Student loans can help you achieve your dream of getting a college degree. But they can also get you in serious debt if you don’t consider all of the consequences before you borrow that money. Take the time to read up on student loans and how they can impact your future. Start with the tips below.

Make sure you know what the grace period is for your loans before you need to start making payments. The grace period is the time you have between graduation and the start of repayment. Staying aware of when this period ends is the right way to make sure you never have late payments.

Make sure you are in regular contact with the lender. Always let them know when you change your phone number, mailing address or email address, and these things can happen often when you are in college. Be certain you always open mail that comes from your lender, and that includes e-mail. If the correspondence requests you take an action, do so as soon as you can. If you miss important deadlines, you may find yourself owing even more money.

Do not default on a student loan. Defaulting on government loans can result in consequences like garnished wages and tax refunds withheld. Defaulting on private loans can be a disaster for any cosigners you had. Of course, defaulting on any loan risks serious damage to your credit report, which costs you even more later.

Pay your loan off in two steps. Always pay on each of them at least the minimum. Second, make extra payments on the loan whose interest rate is highest, not the loan that has the largest balance. That way, you will end up spending a lesser amount overall.

Know what you’re signing when it comes to student loans. Work with your student loan adviser. Ask them about the important items before signing. These include how much the loans are, what kind of interest rates they will have, and if you those rates can be lowered. You also need to know your monthly payments, their due dates, and any additional fees.

Consider using your field of work as a means of having your loans forgiven. A number of nonprofit professions have the federal benefit of student loan forgiveness after a certain number of years served in the field. Many states also have more local programs. The pay might be less in these fields, but the freedom from student loan payments makes up for that in many cases.

To keep your student loan load low, find housing that is as reasonable as possible. While dormitory rooms are convenient, they are often more costly than apartments near campus. The more money you have to borrow, the more your principal will be — and the more you will have to pay out over the life of the loan.

To reduce the amount of your student loans, work as many hours as you can during your last year of high school and the summer before college. The more money you have to give the college in cash, the less you have to finance. This means less loan expense later on.

To maximize returns on your student loan investment, make sure that you work your hardest for your academic classes. You are going to be paying for loan for many years after graduation, and you want to be able to get the best job possible. Studying hard for tests and working hard on projects makes this outcome much more likely.

If you take out loans from multiple lenders, know the terms of each one. Some loans, such as federal Perkins loans, have a nine-month grace period. Others are less generous, such as the six-month grace period that comes with Family Education and Stafford loans. You must also consider the dates on which each loan was taken out, as this determines the beginning of your grace period.

The advice from above is just the beginning of what you need to know about student loans. Student loans are an incredible investment in your future. So you need to take the time to carefully consider what you will be borrowing and how it will all add up. The choices you make today can have great impact on your financial future.