There are many different options once student loans go into repayment. Each repayment plan has its positives and negatives. Many people go into the standard plan, which is 10 years for their federal loans. There are also options for federal borrowers to pay only a certain percentage of your income if you are struggling through income-driven payment plans. This means that the debt can be forgiven after so many qualified payments.
For private borrowers, you generally are not offered loan forgiveness options, but you can refinance to try and lower your monthly payments and/or save money through a lower interest rate.
Refinancing your student loans is a popular way to lower your interest rate and/or monthly payment. This is done through a private lender, however, so if you refinance federal loans privately, you can lose some of the benefits of federal student loans.
This is the default plan for many federal loans. Payments are fixed, and the length of the term is generally 10 years. This plan allows you to minimize your interest paid because you are paying off loans quicker than some of the other plans.
A consolidation loan combines federal loans into one loan with one payment. This is the spring board for some of the other repayment plans, and can help lower your monthly payment by extending out the length of the loan.
Income-driven plans offer loan forgiveness if you follow the rules of the plan. These are only for federal loans and are generally geared towards those who are struggling to repay their loans.
The extended plan extends out the term of federal loans if you qualify. The graduated plan causes your payments to start low and then increase every so often until the loan is repaid.