Medical education loans following graduation are commonplace for residents, fellows and new physicians. In 2016, the median debt burden for medical school graduates was $190,000. These loans are just one type of student loan that may carry lower interest rates compared to other student loans and can be subsidized by the government. At a minimum, students should start planning for their payments six months before the grace period ends. These five tips will help you as you prepare for the future.

Understanding loan interest

Loan interest is the cost of borrowing the principal balance; it’s calculated on a daily basis. As such, lowering the principal balance is crucial to lowering the amount of accrued interest and can lower the money you owe in the long run.

Understanding the grace period

No payments are required during the grace period of six months; it begins on the date of school separation or graduation. Monthly payments must start upon the end of six months.

Understanding deferment and forbearance

Deferment is a set time during which you do not need to make payments. This can be due to school attendance, unemployment and economic hardship. Only certain federal loan types are eligible for this. Forbearance is a temporary end to or reduction of payments or an extension of time for making those payments.

Understanding delinquency and default

If you are late on a scheduled payment, you are considered to be delinquent. This can be reported to national credit bureaus and could be on your credit report for years.

Sources of loan-repayment assistance

Some hospitals and employers provide student loan reimbursements, although many come with strings attached. Other organizations offer assistance in exchange for service in physician-shortage areas.

Read more at the American Medical Association.