Ask your loan servicer if you qualify for federal loan relief programs such as Income-Based and Income-Contingent Repayment. You can also consider online tools such as SimpleTuition's PayBackSmarter, which allows you to explore the effects of different repayment plans, extra payments, and federal repayment programs.
[Read more about ways to manage student loan debt.]
5. Make interest payments: If you have an unsubsidized loan, interest will accrue throughout your grace period. Though you're not required to pay it off until you enter repayment, it's a good idea to do so if you're financially able. Accrued interest will be capitalized at the end of your grace period and added to the principal of the loan, increasing your debt.
[Read about upcoming interest rate changes to new student loans.]
6. Seek out your financial aid officers: You may have graduated, but it's likely your financial aid office will be open to you reaching back with questions through your grace period and into your repayment term.
"I have had graduates who call me three years later and ask questions," Susquehanna's Wolfe says. "The financial aid office is always open to our students, our families, our alumni, friends of the university, anyone."
7. Relax: What's one important piece of advice student loan adviser Fudge tells the graduates he counsels?
"Not to panic," he says. It can be an anxious six months before your payments come due, Fudge acknowledges, but utilizing resources and visualizing long-term can ease some of the initial stress.
"Just the fact that you can begin thinking down the road helps you get into the mentality that, 'This a process; I'll see it through,'" Fudge notes.
Trying to fund your education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for College center.
Corrected 5/21/12: An earlier version of this article misidentified TIAA-CREF.