If you’re about to graduate from college, congratulations! And, if you’ve taken out student loans , guess what?
You have a new best friend.
If you took out federal loans , you may have already been through an “exit counseling” session. That’s where they tell you all about your rights (blah, blah, blah) and responsibilities (blah, blah, blah) as a student loan borrower.
With the excitement of graduation looming, you may have only heard "blah, blah, blah" during this session. But your responsibilities as a borrower are important. So let me boil them down to one easy-to-remember rule: Treat your student loan lender like your new best friend.
Now let me break it down a little further …
- When you make a life change, you tell your friends. Well, since your lender is your new best friend, remember to tell them when you change your name, when you move to a new address, change your Social Security number, or if your school status changes.
- If you’re in trouble, you tell a friend, right? If you’re having problems making your student loan payments, tell your lender—don’t hide from them. Your lender can help you work out a payment plan and avoid default .
- You wouldn’t borrow money from a friend and try to get out of repaying it. You can’t do it to your student loan lender either. You HAVE TO repay your loan as agreed. No exceptions if you didn’t finish school, didn’t like your major, can’t find a job, yada, yada, yada.
- If your friends can’t get hold of you for a few days, you don’t ditch them. Same with your lender—if you don’t get your bill, YOU STILL HAVE TO PAY IT. There’s no "get a free month" if your bill doesn’t arrive for whatever reason.
- You go to your friends’ parties. Consider entrance and exit counseling sessions less-than-exciting parties given by a great friend. You gotta go.
- You read texts, emails and IMs from your friends. You new friend will probably get in touch with you in a more traditional way—like through the mail . But you’re required to open and read everything your lender sends you. So, hello mailbox!
- For better or worse, relationships change. Learn about your consolidation and refinancing options—these could be good things for you. But you also have to know what will happen if things go south in your relationship with your lender—as in, if you default. (Don’t do it, it’s so not good.)
- Know how to reach your friends. This is Friendship 101—you KNOW their phone numbers, addresses, etc. Same with your lender—be sure you know where to send payments and written correspondence.
There you have it. Follow these rules, and you’re sure to stay on good terms with your new best friend. Any questions?