but may save you some money. Depending on your career field and area of employment, some people may qualify for partial or full loan forgiveness. It is a good idea to find out if you do. Here are a few opportunities for loan forgiveness that you can look into:
- AmeriCorps. If you are willing to commit a year volunteering for AmeriCorps, you get $4,725 to pay off your college debts, and a stipend up to $7,400. For more information, visit their website or call (800) 942-2677.
- Peace Corps. If you travel with the Peace Corps, you will get to defer most of your student loans until after you leave the program, and you may get some of your loans reduced by as much as 70%. Visit their website or call (800) 424-8580 for more details.
- VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). VISTA aims to fight poverty, homelessness, and illiteracy in the United States. You will get $4,725 to pay off your loans if you join in on their cause for at least 1,700 hours. Visit their website or call (800) 942-2677 for more information.
- Military Service. If you join the Army Reserve or the National Guard after graduation, you can receive up to $20,000 to pay off your loans. If you are willing to accept additional risk, you can ask to be stationed in areas of hostility to get even more money to repay your loans.
- Teaching. Teach for America, for example, selects college graduates to teach in low-income communities and offers $4,725 to pay off your student loans for each year you work for them. Visit their website for more details.
- Equal Justice Works. Equal Justice Works offers loan forgiveness for law school graduates to take on public interest or non-profit positions. See their website for details.
Step 3: Figure out what repayment plan works best for you
Once you are no longer enrolled in school, your student loans go into a 6 month grace period. That means you have 6 months before your first payment is due. Listed below are your repayment options. Talk to your servicer about these options before your grace period ends.
- Standard Payment. You make monthly payments to pay back your loans with interest within 10 years. This gives you the best interest rate, but requires the highest monthly payments.
- Graduated Payment. This is a good option if you graduate expecting to make a modest but steadily increasing wage. The payment requirements will start off low, and then increase every couple of years for the next 10 to 30 years.
- Income-Based Payment. You may choose to make your monthly payment bill proportional to the amount you currently make and get up to 15 years to pay it off.
- Long-Term Payment. You pay back your loans plus interest in 30 years with monthly payments.
Step 4: Set-up a budget
The final step is to set up a budget. Track all of your income and spending for a couple of months. Look back at your past spending, and figure out ways to trim spending and save more money. Try to incorporate your loan payment amount into your budget early in the process so that you will already be accustomed to paying it once your repayment starts. Remember to keep on top of it so that you never default on your loans. If worse comes to worse and you cannot make a payment, contact your lender to see if you qualify for a temporary forbearance or deferment.
Following these steps will keep you in tip-top shape when it comes to your student loans. We encourage you to keep a positive attitude and tackle those loans with enthusiasm and hard work. If you ever have any questions you can always contact your financial aid counselor and/or your servicer. Happy Repayment!
Carlas Mack is the Financial Aid Assistant at Center for Advanced Legal Studies, where all staff members are committed to your success. If you are interested in becoming a paralegal or the programs we offer, contact us to see what tuition payment options are available to you. Call 1.800.446.6931 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.