Your final semester of college is an exciting time – you've finished your classes, said goodbye to your friends, and begun to transition to a new stage in your life. If you borrowed money to pay for school, your student loans are likely one of the last things on your mind right now. But they should be. You may also find this interview with a financial aid expert helpful as well. In your student loan exit interview, which is often conducted by the financial aid office at your college, you will have the opportunity to ask essential financial questions. Here are four things to listen for during your student loan exit interview:
1. Basic information about your loans
If you are not familiar with the type and amount of loans you have taken out, this is the perfect time to speak with someone about the basics of your student loans. Have you taken out public or private loans? What is the nature of your accrued interest and capitalized interest? It is also very helpful to know about the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). In order to access the NSLDS, which is where the U.S. Department of Education houses information for all federal student aid, you will use your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) pin number. Keep in mind, however, that if you have taken out private student loans, this database won’t list them. These are three questions you may want to ask your college about financial aid.
2. Possible loan forgiveness
The topic of loan forgiveness is something to listen for during your student loan exit interview. Take the time to inquire about possible public service loan forgiveness. This is a federal program that forgives federal student loans. In order to qualify for this program, you have to be employed full-time in an eligible public service or non-profit job. In addition, you must make 120 eligible on-time payments in less than 10 years. Some nuances that you may not know about are that payments do not need to be consecutive, and that your qualification has to do more with whom you work for, not what you do. If you already have a job lined up, you can also ask your employer about job eligibility for loan forgiveness.
3. Repayment plan options
Other information that is important to listen for during your student loan interview includes your repayment plan options. The standard repayment plan is 10 years. With this option, you will be able to get rid of your debt quickly, with the least amount of interest (prepayment is also an option at any time). However, it’s valuable to know your other options as well – for instance, the graduated plan, in which monthly payments start low and increase every few years for between 10 and 30 years, or the extended plans (fixed or graduated), which allow you up to 25 years to repay your loans. Remember that extended repayment plans are only for borrowers who have taken out amounts over $30,000. Depending on your future job, as well as your other financial priorities (including family obligations), you’ll want to consider all of your options and choose which will suit you best.
4. Financial literacy tips
The student loan exit interview is also a great time to learn more about financial literacy. It is popular on some campuses to hold workshops, or even short courses, on this topic. Regardless of whether you have had these opportunities, you can still find out some financial literacy tips during your exit counseling. Ask about budgeting, using debit and credit cards, and how to build good credit. There are some online programs that can help with making and sticking to budgets, for example. After college, you may be making larger purchases or spending money in ways that require good credit – like renting an apartment. If you are looking to maximize your financial aid these 6 tips may help you.
When you go into your student loan exit interview – which could be one-on-one or in a small group – make sure that your contact information is up-to-date with your loan servicers, and that you know how you can contact them should the need arise. This way, you’ll be able to make sure you receive and return payments in a timely manner. Soon, you’ll be able to start your post-graduate life on the right foot.