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Student Loans Student Loan Repayment

What Is the Start Date for Student Loan Repayment?

Knowing your student loan repayment start date is important because paying your bills on time positively contributes to your long-term credit health. In this article, we’ll explain when you can expect to begin repaying student loans and how to find your exact start date for repayment.

What determines my student loan repayment start date?

A few events can trigger your student loan repayment, including:

  • Graduating
  • Leaving school
  • Not taking enough classes to be considered part-time

Luckily, most federal and private student loans have grace periods—a set time after you graduate, leave school, or drop below part-time before loan payments begin.

The idea is that students who finish school have time to start work and acclimate to adult life before they have to start making payments. It’s important to know that interest still accrues during a grace period for most student loans.

If you earned a professional degree—like attending medical school—your lender might offer alternate repayment options while you finish your training. For example, SoFi, a private lender, allows medical school graduates who attend residency to defer their loans for up to 54 months.

What is the start date for student loan repayment?

To determine the start date of your student loan repayment, note the grace period for each loan and mark the date it ends. This is when you must start repaying the loan. 

There are differences in grace periods for federal and private loans. Not all federal student loans have grace periods, and some private lenders may require you to make payments in some capacity while you’re still in school before full repayment begins following your grace period. 

Here is a closer look at what to know about repayment start dates for each type.

What is the federal student loan repayment start date?

The repayment start date for federal student loans depends on when the grace period for that loan ends. The grace period kicks in after graduating, leave school, or dropping below half-time enrollment. The table below displays the grace period for each type of federal student loan.

Loan typeGrace periodWhat to know
Direct Subsidized Loans6 mos.Interest does not accrue in school and during grace period
Direct Unsubsidized Loans6 mos.Interest accrues in school and during grace period
Direct PLUS loans6 mos.Interest accrues in school and during grace period
Parent PLUS loansNoneRepayment begins 60 days after loan disbursement

Parents can request a grace period by contacting the student loan servicer

A couple of exceptions exist to the typical six-month federal loan grace period. For example, if you’re called to active military duty for more than 30 days before your grace period ends, you get another six-month grace period when you return home.

You forfeit any remaining time if you consolidate your loans during your grace period. So, if you’re considering consolidating your loans, we recommend doing so after your grace period. 

If you have questions about grace periods and when your specific loans are due, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-433-3243. You can also visit your student loan account dashboard online to find your student loan servicer.

What is my private student loan repayment date?

Most private lenders offer grace periods. Many offer the option to make payments while in school and during your grace period (such as interest-only payments, a flat fee, or full interest-plus-principal payments) to lower your total interest paid. 

With Earnest, for example, you can make interest-only payments while in school or pay a flat $25/month. You can also defer your loans or make payments in full.

If you haven’t made full principal-plus-interest payments during school or your grace period, your first full private student loan payment will be due when your grace period ends. Contact your lender to determine the exact date your first payment is due.

Below is a chart showing several lenders and their grace periods. As you can see, some lenders offer more generous grace periods than federal student loan grace periods. College Ave even allows borrowers to apply to extend their grace period to 12 months.

LenderGrace period
College Ave Earnest9 mos.
Ascent9 mos.
College Ave6-mos. grace period (optional 6-mos. extension)
Sallie Mae6 mos.
SoFi6 mos.

With private loans, the interest on your loan starts to accrue as soon as you take it out. That’s why many students choose to make interest-only or smaller set payments while they’re in school to prevent their student loan balances from ballooning while they’re students.

What if I’m not ready to start repaying my student loans on the repayment date?

If you can’t pay your student loan bill, contacting your lender or loan servicer is the most important step. Not paying your bills and ignoring your lender’s calls and emails can negatively impact your credit. The government can also garnish your tax refunds and wages.

If you have federal student loans, you have several options for repayment assistance, including:

  • Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. These plans base your monthly payment on your income and family size. If you meet specific guidelines, you could have a $0 payment on an IDR plan.
  • Deferment. If your payment is still too high on an IDR plan, you can apply for deferment—a set time when your payments are paused. This is typically three years for federal loans, but it depends on the type of deferral. Interest does not accrue for some loans during deferment, such as Direct Subsidized Loans.
  • Forbearance. Like deferment, forbearance allows you to pause payments for a set time if you experience financial hardship. Interest typically accrues on your loan balance during forbearance, and you may be responsible for paying it. 

Private lenders typically have their own hardship or forbearance policies. For example, College Ave says they may offer up to 12 months of hardship forbearance over the life of the loan, but it’s typically issued three or six months at a time.

Again, if you cannot make your student loan payments, call your student loan servicer or private student loan lender and ask your options. It’s far better to enter into a different repayment plan or forbearance instead of not paying and harming your long-term credit.