How I Consolidated My Student Loans Into One Low Monthly Payment

Much like the rest of the United States, I too have student loans and can I tell you, they suck!

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It wasn’t until I got into graduate school that I found myself neck deep in student loans. See, I always knew that at some point it would have to be repaid, but when you’re in school 2 years seems like forever. So to me I thought I had forever until repayment. But then, (dun dun duuunn) graduation day arrived and the Department of Education is so thoughtful, they sent me a really nice letter. Unfortunately it wasn’t an Amex gift card and a “congrats grad” card; nope they’re asking for their money back (thanks guys, really).

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Getting that notice prompted me to log into my student loan servicer for the first time. I had literally never checked on my loans, all I knew was that Navient serviced my loans and every semester I’d go in there and hit accept to my loans. When I saw that I had about 8 different loans I died, like literally, and Alex had to resuscitate me. I had no idea that my loans were separate with interest rates all over the place, and then to top it off, the due dates on half of them were different. I mean at first I thought it was total madness, so naturally I called up Navient and complained. Only for them to confirm that I wasn’t going crazy; what was reflected on my account page was accurate.

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So, if you know me you know I don’t accept things because that’s “just how it is.” I went onto studentaid.gov to learn more about my options and read pretty much every article they have on there. Oh and I called them a lot, like I mean at least once a week a lot.

After harassing the Department of Education for a few weeks, and become bffs with some of their representatives (Hi Ashley!), I decided that loan consolidation was the best option for me. Loan consolidation allows you to consolidate all your eligible federal student loans into one loan with one fixed interest rate and one monthly payment.

The process was a little long (like everything dealing with government) but pretty painless. The process begins by logging into the Department of Education and completing the consolidation loan application and promissory note. After your loan application has been submitted, you will have the option of picking which loan servicer you would like.

I had no idea what type of repayment plan I wanted; all I knew was that I didn’t want my payments to be $300 a month. So, I called Great Lakes and talked with them about my options, we decided on an income-driven repayment plan, which basically means that my monthly payment cannot be more than 10% of my discretionary income. This worked out for me because if you’re married (like me) and your spouse has student loans they take that into consideration as well. This is a huge help because most of the other plans like the graduate and standard repayment plan don’t take it into consideration. The only crummy part about the income driven repayment is that I have to reapply for it each year, small sacrifice for a huge savings.

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All the applications and forms can be found on studentloans.gov and they even have a great matrix that shows you all the different repayment options in an easy to read format.

If you have a lot of student loans with different interest rates and changing due dates, my advice to you is this, call your current loan servicer and inquire about their loan consolidation program and repayment options. You may be surprised at all the options that are out there for you and consolidating them might even help in bringing down those high interest rates.

If you are still in school but took out student loans, my advice to you is to already start researching your repayment options and discuss with your current loan servicers the plans they offer. Go onto the Department of Educations website for federal loans and student aid and read some of their articles on repayment options. Oh and also use their repayment calculator; very cool tool that helps you forecast what payments are going to be like.

You don’t have to drown under your student loans, and you do have options! Talk to your loan servicer and see what they can do for you. I know it seems like student loans are never going to go away, but they will, I promise. I mean, you might be paying for your kid’s college by the time you’re done but hey, there is an end in sight!

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