"The subsidized, unsubsidized difference is a huge deal," says Deane, who points out the first student loan bill can be a shock for students."With service fees and interest having accrued over the last however many years, they now owe a lot more than they thought at the front end."
3. Who is my lender? Student loans come in many forms and from several lenders. Where the money is coming from – the state, university, federal government or private lender – will determine important details such as interest rates, grace periods and repayment options, Deane, says.
It will also dictate who is sending you the bill.
Federal loans such as the Stafford and Parent PLUS loans are serviced by the Department of Education's Direct loan program. But Perkins loans, though technically federal loans, are often serviced by the university. Some states run lending programs, as well.
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So without even taking out private loans, students could be tasked with keeping tabs on three separate loan statements and payment due dates, all housed on different websites. That means updating your address, signing up for electronic billing and negotiating repayment options three different times, Deane points out.
4. Where can I go to find this information when I need it? The timing of student loan counseling isn't ideal, Allesandra Lanza with American Student Assistance, a nonprofit focused on student debt, said via email.
"Counseling four years or more before repayment starts doesn't work," Lanza wrote. "Even exit counseling is six months before repayment starts – a lifetime for a recent college grad."
Even if students read through all of their loan documents, it's unlikely they will retain everything years down the road.
To ensure they have access to vital information – interest rates, repayment plans and consolidation and forgiveness options – borrowers should ask their financial aid adviser where they can easily access all of those details throughout the life of their student loans.
Trying to fund your education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for College Center.