If you recently graduated or left school, you probably feel like the clock is ticking on a few things—like finding a job or a place to live. However, don't forget one more: If you took out federal student loans, your grace period has begun too. (If you're a parent who took out PLUS loans, this may apply to you too.)
Loans may not be your priority right now, but your payments will start before you know it. Prepare accordingly by handling your grace period, well, gracefully.
Find Out How Long You Have
A student loan's grace period begins when you graduate, withdraw, or drop below half-time enrollment. When the grace period ends, loans go into repayment and your first payment is due. The length of your grace period will depend on the type of loans you have:
- Stafford loans: 6 months.
- Perkins loans: 9 months (they also get a 6-month "grace" after most periods of deferment).
- Grad PLUS loans: 6 months if disbursed as of July 1, 2008; if you borrowed these loans before that date, you would have had to request that 6-month period.
- Parent PLUS loans: These go into repayment 60 days after they are fully disbursed. So, if there is a disbursement in the fall and spring, the loan would go into repayment 60 days after the second disbursement. However, parents can request to defer repayment until 6 months after their son or daughter graduates, withdraws, or drops below half time.
- Health profession loans: 12 months. This includes Health Profession Student Loans (HPSL), Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS), Nursing Student Loans (NSL), and Primary Care Loans (PCL).
- Private loans: varies. These may or may not receive a grace period. Check your loan's paperwork to see if yours does.
Your Timing Is Everything
Grace periods are all or nothing, so if you plan to continue your education after yours begins, keep an eye on the calendar. For instance, if you had Stafford loans and re-enrolled at least half time within 180 days (i.e., 6 months), your grace period would remain intact—like you never used it.
The next time you dropped below half-time enrollment, you could use the full 6 months again. But, if you went back to school on day 181, your grace period would be gone for good.
If you are taking a leave of absence, your grace period will begin the day you began your leave. If you go back to school after 180 days (a leave can last up to that long), you can get an in-school deferment. However, your loans would enter repayment immediately upon leaving school.
Know If You're Responsible For Interest
During your grace period, your loans may or may not accrue interest. If yours do, consider paying this interest as it accrues. That way, you prevent it from being capitalized and increasing the amount you pay interest on in the future.
Perkins loans and some subsidized Stafford loans (those disbursed before July 1, 2012 and after July 1, 2014) do not accrue interest; however, subsidized Stafford loans disbursed between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2014, do not get this subsidy. All unsubsidized loans (unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans) always accrue interest while in their grace periods.
Be aware of how much you borrowed. Go to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS®) to view all of your federal student loans, how much you have to pay back, and who your loan servicer is.
Check that each of your servicers has your current address, and make sure to update them anytime you move. Just because you don't get the bills doesn't mean you aren’t responsible for making the payments.
Speaking of payments, if you haven't received anything yet showing you what your payments will be, find out! Contact your servicer or log on to their site. You can also use our Repayment Navigator to see what repayment option works best for you before your first payment is due.