The number one rule in borrowing is to understand exactly how much money you are borrowing. If doesn’t matter whether you are a college senior who is trying to plan your financial future, or a soon-to-be college freshman who is considering federal or private student loans to supplement the amount of college financial aid you have been granted. Not understanding their full financial commitment is a big problem for college students.
As a college student you need to keep track of how much money you have borrowed, understand the interest rates, know about payment terms, and get a handle on how much money you will need to repay so you can borrow more intelligently. One great resource is the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). This is the U.S. Department of Education’s central database for student aid. Here are some tips that will be helpful in taking advantage of your student loan report:
• Use your FAFSA ID: Since this is the same department which processed your FAFSA, you can still access the website with the same FSA ID you have used all along.
• Not all loans are included: Keep in mind that there are different kinds of loans, including any private student loans you may have taken out and any PLUS loans your parents might have taken out on your behalf. This site will only list your personal federal student loans.
• Check your facts before making any further borrowing decisions: Because it is constantly accumulating information from many college and financial resources, it might not always have the most current information. Check its information against your list of student loans before deciding to borrow any more money. If you are a college senior, you can also verify this information during your student loan exit interview. For existing loans, it is more helpful to check with the loan servicer to determine a current balance.
• Know your disbursement dates: This is the date the loan went to the school and may be earlier than you think.
• Mistakes can be costly: If you are still in college, this database is used to determine your eligibility for future financial aid. If something is incorrect, it may affect your ability to borrow additional funds. If you detect inaccurate information, you may first contact the data provider (identified on NSLDS) to ensure the incorrect information is updated on their system as well as on the NSLDS system.
Talk to a Financial Aid Professional
If you have trouble accessing or understanding your Student Loan Report, it can be helpful to talk to a professional college financial aid advisor who can help you sort through the various type of loans and acronyms that the site uses. He or she can help you look at the big financial picture so you make smart financial decisions.
If you need help understanding your Student Loan Report or need more information on federal and private student loans, contact College Financial Aid Advisors (CFAA).