If you have student loans, you might notice that you have several entries for these loans from both the federal government as well as private banks. Over a four-or-five-year period at college, you are highly likely to take out more than one student loan, and each new loan appears on your credit report. For many, these are the first marks on their credit report. Naturally, the way you handle these student loans during repayment is going to have an impact on your credit history. Both your credit report and the way you handle student loans are important, so don’t mess it up.

With that being said, making a late payment is most likely going to negatively affect your credit score, so that counts as messing it up. What are the chances of this happening to you? They’re pretty decent. The default rates in over half the states exceed the national rate of 11 percent.

Put two and two together, and it isn’t unreasonable to think that you may take a hit in your credit score. After all, one of the main factors affecting credit score is your payment history. So what do you do if you think you’ll be one of the unlucky borrowers at risk of missing payments?

Some look to debt consolidation with a private lender or the federal government. When going through private lenders, student loan consolidation and refinancing offers a way to reduce your interest rate and extend or shorten your repayment term. In general, the interest rate reduction alone is enough to save money and reduce monthly payments, but the option to extend the repayment terms is there for more immediate relief. Extending a repayment term normally reduces monthly payments, but be careful because if you extend it far enough, you’ll end up paying more over the life of the loan.

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On the other hand, if you are already making late payments, refinancing through a private lender might not be an option for you. Why? They require good to excellent credit in order to qualify. Putting two and two together again, it’s entirely plausible that your missed payments could be a red flag to a private lender.

With that in mind, consolidation through the federal government is still on the table for borrowers late on their payments. This is very similar to private refinancing, but it doesn’t offer any savings over the life of a loan since an interest rate reduction is not offered. However, you can still reduce your payments by consolidating and extending the repayment term. No credit check is required.

For those who just cannot repay, some consider bankruptcy which would wipe the slate clean and forgive the debt. Although, debtors have to demonstrate “undue hardship.” When it comes to this strict standard, many borrowers are quickly excluded from the prospect of bankruptcy. Furthermore, those with student loans from private lenders virtually have no chance of reconciling their debt in bankruptcy, making this a pipe dream for the majority of borrowers.

What if you defer? Deferment will spare your credit more than a default will. Keep in mind however that defaulting before talking to your lender could forfeit the ability to defer.

At any rate, don’t miss a student loan payment! Too often, it is said that student loans bar Millennials from moving on in life financially. While this is partly due to devoting more cash to student loan payments, it can also be attributed to defaulted borrowers with wrecked credit scores. For many college graduates, paying off a student loan is the first chance to build credit, so once again, don’t miss a student loan payment!