You've just graduated college. You're elated, proud, relieved.
But when do you have to start paying back your student loans?
In most cases, payments start six months after graduation, and unless a solution is found before July 1, the interest rates on federal students loans will double, increasing from 3.4% to 6.8%.
More students are taking out more loans now than ever, according to a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. From 2005 to 2012, the amount of student borrowers increased 66%.
And the average student loan balance has risen too, from $15,651 in 2005 to $24,803 in 2012.
Because students only have six months to find employment before they start paying off their debt, some student loan experts and professors say it's best to try to refrain from taking out loans as much as possible.
Jerry Basford, a personal finance professor at the University of Utah, who has been teaching the subject as an adjunct since 1999, said one of the most important things to consider when taking out loans is your future career.
"The amount of loans you want to take out will be different if you want to be a surgeon compared to an elementary teacher," he says.
Basford also pointed out the importance of understanding loans before borrowing.
"Spend time with your financial-aid counselors," he says. "Estimate how much the loan will cost you every month and how much you will be making every month."
Basford suggests using the Department of Education's website for more information on student loans as well as finding out which fields qualify for loan forgiveness, which he says is most common with teaching or public service jobs.
Basford also warns against deferring your student loans after college.
"Federal student loans allow students to defer up to 18 months so they don't have to make a payment for two years," he says. "But when you defer, the interest continues to accrue on your balance. So the $20,000 worth of loans you had will be more like $23 or $24,000."
And he also suggests students look into their loan payment options.
"The nice thing about federal student loans is that you can get a graduated loan schedule so it's cheaper during the first years," he says.
Barbara O'Neill, a personal finance professor at Rutgers University, has been teaching the subject for 10 years. She has also authored three financial case study textbooks and is an accredited financial counselor among her many qualifications.
"The rule of thumb is that the total amount that students borrow should not exceed their expected first year earnings," she says. "So if someone is expected to make $35,000 in their first job coming out of college then they shouldn't borrow more than $35,000."
Other tips she gives students: Start classes at a less expensive college before transferring schools and take advanced placement courses in high school.
"Students can get some of their coursework done while they're still in high school and that's another strategy to possibly get done a semester earlier and cut down on the amount of money you have to borrow," O'Neill says.
She also says that a good resource for students is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's website called "Know Before You Owe" where students can plug in numbers to estimate what their monthly loan payments will be.
Heather Jarvis, a student loan expert who knows how difficult repaying loans can be from personal experience, says it's also important to be mindful of non-college related costs.
"The biggest expense that college students have control over is housing costs," Jarvis said. "Often times, having a roommate or several roommates is a primary way to save money."
"There are a lot of little things that people can do, too, such as packing your own lunch," she said.
She also offers encouragement to students who are discouraged by the amount of student loans they are currently paying off or will need to.
"Even though it can be tricky to finance your education, getting a college education puts you in a better position than not having one," Jarvis said. "Getting a bachelor's degree can be a good way to promote your long term security."
"It's understandable to feel that you will never get out from under it, but many people don't consider the position they would have been in if they hadn't gotten the education they now have," she said.