As a student, you may have just assumed that you’d enter repayment on your financial aid as soon as you graduated. However, this isn’t always the case. It depends on the type of loan you took out and which school you went to. Did you use federal student aid? Did you go through a private institution? Are you going to consolidate your federal student loans? All your answers to these questions can affect when you begin repaying student loans.
This guide walks you through when student loan payments start for different types of loans, tips for starting the payments, how to make payments, and what to do when you’re having trouble.
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Repayment Start Times by Loan Type
Knowing when your first payment is due is the first step in repaying your student loans on time. Find out when your type of loan requires you to start paying:
Federal Direct Loan Repayment
Whether unsubsidized or subsidized, all Federal Direct Student Loans have a 6-month grace period. If you graduate in May, your payments generally start before the end of that year. If you graduate in December, your payments will generally start early summer of the next year.
Stafford Loan Repayment
Stafford Loans have the same grace period as Federal Direct Loans. Payments start after 6 months for both subsidized loans and unsubsidized loans.
Perkins Loan Repayment
Perkins Loans are a little trickier because they usually come through your school instead of directly through the government. Talk to your loan officer at your college/university to see if your loans have a grace period or if payments start right after graduation.
PLUS Loan Repayment
PLUS Loans don’t have a grace period. You have to start paying them off as soon as they are fully disbursed.
Private Student Loan Repayment
Some private student loans have a grace period of 6 months, just like Federal Direct and Stafford Loans. However, it really depends on the private institution you borrowed from. Consult your lender to find out when your payments start.
Tips for Starting Student Loan Payments
Be on the lookout for letters from your lenders
All student loan servicers (lenders) are required by law to provide you with a loan repayment schedule. They should send you this summary fairly soon after you graduate, drop out or drop below half-time enrollment. This summary will outline:
- When your first payment is due
- The total number of payments you’ll make and when to make them
- The minimum monthly amount you’re required to pay
If you’re out of school and haven’t received this statement, contact your lender immediately. Don’t just assume that you don’t need to pay yet because you haven’t heard from your lender!
Set up automatic payments
Automatic payments come right out of your bank account, on-time, every month. This is an especially good idea if you’re trying to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, since you can’t qualify if you miss any payments.
Take advantage of the grace periods
If your loans have a grace period, use it to your advantage. You can take this time to explore repayment plans, consolidation options, paths to forgiveness, and more. It’s also a good time to rework your budget and make sure you can afford your payments.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Talk to your loan officer as much as you need. Don’t hold back – they’re there to answer your questions, and you want to make sure you don’t miss any important details.
Stick to a monthly budget
Creating a budget only works if you stick to it. Abiding by your personal budget will ensure you never miss a payment.
Always avoid default
The last thing you want to do is default on your student loans. Follow all of the tips above to make it easier to avoid.
How to make payments
Making payments on your student loans is not the same for everyone.
Loans owned by the Department of Education – such as Direct Loans and FFEL Loans – are paid to your loan servicer. This is a separate institution contracted by the DoED to monitor and collect your student loans. You can usually sign up through the loan servicer’s website and make payments or set up automatic payments very easily.
If you have FFEL Loans not owned by the Department of Education, you pay your lender. This lender is usually a credit union, bank, or other institution. All information about your loans will come through this lender.
Perkins Loans are different. The loan servicer for Perkins Loans is usually part of the school you attended, but sometimes, other servicers will be contracted. Communicate with your school to learn how to make payments.
I’m having trouble making student loan payments. What now?
Student loan repayment wasn’t really designed to be easy. You aren’t alone if you’re having trouble making your payments, and there are plenty of options for you. Here are the main ways you can cut down on student loan repayments and find student debt relief:
These programs, also called income driven repayment, adjust the amount of your monthly payment according to how much money you earn.
You can consolidate your educational loans to lower your payments. This will also help ensure your loans can qualify for repayment plans, such as income based repayment.
In some cases, graduates can get part or all of their student loans forgiven or canceled. This depends on your career, region of residence, and a few other factors.
If you think you could qualify for a better interest rate, refinancing your loans is an option that could help you owe less. Just be aware that to refinance for a lower rate, you’ll need to convert any federal student loan debt to private through a private lender. This will make the loans you refinance ineligible for federal relief options, including loan forgiveness.
If you took private loans, you may be able to settle them and pay less than what you really owe. It all depends on who you borrowed from. You also probably won’t get this option right out of the gate when you begin repayment, The lender will expect you to make every attempt possible to repay what you owe first.
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Article last modified on February 3, 2020. Published by Debt.com, LLC