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How to Manage a Student Loan

School's out for more than the summer and now you have to begin paying back those loans. What's your plan of attack?
School's out for more than the summer and now you have to begin paying back those loans. What's your plan of attack?

There is no shortage of statistics showcasing the rising cost of post-secondary education. Many people conclude that taking out student loans is no longer an option but a necessity. This can be a daunting task and a frightening debt to incur given that the cost of college is currently akin to the price of a small house. However, with careful planning and an eye on what you're doing, the debt can be fairly easy to manage.

If you find yourself in need of a student loan don't worry, you're in the majority here; 2008 estimates reveal that more than 66 percent of individuals in the U.S. take out student loans [source: NPSAS]. If you're among the 66 percent, the first numbers on a loan agreement you'll want to look at are the stipulations in grace periods and the length of repayment. Federal Student Loans offer a grace period while you're in school and for the months immediately after. This means that while you're attending college, you won't need to worry about making payments. Grace periods following your graduation or if you leave school for any reason depend specifically on the loan, so be sure to research and understand your loan before signing up.

Federal Loans come in both subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans don't start to accrue interest until after you graduate, whereas unsubsidized will accrue interest starting from the moment you take out the loan. Private loans are an option as well, but often don't carry the guarantee of a low-interest rate like federal loans do. However, if you'd like to take out loans through your bank or elsewhere, they'll often have a variety of repayment options.

While you're in school, keep an eye on your loans. This can be done through the National Student Loan Data System Web site. There you'll find up-to-date numbers on the loans you take out, the interest they've accrued and what your total debt is. It might not seem like much, but knowing the amount you owe will be a helpful tool throughout your loan management.

You're getting ready to graduate and loan repayment looms in your future. What's next? How do you get started repaying the money you borrowed?