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Recent graduate Aubrey DeCarlo sees it as quite the puzzle -- she needs loans to pay for school, but now taking out those loans may keep her from getting her dream job. Why? That debt could drive down her credit score, therefore effecting her credit history, which matters to many employers these days.
"It's hard enough for a lot of us to get a job to begin with. It just seems like a vicious cycle," said DeCarlo.
She's facing about $50,000 in debt. She's in deeper than many, but certainly is not alone. About two-thirds of graduates have student loans, with the average balance more than $21,000.
"I have friends who have defaulted again, and again, and again because they cannot get a job in their field," said DeCarlo.
"More and more employers are starting to look at that," said Mark Kantrowitz of FinAid.
Experts say reviewing a credit history is an easy way to find out more about an applicant's background.
"It becomes one of a tool of things they have at their arsenal when they're screening applicants for somewhat very competitive positions," said Curtis Arnold of CardRatings.com.
Certain employers are especially likely to rely on one's credit history.
"Banking industries, government-related jobs, police, fire -- those type jobs are pulling credit more and more," said Arnold.
An applicant can tell an employer not to look into their credit, but that may be a red flag.
"Just the fact that you're opting out may tell the employer, 'Hey, why is this he or she opting out? Is there something they're trying to hide about their credit?'"
So what can you do? Check your credit score, and if it is lower than desired let the employer know the circumstances, along with your intentions to get that score higher.
"I would be up front with that employer, the human resources department. Just tell them about your personal situation," said Arnold.
Meantime, fight to keep the debt as low as possible and the bills paid on time, or you could face a real penalty .
"I think it's really unfair that they can look at credit information," said DeCarlo.
Many student loan companies are switching from snail mail to e-mail billing. Follow up with your agencies to make sure you know when you should make your payments each month, even if the bill doesn't reach you.
And if you're having a hard time paying, most agencies have systems set up to defer payments temporarily.
For more information:
A comprehensive source of student financial aid information, advice and tools.
A consumer advocacy organization devoted to educating consumers about credit cards.