Here’s a well-known fact about college in the United States: it’s incredibly expensive. The majority of college students today go on to graduate with at least some level of debt, with an average of about $30,000 per borrower. Economists have compared student loan debt to people’s first mortgages, and rightfully so the fact is, it’s rare nowadays to not take out student loans to pay for at least part of college, and it’s even rarer to pay those loans back before you graduate. So while you can take comfort in the fact that you’re far from alone, it’s important to take steps to prepare for this student loan debt

Organize a Payment Calendar

Depending on the type of loan, you’ll get your first payment notice between right after you graduate to six months later. Find out when you’re expected to first start making payments and mark that down on your calendar so it doesn’t take you by surprise

Save Up Money While in College

Because of the cost of school, this advice may sound like an oxymoron. However, what this really means is that you should do what you can to save up money during your student years, since you won’t have to pay off your loans during this time. Get a part-time job or work-study position, and then don’t blow all of your money every weekend or on expensive vacations (do you really need to go to Cancun for Spring Break when there are so many closer, cheaper options?) Consider putting a portion of your paycheck into a savings account and then leaving that money untouched while you’re still in school.

Keep Your Contact Information Updated

Loan providers will need to know how to reach you, and if you move after college, it is important to keep them updated. Not doing so could prevent you from making payments on time, and by the time they catch up to you, you could end up owing even more in fees and interest.

Don’t Waste Your ‘Grace Period’

With most loans, you will have around a 6-month grace period following graduation before you have to start making payments. However, this doesn’t mean you can skate through this time period. This is when you should be looking for work and starting to save up money. And if, like many graduates, you are unable to find a job in your career choice right away, there’s no shame whatsoever in holding down another position for the time being.

Relax

Breathe. Although student loans nowadays are certainly overwhelming, there’s no reason to stress out about them more than you have to. Get into a monthly habit of