With September officially upon us, millions of students across the country are heading back to college. With all the fun and excitement that goes into the fall semester, however, some may not have ironed out one major detail: how they're going to pay for it. For most college students – even those with impressive financial aid packages – loans are a necessary piece in their financial aid puzzle. And with college graduation and loan repayments coming up faster than you think, it's important to understand the warning signs that you may be headed toward defaulting on your student loans. Check out U.S. News and World Report's four warnings to heed below:
- You don’t know when your first payment is due: If you borrowed student loans, you are responsible for knowing when your payments begin, how much they are and where to send them...even if you don’t receive any notices with these details.
- You dropped some classes or dropped out of school: One common reason why some borrowers don’t know when their first payment is due is that they didn’t realize their repayment grace period was already winding down. For federal student loans, the grace period kicks in when students drop below half-time enrollment. Keep in mind that half-time enrollment is defined differently from school to school. And if you've left school altogether, you are still required to repay any loans you borrowed.
- You can’t afford your payments: The student loan grace period gives borrowers some time to figure things out before repayment begins...but you may still be looking for work or barely able to cover your living expenses (let alone expensive loan payments) after that period expires. If you borrowed federal student loans, you may be able to select a payment plan that decreases the amount you pay each month, perhaps based on how much money you make.
- You think you already defaulted: Borrowers often confuse delinquency and default. If you miss a few payments, your loan is likely delinquent and you can still do things to avoid the consequences. If you have defaulted, don’t give up! You can pull your loan into good standing by paying it in full, consolidating it or through rehabilitation.
For more tips on repaying your student loans and borrowing responsibly, head over to our Financial Aid section. And don’t forget to try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by creating a free profile on Scholarships.com!