Get Smart About the Student Loan Grace Period

By Amy Maliga, Take Charge America

Getting ready to graduate college? Congratulations! You’ve achieved a huge milestone and are ready to start life in the ‘real world.’ For many graduates, this also means the beginning of paying back student loans.

The good news is, federal student loans all have an automatic grace period of either six or nine months (for Perkins loans). Some private loans may also allow a grace period, which may be referred to as an ‘interim period.’

No matter what it’s called, this time allows you to get organized and start preparing for repayment. If you use your grace period wisely, you’ll be ready to start paying back your student loans or taking advantage of alternatives when your grace period expires.

Here are some key facts and tips that will help you make the most of your student loan grace period.

The Grace Period is Optional – While it is certainly helpful to have several months before the responsibility of student loan repayment kicks in, you don’t have to take the grace period. If you’re steadily employed or otherwise ready to begin paying immediately after graduation, start paying right away. After all, the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll finish.

You Need to Know Your PIN – One of the most important pieces of information you’ll need as you enter into student loan repayment is your Federal Student Aid PIN. If you don’t know your PIN, you can request to receive a duplicate PIN or change it completely by visiting www.PIN.ed.gov. Don’t wait. Do it now!

You’re Responsible to Begin Making Payments – You are expected to begin paying back your student loans when your grace period ends – whether or not you’ve received a bill. Get in touch with your servicer or lender well before the end of the grace period to find out your payment amount, due date and where to send payment.

You’re Not Stuck with Initial Repayment Terms – All borrowers are automatically enrolled in standard repayment. However, if those payments are too high, there are a number of options available including extended and graduated repayment. Many borrowers choose to work with a nonprofit agency for student loan counseling to gain a complete understanding of all available options as well as the pros and cons of each.

Stay in Contact with your Loan Servicer -- The most important thing to remember throughout the student loan repayment process is not to ignore any communication from your student loan servicer. If you run into challenges at any point along the way, it’s to your benefit to address them immediately and begin working toward a solution. The way you manage your student loans will have a big impact on your credit as you move forward.

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