A scary statistic on student loans is keeping millennials awake late into the night: More than 40 million owe more than $1.2 trillion on college debt today, says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. There are ways to manage student loans after graduation. Tackle your debt with these seven tips, and sleep better at night.

Plan a strategy to repay.
With seven types of available repayment plans, you have options for a repayment strategy on your student loans. Keep in mind that if you work full time at a public or nonprofit institution, you could be in line for forgiveness on your student loan after making 120 payments.


Concentrate on paying off debt.
Devote all your extra income toward repaying student loan debt as soon as you graduate and find your first job. Maintain your poor-college-student lifestyle for just a few more years and you’ll be surprised how quickly you are free! Then you can start thinking about a condo and a car that isn’t a clunker.

Don’t use consolidation too soon.
Consolidating your debts can be a great tool, but it limits your loan repayment strategies. Before you consolidate into one big loan with a single monthly payment and one interest rate, you may want to consider other strategies. For instance, you may want to keep your federal loans in forbearance and pay off private loans. Or you may want to tackle the highest-interest loans first. And you may want to hold off if you are eyeing a forgiveness program.

Remember your long-suffering co-signer parents.
They’re liable for your debt, too, if they co-signed the loan. If you bail, their credit suffers. If you encounter trouble making your monthly student loan payments, talk to your parents before (not after) you miss an installment. They may want to help out to avoid seeing the loan default. You probably want to get your parents released from your student loan as fast as possible. Check into your lender’s rules on co-signer release.

Don’t think default equals deferment.
Avoid default at all cost. The result can ruin your credit and lead to garnished wages and disqualification from future aid or deferments. Pursue deferment or forbearance. Federal student loans can be deferred while you are in school or in the military or job-hunting. That means you will avoid payments and interest. Loans that are not subsidized by the federal government still accumulate interest during deferment. If you obtain forbearance, you delay payments but interest still accrues.

Document your credit reports.
Check that the status of the student loans on your credit report agrees with the government’s records at NSLDS.ed.gov. Get copies of your three credit reports to check accuracy, and don’t overlook potential problems with overlooked services.

If you run into trouble, call the ombudsman.
You have resources if you run into a problems with direct loans, guaranteed student loans, Perkins loans or the federal family education loan program loans. Seek out the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group of the U.S. Department of Education. If your problem is with a private lender, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can act as your ombudsman.