Did you know that the average student loan debt in the United States is at record-high $34,144 as of 2017? In addition, the total amount of unsettled student loans is now at $1.4 trillion.

While your college graduation can be a celebratory moment of your life, once the celebrations end, you’ll be faced with another big challenge – paying off your student loan debt.

Dealing with student loans can be a stressful, uphill battle. Not only can the financial burden of student loan repayment significantly impact your budget, it can also impact your overall quality of life.

Below are some tips to help you deal with your student loan debt intelligently:

Take Advantage of the Student Loan Grace Period

Lenders usually allow a grace period (typically six months) after you graduate. During this period, the loan doesn’t build up more interest. Instead of disregarding your student loans during this period, come up with a smart payment plan and start paying your loans as soon as you can, particularly if you are already earning money.

Select the Best Payment Plan that Works for You

If you don’t want to be overwhelmed by your student loans, you have to put it atop your list of priorities. It is better to sacrifice a bit now than deal with serious consequences later on. Work on finding the best payment plan that will work for your situation, so you can eliminate your student loans faster and with the lowest rates possible.

Research Alternative Repayment Plan Options

You can always go for an alternative repayment plan that will work best for you. Take the time to explore your options so you can have a more manageable method that aligns with your current earning capacity. Some options you can consider include:

  • Income-based Repayment Plan: A plan where your amount of payment will be based on your monthly income
  • Extended Payment Plan: A plan where your payment time will be extended to up to 25 years, although you may end up paying more in interest.
  • Graduated Repayment: A plan where you can start paying your debt with lower amounts and then gradually increase it every two years. This buys you the time you might need to settle yourself financially and handle your debt.

Consider Student Loan Consolidation

If you’re dealing with a number of student loans from different lenders, along with credit card debt and other types of debt, it can be a lot to handle. By consolidating your student loans, your multiple loans will be combined into one. This enables you to better manage your debt and potentially lower your monthly payments.

Look into Loan Forgiveness or Loan Deferment

There are quite a few programs that could give you an opportunity to have your student loans discharged or forgiven. If you work in certain jobs, such as a public nurse or teacher, you may be eligible for student loan forgiveness after working for a certain number of years.

Loan deferment or the temporary suspension of your student loan payments is sometimes also an option, especially for those unable to pay their debt due to unemployment, or those facing medical bills due to health problems.