Student Loans  |  November 10, 2022  |  Lisa Litant 

Student Loans: How to know what you owe

What you'll learn
  • How to locate your federal and private student loan details
  • How to organize your student loan information effectively
  • Ways to save money paying back student loans

While you’re in school, you may not be keeping a close eye on your student loans (though you should). But when you’re in your senior year, graduating, or in grace/separation period, it’s more important than ever to know what you owe. Because your loans’ principal and interest payments are going to be due—and even if you’ve been making payments in school, these’ll generally be higher. Here are tips for organizing your loan information so it’ll be easier to keep track of when payments are due and how much they’ll be.

1. Track down your student loans

Many students have a combination of federal loans (provided by the government) and private student loans (provided by banks like Sallie Mae and other financial organizations). You’ll need to know how many loans you have, who’s servicing them, and how you make payments. But first, you need to know what loans you’ve taken out:

  • For federal student loans: Visit, the National Student Loan Data System. It’s the Department of Education’s central database for student aid.
  • For private student loans: Visit for a copy of your credit report, since most loan originators report loan info to the consumer reporting agencies.

2. Organize your student loans

Once you know who your loan servicers are, create a simple spreadsheet with this info:

  • Type of loan (federal or private)
  • Servicer: the company that manages your loan (not necessarily the original lender); you’ll also need their phone numbers and websites
  • Your loan account number, amount, interest rate (you can also get this from your original disclosure documents), and whether there’s a fixed or variable interest rate
  • The end date of your grace or separation period (usually six months after you leave school or graduate)
  • Date(s) when your payment is due
  • The monthly payment amount for each loan (you may not be able to get an exact number until after you graduate)

Once you know who your servicers are, log in to your account (or create one if you haven’t already done that). You’ll find a lot of the information you’re looking for.

It’s even easier to track all this down when you download your servicer’s mobile app. The Sallie Mae mobile app lets you see your loan details, make payments, and get due date reminders, all in one place.

3. Keep in touch with your loan servicers

  • Update your contact info so you get their communications—and read those emails and letters for updates on when your payments begin and how much they’ll be.
  • Reach out to them with any questions you have about paying back your student loans. 

4. Get clear on how you’ll make loan payments

  • Decide how you’ll make your loan payments (mobile app, auto debit, bank transfer).
  • Check whether you can get any discounts (like a lower interest rate for making payments through auto debit).
  • If you can pay a little extra every month (even in grace/separation period), you might be able to reduce your total loan cost or pay off your loans faster

5. Start a budget

  • Use an online budgeting app or start with a basic budget worksheet.
  • If you need help with monthly payments, check with your servicer to see if there’s a program that can help, like Sallie Mae’s Graduated Repayment Period.
  • If you’ve been wondering about how to manage your post-college finances, this is a great time to do it. You can start with a short “Financial Well-Being Questionnaire” from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). 


A little up-front organizing can help you understand—and stay on top of—your student loan payments. When you know what you owe, you’ll have the information you need to make the best financial decisions for you.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey financial, tax, or legal advice. Sallie Mae makes no claims about the accuracy or adequacy of this information. These materials may not reflect Sallie Mae’s view or endorsement. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

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