College Graduation Checklist

College Graduation Checklist

It’s that time of the year when college seniors are thinking about their final exams, their college graduation, and their first day out in the real world. One thing I’ll bet very few of the students, or their parents, are thinking about is their student loans. Yet, one of the most important things a soon to be graduate should do is to make one final trip to the financial aid office before graduation.

Be Prepared for College Graduation


Anyone that has borrowed at any point over his or her college career should ask the financial aid office to provide to them a list of all of their student loans that were processed through the financial aid office. Although students should monitor their student loans each year while in college, it is imperative that they know the total amount they owe before they graduate. If a student attended more than one college or university, he or she will need to contact those financial aid offices as well. The goal is to collect as much information as possible about how much and from whom they borrowed money to attend college. That’s because almost all student loan payments begin six months after graduation. No one wants to miss their first payment only because they did not know it existed.


The next step is to look at the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) at The NSLDS is the U.S. Department of Education’s central database for federal student loans. All of a student’s federal student loans along with all the loan details will be listed in this database. For each federal loan there will be the type of loan, the lender, the loan servicer, the loan amount, the date the loan originated and was disbursed, if the loan was cancelled, the outstanding principal, and any outstanding interest on the loan. Keep in mind that private student loans will not be listed in the NSLDS, which is why students should get a list of all their loans from their financial aid office.


Next, students should add up the total disbursements according to their financial aid office and make sure it matches what they find in the NSLDS. If it appears they borrowed more than what the NSLDS indicates, then they probably have some private student loans as well. If it appears the other way around, then they should contact the Department of Education to verify their loan information.


Finally students should make a list of:

  • Who they owe
  • How much they owe
  • What the interest rates are
  • What the monthly payments are
  • When their payments are due
  • The contact information of their loan servicer.

They should keep the list readily accessible and not packed away in the box with their college souvenirs. At some point they are going to need it. There is a good chance that over the life of a student’s loans something will go wrong.

Keeping this list handy will prove invaluable, as most students end up having a question or two for the ten or more years after college graduation that they are making payments on their student loans.

For more information, check out our book: The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money

The Graduates Guide to Life and Money

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The three authors, Bill Pratt, Mark C. Weitzel, and Len Rhodes, are industry leaders in personal financial education. Together, they have a combined 75 years of experience in banking, economics, and entrepreneurship. Now, they teach thousands of students personal finance concepts and decision making skills, author textbooks and public press books on personal finance, and help schools develop innovative personal finance literacy programs. Recently, they were instrumental in developing a personal financial management certification program for leaders in higher education. The other books in The Money Professor series include The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money and Extra Credit: The 7 Things Every College Student Needs to Know about Credit, Debt & Ca$h. Their books, lectures, and programs give students, parents, and educators the tools and knowledge to make good financial decisions all their lives.

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