Your college years are in the rear view mirror and that six-month grace period is finally running out.
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It’s time to pay back those student loans, plus interest.
How much are you looking at? Thousands? Tens of thousands? More? If you’re not quite sure or just want a good handle on your finances, you might want to check your student loan balance (or balances, in most cases). Here’s how to do it.
Are your student loans federal or private?
Your first step is to determine if your loans are federal ones or if they came from private lenders. If you filled out the FAFSA form and received aid that way, then you definitely have some federal loans on your plate.
If you applied with another form or application process or you got aid through your school, you probably have private loans. Considering the typical student borrower takes out at least three loans to cover the costs of school, there’s a high chance you have both types.
How to check your student loan balance on federal loans
Checking your federal loan balance is an easy process. You’ll need to create a Federal Student Aid account using your Social Security Number and other personal information. Once you’re set up, you can log into the National Student Loan Data System — the Department of Education’s comprehensive database of student aid records.
When you’re logged in, you’ll be able to complete a Financial Aid Review, which will show you any federal loans or grants you’ve taken out, as well as the balances you owe and the interest you’ve paid. It will also tell you who your loan’s servicer is (the company you’ll send your money to). There’s a chance your servicer has changed since you first took out the loan, so pay careful attention to this information.
How to check your student loan balance on private loans
If you have private loans, accessing your loan balance is a little bit hard. You’ll first need to determine who your lender is. If you’re not sure or can’t remember, your best bet is to pull your credit report (you can get a free one every year at AnnualCreditReport.com). The report will show all the accounts taken out under your name — both current and paid-off ones. It will also show the latest balances on those accounts.
If you’ve already used up your free report and don’t want to pay for a new one, you can also call your university’s financial aid office. They should have your lenders and original loan amounts on file.
Once you hone in on who your lenders are, you can reach out to those companies directly or even create an account on their online portals if they have one. Again, there’s a chance your loan has changed hands since you originally took it out, so make doubly sure they still hold your loans before sending any payments.
Paying those student loans off
It can be intimidating to see those loan balances for the first time — especially when you’re operating on a just-out-of-school, entry-level salary. If you’re feeling stressed about paying off those debts, it may help to explore an income-based repayment plan. These can help you lower your monthly payments until you find your financial footing.