Syracuse University students have a lot in common. From our dedication to Orange sports teams, to our love of Otto, the Quad, and everything Syracuse in between, there are plenty of reasons for us to relate to one another.
There is one commonality that’s often overlooked – student loans! Though student loans are much less exciting than a game in the Dome, running into Otto on the Quad, or a slice of pizza from Varsity, they are just as important.
The concept of student loans can be intimidating. Many students have not interacted with their loans since they first committed to coming to Syracuse, or they may not even realize they have student loans. The following tips will serve as a refresher, and even an introduction to student loans, as we continue through the new school year.
How do I get a student loan?
To understand student loans, you need to know how to apply for and receive them. To apply for federal student loans, you must complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Based on your responses, your college or university, in our case Syracuse, will send you a financial aid offer which may include federal student loans. We can find our financial aid offer on Myslice.
Once you have received a federal student loan, you must complete entrance counseling – a tool that ensures you understand your obligation to repay the loans and sign a Master Promissory Note agreeing to the terms of your loan.
You can also receive student loans from private lenders. If you did not complete the FAFSA, or you are unsure, contact a parent or guardian to have a candid conversation about financing your education and the possibility of student loans. You can also check your credit report, which will report all your current debts.
How do I know if I have student loans?
If you filled out the FAFSA, you likely have federal student loans. The best way to discover what type of federal student loans is by checking the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). NSLDS helps you find out what loans you have, their balance and any interest that has accrued since their distribution. You will need your FSA ID to access this information. You would have created a FSA ID when you completed the loan entrance counseling. If you are not sure of your login, you can trouble shoot and look up your account. If you do not have an account, you can make one!
Again, if you think you may have private loans, speak with a parent or guardian and ask about your loan service provider. You can access their website to learn more about your loan. You may also consider checking your credit report.
What is interest?
Interest is money paid regularly at a rate for the use of money loaned to an individual. In the context of student loans, every type of student loan has an interest rate that is regulated by the U.S. Department of Education. You can look up specific interest rates for your loans on the Federal Student Aid website.
As you make payments on your student loan, your balance and the amount of interest you accrue will drop. Over the life of your loan, the interest you pay will decline each month because the total loan (the principal) will decline as you make payments.
Some students look to pay off interest that accrued during their college years before the end of the grace period so the interest on the principal when they are obligated to pay is lower.
How and when do I pay off my loan?
You are not obligated to start paying your student loans until six months after you graduate. This six month grace period gives you the ability to research your loans, build your budget and set up repayment with your loan service provider.
TIP: Your loan service provider is going to be your go-to for paying back your loan. You will pay back the money lent to you through your loan service provider. Setting up automatic payments may be helpful to ensure your payments are always on time.
What is loan exit counseling?
Seniors! Listen up! This information is for you. If you’ve received subsidized, unsubsidized or PLUS loans under the Direct Loan Program or the FEEL Program, you must complete loan exit counseling before you graduate. You can complete your loan exit counseling at studentloans.gov by logging in with your FSA ID. Exit counseling provides important information to prepare you for repayment and to help understand exactly what your monthly commitment will be.
Good news! If you still feel overwhelmed, the Office of Financial Literacy is available to help! Feel free to make an appointment with a Smart Money Coach through Orange SUccess on Myslice. Whether it’s a question about student loans, help with logging in using your FSA ID, creating a post grad budget or help with completing exit counseling, a Smart Money Coach is equipped to help!
Written by Melissa M. Marchetti ’20, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Smart Money Coach