MS-5 here, graduating in 3 weeks (finally...dont do an extra research year unless you are REALLY sure! ) I want to pass along a few things that I learned over the last year regarding financial aid...hopefully can be of some help. 1. ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS. Lenders arent your friends. True, there are organizations out there that will work with you but remember, your money is working for THEM. Be sure to ask questions and get things in writing. It is your right to know where every penny is as far as your loans go. 2. BE OBSESSIVE. If something pops up online at a lenders website that doesnt jive with that they told you, call them. Talk to them. Bother them. 3. LENDERS ARE COMPETING FOR YOUR BUSINESS. This is a good thing. When you are willing to consolidate $250,000 they are going to fight to get your business. Look for interest rate reductions, payments plans and repayment options that work for YOU. 4. IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE...well, you know. There are a lot of lenders and consolidation houses who have some amazing "deals". They will give you cash back up front for condolidating, quote you amazing interest rates (on federally controlled loans???) and say anything to get your business. Find out more about their company. 5. TALK TO MORE THAN ONE PERSON...at the same place. I got 3 different stories from 3 different people at the same consolidation house. Needless to say, they wont be getting my business. 6. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. If you have several loans with one lender you have the RIGHT to pay off your loans EARLY without penalty. You have the RIGHT to pay a specific loan if you choose. You do NOT have to let the company divy up your check to the lowest interest rate loans. You need to make the minimum payments, but anything extra and YOU can tell them which loan you want it to go towards. 7. PERSONAL SERVICE. Work with the same person at a lender. Make sure they know your file. Document every conversation with them. Take notes and keep them in a file on your computer. Date and time stamp it. 8. HELP THEM OUT. If you get great service, tell their supervisor. If you are working with someone who is going above and beyond then pass the word up. Trust me, it will come back to you 10-fold. I know some of the things above sound extreme, but you need to micromanage every bit of your loans. Many of us are dealing with significant amounts and just a few small details here and there can literally means the difference of TENS of THOUSANDS of dollars over the course of a loan. The above are based on my personal experiences. I have worked with 6 different lenders since college (my choice...shop around) and I have decided to consolidate all of my loans through a single lender...the same lender who holds my private loans. I have done the 2 hour phone calls with the telemarket companies and seen how they work...mostly for my amusement, but also to take some of those "deals" to my lender to see their reactions. If you can find a lender who will say to you "that sounds like a better deal, you would save money going with them" then you at least have someone you can trust. Are the savings worth it to you? In this case it wasnt...$6,000 over 30 years wasnt worth the risk of a newer, start up company. But the fact that my lender came right out and said that at least showed me he was honest. I had another lender "but mr hazelton...I dont think you see what I am saying...but mr hazelton, I dont think you understand....but mr hazelton..." Bitch, Im gonna be a doctor and I DO understand! OK...I didnt say that, but I did politely tell her I was hanging up. Hope this is somewhat helpful to someone.