Think applying for and receiving college loans is the hard part of securing money for your college education? Not quite. Once you receive them, you have to figure out how to pay them back, which can be even more challenging if you don’t have a good system in place. Paying back your loans is not only a matter of finding the college money, it also means keeping track of your paperwork and loan terms so you don’t miss a payment.
Because all college loans have different terms, conditions and repayment options, you need to create a system to keep track of your college aid documents and loan information to ensure you pay for college within the required conditions. By making sure your loan information is organized and handy, you won’t miss any payments when it’s time to repay that money for college. Also, you’ll be able to protect yourself in case any questions or issues come up with your loans.
Not sure what information you need to keep track of? Read on for a list of what documents to keep and what information to note.
Documents to Keep for Your College Loans
It doesn’t have to be hard to manage the documents for your financial aid for college. Keeping track of the documents you receive is a key step in making your payments and accessing the information you need if anything comes up.
Keep a file of the following documents:
- Financial aid award letters – Keep the letter you receive from your college or university that outlines the educational grants and university scholarships you’ve been offered.
- Entrance counseling documents – For federal aid, you’ll receive counseling when you accept a loan that explains the terms of that loan. These terms include your rights and responsibilities with regards to that loan, as well as the conditions of the college money.
- Exit counseling documents – Once you have to start paying back your loan (when you graduate, attend your college program less than half-time or leave degree program completely), you’ll receive additional counseling to remind you of your loan terms.
- Promissory notes – These are contracts between you and each lender that you promise to pay back your loan within a certain time frame.
- Loan payment schedule and disclosure – You’ll receive this from your lenders before you start to repay your loan.
- Proof of payment – Keep your check stubs to prove you made each payment. You can make payments to lenders or colleges online, so if you do you’ll want to print out an online proof of payment. In case a payment gets lost, you’ll want to be able to provide proof that you did pay on time.
- Forbearance and deferment documents – If your loan goes into deferment or forbearance, keep all documents related to that.
Make a List of Key College Loan Information
In addition to filing key documents about your college financial aid, you should write out the following information about each college loan you accept. Keep copies in your file and on your computer where you can find the information quickly.
Put this college loan information in an easily accessible place:
- The amount of each student loan, both the total college aid and the amount being disbursed each semester or year.
- The name, address, phone number and website of each lender. In other words, this is where you send your payments.
- Account numbers for each loan.
- Printouts of emails and notes about any questions you’ve asked the loan provider, including the answers you receive, the date you received it, and the name, title and contact information of the person who gave it to you.
Managing Your Loan Tips & Tactics
- Bookmark the website for the Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), where you can access information about your federal aid loans. However although there’s information about colleges online, you should also keep your own documents, in case you ever have trouble accessing the site or lose the bookmark.
- If you’re having trouble managing a number of loans for your college education, consider consolidating them. The primary benefit is that you’ll only have one payment to one lender; the downside is that the amount you pay for college can increase.
- Notify your loan providers each time you move to ensure that your lenders can contact you if there are any issues with your money for college.
- If you’re transferring from an associates degree at a community college to a bachelors degree program at a 4-year college or university, your loans may not transfer with you. Contact the financial aid offices at both schools to find out their policies.