Student loan debt can be overwhelming. Mail concerning loan payments, updates and forms to fill out only intensifies the problem. This leaves students buried in a pile of documents to deal with along with their schoolwork. One strategy that some people employ when handling student loans is called the freezer method.
What is the Freezer Method?
This term refers to where student loan borrowers, especially medical school students, put mail from lenders into a Ziplock bag and throw it in their freezer. Upon graduation, they thaw it out and deal with it. They literally put it on ice and wait until they have their degree before responding to lenders.
The Benefits of the Freezer Method
The purpose is to prevent overwhelming students with mail from lenders while they’re still in school. This allows them to fully focus on their studies without be burdened by an avalanche of documents. After earning their degree, they can then filter through their mail and tackle the repayment process.
This makes things much more manageable for students with a lot on their plates. It allows them to devote more of their attention to actual schoolwork rather than responding to lenders. It also reduces the chances of getting sucked into student loan scams that sometimes find their way through the mail.
Potential Problems with the Freezer Method
Given the somewhat radical nature of this approach, it definitely has its drawbacks. An obvious one is missing important letters from the lender, such as “you need to file a form or your loan will go into default.” This can result in losing access to additional education aid and benefits.
Students are more likely to miss payments, which can lead to late fees and collection charges, potentially damaging their credit score. They may also be unaware when key changes to loan terms are made (e.g. an increase or decrease in interest) or when they must submit an auto-debit form again because of a change in servicer.
Failing to catch critical documents can lead to some negative outcomes. This means going all in with the freezer method isn’t always a good idea.
Use a Triage Approach Instead
But this doesn’t mean that it’s completely without merit. It just requires a more logical approach. Students should skim their mail and triage it to identify what they must deal with immediately.
Some documents demand their immediate attention like filing important forms or making time-sensitive payments. These deserve top priority and should never find their way into the freezer. Students need to address these right away and fulfill any obligations they have to lenders.
Less important mail like student loan forgiveness and refinancing offers isn’t as urgent and doesn’t demand their immediate attention. No harm will usually come if students overlook these documents and stash them away. These would be considered prime candidates for the freezer method.
Prioritize What’s Important
The key is to strike a balance between the two extremes. Students don’t need to go through every piece of mail from lenders in detail and respond right away. A certain portion is unimportant and won’t demand their immediate attention.
At the same time, they don’t want to discount their mail entirely and neglect it until after they’ve graduated. This only invites problems and can create friction with lenders. Using the triage approach allows students to deal with what’s important and not be bogged down with what’s not.
Colleges can Help
Colleges are sometimes the source of a lot of irrelevant mail. Colleges can help by limiting the amount of mail they send to their students. They should distinguish between important mail, such as the bursar’s bill and registration forms, and junk mail. Ask whether the mail is important to the recipient, not just whether it is important to the sender.
The Bottom Line
The freezer method certainly has practical value. It provides a solution for those who are bombarded with student loan mail and makes it less overwhelming. However, it isn’t without risk and can potentially get students into trouble.
A more realistic approach is to sort through mail and prioritize it. Determine what requires immediate attention and what can be left on the backburner. The latter can be stashed away and dealt with later on.