If You Don’t Match: Steps to Manage Student Loans

March 27, 2024

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This can be a stressful time in your life and medical education career, so this information is shared to provide guidance on how to manage your student loan debt in the coming days and year ahead. 

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The Next Step

Determine what your plans are for the upcoming year. Prior to next year’s match, will you continue as a student? Options to remain enrolled include, delaying graduation and furthering your education, obtaining a transitional slot, or performing research under the umbrella of your medical school. If your medical school continues to report you as an enrolled student, your federal student loans will NOT require payment. However, if you plan to graduate this year, you need to take the following actions.

Learn Your Loan Details

Organize your loans by identifying the servicer of each loan. Your federal student loan information, including the name of the servicer and their contact information, is listed within your account on studentaid.govPayment due dates are determined by the loan servicer. Direct Unsubsidized Loans have a 6-month grace period and Direct PLUS Loans have a 6-month post-enrollment deferment immediately following medical school. During this time, no payments are required but when this period is over, you will either need to postpone repayment, or you will need to select an affordable repayment plan. To confirm the existence and length of a grace period or post-enrollment deferment, postpone payment, or pursue a repayment plan, you will need to contact your loan servicer(s). 

Postponing Payments

If you prefer to postpone payments, you can request a deferment or forbearance. Your loan servicer will determine your eligibility for either option. With a deferment or forbearance, payments are not required. A deferment may be preferred because during a deferment, subsidized loans will not accrue interest. The types of deferment that you may qualify for include an Economic Hardship Deferment or an Unemployment Deferment – though both have stringent eligibility requirements.   

If you don’t qualify for deferment, then forbearance may be an option. A forbearance is granted at the discretion of the servicer. During forbearance, payments can either be reduced or postponed. If postponed, payments are not required, but interest accrues on both subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Contact your servicer(s) to discuss your deferment and forbearance options. 

Making Payments

If you want to begin making payments, then you’ll need to select an affordable repayment plan before your grace period is over. If you don’t select a plan, your servicer will automatically enroll you in the 10-year Standard repayment plan. Depending on the amount you owe, this payment may not be affordable, so you should know that there are also payment plans that base your monthly payment on your household size and income. These plans are called income-driven repayment plans and they include Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR). Discuss these options with your servicers to determine which plan best fits your needs. Use the MedLoans™Organizer and Calculator to help you review payment plans and payment amounts.

Looking Ahead

You have a lot to focus on in the upcoming year so take care of your loans by staying in touch with your servicer(s). Update your servicer(s) with your contact information and be sure to read all correspondence you receive. Your loans will require more attention than they did in the past, so stay proactive.

The options discussed here are for federal student loans and may or may not be available for private loans. If you have private loans or institutional loans, you will need to contact the lender of those loans to find out what options are available.

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Supporting the Transition to Residency

The transition to residency is a time of critical importance in a medical student’s journey to become a physician. The AAMC is developing tools and information to better support students, their advisors, and program directors during this phase.

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Advisors: Advise Smart

Login to Careers in Medicine to view key resources for your students.

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Program Directors: Select Smart

Find PDWS software support, resources for you and your students, important dates and a timeline, as well as ERAS news and announcements. 

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