by Nayda Sadr-Panah —

This month, many recent college graduates will go into student loan repayment after a grace period of six months. The excitement of graduation has worn off and with your first loan payment approaching, you may be scrambling to try and figure out how that payment is going to fit into your budget. Whether you are employed or not, those payments may cause you financial hardship.

checkIf the Standard Repayment Plan—where you pay a fixed amount each month over the course of many years—is weighing heavy on your shoulders and your wallet, you may want to consider applying for an alternative repayment plan such as the Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR), Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, or Income Contingent Repayment Plan. You can do so by logging into with your name, social security number, date of birth, and your federal PIN number. The PIN number that you use should be the same number you used to fill out your FAFSA while you were attending college.

Once you are able to log in, there should be an option for you to apply for an IBR. You can transfer your previous year’s tax return information if you filed, or you can send in documentation to prove your current income situation. After you enter this information, they estimate what your monthly payment would be under all the different repayment plans. You can select the plan you want or ask that your servicer choose a plan for you with the lowest monthly payment. There may be additional documentation that your service provider may ask you to provide once a repayment option has been selected.

By significantly lowering your monthly payments, you can sleep a little better at night. And with the extra wiggle room in the budget, it’s the perfect time to start making some financial plans for the future. Remember, you may not be making large payments now, but you will continue to accrue interest on those loans. Keeping yourself out of future debt by spending below your means and looking into low-risk but promising investment options will help you pay your student loans off much faster.


Nayda Sadr-Panah is a financial aid advocate for Hennepin Technical College.