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Get the FAQs on Student Loan Repayment

We’ve gathered some frequently asked questions to help you navigate the process of making a student loan repayment plan.

Fixed rate loans have an interest rate that will remain the same throughout the life of the loan, while variable rate loans have an interest rate that will fluctuate over time.


Can refer to the original amount of money you borrowed, or the outstanding balance still owed on a loan, aside from the interest accrued.


An Annual Percentage Rate refers to the comprehensive annual cost of credit, including the interest rate plus any fees or additional costs associated with the transaction.


The monthly loan payment required by your loan servicer in order to pay off the loan by the contracted term, found on your monthly statement.

When do I start making student loan payments?

Your loan repayment start date will depend on the terms in your loan agreement. If you have just graduated, left school, or are currently taking less than the required credits to be considered attending part-time, you are in a grace period, deferment, or repayment. If you aren’t sure, call your student loan servicer to get the details on your repayment status.

If you took out a federal student loan and don’t know who your servicer is, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-433-3243. You might have more than one servicer if you took out multiple federal loans. For private student loans, contact your lender directly.

What is interest?

At its core, interest is the additional monthly cost (a percentage of your loan) you pay every month in addition to your principal amount (original loan amount). 

For example, if you ask for $10,000 this year, the lender will want to earn interest on that $10,000 over your repayment term. Each time you make a loan payment, part of that is accounting for the interest due. Your total payment amount will be the principal of the loan, or the original amount borrowed, plus the total interest and fees (if applicable).

Federal loan interest rates are set annually and depend on the loan type, not a credit check. The interest rate for a private loan depends on the credit score of the applicant. Some applicants may not have sufficient credit history or income to apply for a student loan on their own and will need a cosigner. A cosigner can also help improve the interest rate offered to a student borrower.

Federal vs private student loans

There are three types of federal student loans — Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and Direct PLUS Loans. When you fill out the FAFSA for your financial aid application, you are also applying to see what federal loan options are available to you. You will see these options in your financial aid package provided by each of your schools. 

Federal loans have the benefit of federal repayment plans (like income-based repayment or forbearance) and loan forgiveness options. Some federal loans have maximum amounts that borrowers can take out that may not cover the total cost of attendance. As mentioned above, the interest rate for federal loans depends on the type of loan program offered and not the borrowers’ credit profile.

Private student loans are loans you apply for with a non-government lender. You can borrow up to the total cost of attendance and the interest rate is based on your credit score.

How do I decide how much to borrow?

If your lender doesn’t have a limit on the loan amount you can borrow, you will want to borrow whatever you need to fill the gap to cover your certified cost of attendance that financial aid, scholarships, savings, or other interest-free sources of education financing don’t cover. You can also borrow money to cover the cost of textbooks, housing, and even transportation. However, carefully calculate what that total figure is each year to avoid borrowing more than you need to, and making interest payments on a larger principal.

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