Most college students will require student loans in order to make their way through school. If you are struggling with multiple loans and having trouble with your monthly payments, consolidating your student loans may be right for you. Here are five steps that will help you ease the financial strain of multiple student loans.

Federal Loan Consolidation Programs

If you have federal student loans, consider the direct consolidation loans offered by the U.S. Department of Education. You’ll need to have at least one loan that is being paid on or in a grace period. Loans may not be in default, and private loans are not eligible for this option. These consolidation loans offer distinct advantages, such as a low monthly payment and an interest rate that will not exceed 8.25 percent.

Private Loan Consolidation Programs

There are also consolidation options for private student loans, which are typically offered by banks and other financial institutions. While not eligible for the federal consolidation program, private loans can be consolidation by a third-party private lender, who will provide you with a single loan. Choosing a private lender offers many advantages, such as lower interest rates through refinancing, and the ability to consolidate private and federal loans together.

Enlist the Help of a Co-Signer

Many private loan consolidation companies have credit requirements for applicants. If your credit is poor or unestablished, you can enlist the help of a family member or friend to co-sign your consolidated loan. Once you meet certain employment and income requirements, many lenders allow you to apply for co-signer release, so don’t let the need for a co-signer stop you from applying for a consolidation program.

Apply for a Home Equity Loan

If you are a homeowner, you can receive a loan based on your home’s value minus the principle balance owed. This can be a good step to take if your home equity is worth more than your student loans. These loans offer fixed interest rates and many repayment options. Pay your student loans off in full, then repay your home equity loan.

File Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

The most drastic step you can take, Chapter 13 bankruptcy should only be used as a last resort. If you are barely making ends meet and can prove “undue hardship,” Chapter 13 bankruptcy can also include your student loans. Your balance owed may be reduced, and all your debts will be consolidated in order to help you restore your financial footing. However, your credit score will be severely affected, many times remaining low for up to seven years.

By taking the correct steps, you can release yourself from the financial constraints of multiple student loans. You’ll be able to write one monthly check and possibly save on interest charges. Before you consolidate your student loans, be sure to speak with a trusted financial advisor or money manager who can help you find the option that is right for you.