Many recent graduates are finding it harder and harder to stretch new paychecks. Graduation may be a milestone in itself, but alongside a college diploma are the endless monthly bills. Living on one’s own has never been easy. Private student loan consolidation is often used to lower monthly payments and improve credit ratings.Accumulating DebtsOften, the accumulation of other debts is to blame for such a sorry state of affairs after graduation. Take the case of 25-year-old Tamika Gambrel, who has a $60,000 a year job but still finds it difficult to make ends meet. She has to pay $840 for the apartment, $280 for the car note and a hefty $24,000 credit card debt that came from her college days. She speaks frankly about her debts:”After four years, I walked away owing only $28,000 in loans. Considering that tuition and room and board alone at Colby was $35,000 a year, I think I did alright.”Not everyone could put up such a brave face in the face of debt. Some just decide to file for bankruptcy, instead of getting a private student loan consolidation.Fees Not Letting UpAccording to the College Board:”The cost of attending a public, four-year college or university in the 2007-08 school year–including tuition, fees, and room and board–was $12,796, up 35% over the past five years; for private schools, the cost was a hefty $30,367.”These figures are by no means fixed. As we all know, tuition fees and other related fees increase and decrease depending on inflation and other economic forces. But people still want to borrow money for their college days, because indeed it’s a chance to get a better shot at life. Private student loan consolidation becomes a chance to get better rates in the end.Know Your Debts FirstTo “retire” your student loans faster, you have to know your loans. Log on to www.nslds.ed.gov (National Student Loan System) to read about the specific details of different student loans. Check the status of your loans, as well as the variable interest rates and the principal. Make sure too that you obtain the required personal identification password (PIN). This can be obtained from the Department of Education. Log on to www.pin.ed.gov for more details.Another important thing to remember is that federal loans and private loans are different. Federal loans have caps on their interest rates while private loans do not. Often, private loans are costlier. And another thing: federal loans and private loans cannot be consolidated by one large loan. They must be consolidated separately. And again, federally subsidized loans have the government backing it up (Uncle Sam pays the interest rates while you’re in school).Make sure that you only go to attractive private student loan consolidation deals. The case of Gambrel was actually good: she had been able to get consolidation at a 2.87% interest rate. Gambrel acknowledges: “I got very lucky. At the time I graduated, jobs weren’t plentiful, but student loan consolidation programs were very, very attractive.” This just goes to show that careful financial planning can lead to beneficial results.