Post-graduation is one of the most stressful and uncertain times for student loan borrowers. Not only are you looking for a new job in your field, but you’re also trying to navigate the uncertainty of post-grad life. Plus, in what feels like no time at all, you’re already starting to pay back your student loan debt.
Depending on what type of loans you have, figuring out how to pay off your student loans can be an extremely difficult thing to do. We’ll simplify the process and explain how you can make your first payment, when your payments will start and provide an overview of common repayment plans.

When Do Student Loan Payments Start?

Among the most important questions you should be asking yourself post-graduation is when you need to start making payments on your student loans. Unfortunately — and confusingly — this can vary greatly from lender to lender.

Your repayment plan can also vary depending on whether you have private student loans or federal student loans.

Federal student loans, such as a direct subsidized, direct unsubsidized, or Federal Family Education loan, typically have a six-month grace period after you graduate, drop below half-time enrollment, or leave school.

That means that you do not have to start making student loan payments until six months after graduation, you drop below half-time enrollment, or you leave school. Note that for most loans, interest accrues during your grace period. You can choose to pay the interest that accrues during your grace period.

This prevents that interest from being added to the principal balance (also known as interest capitalization). Once this six-month period is up, you must begin repaying – unless you are continuing your education and are enrolled at least half-time in an eligible program, in which case you will not have to start making payments until you’re finished with schooling.

Private Student Loans have varying repayment terms, each with its own unique specifications and parameters.

You need to check with your private loan servicer to determine your exact payment date and repayment terms. Sometimes, some lenders will require you to make a monthly payment while still in school or immediately after your graduation.
Others will offer a similar grace period to federal loans provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

No matter if you have federal student loans or private student loans, it is incredibly important for you to find out exactly when your student loan payments will start. Making late payments or defaulting on your student loans may cause damage to your credit score. With graduation under your belt and the job search well underway, the last thing you want is to be worrying about losing points on your credit score that you shouldn’t have to lose.

If you’re feeling uncertain, you should not hesitate to contact your student loan servicer immediately to figure out what the best loan repayment options are for you.

Where Can I Make Student Loan Payments?

Most federal student loan servicers and private lenders will allow you to easily make payments towards your loan balance online. However, each lender’s payment options can vary depending on what type of student loans you took out.

For instance, if you took out all federal loans, you may be able to make a single monthly payment to one of the federal student loan providers, including:

If you’re not certain who’s in charge of your loan balance, you can find your federal student loan servicer by logging into StudentAid.gov.

On the other hand, if you took out private student loans, these private student loan lenders tend to be far more varied in their repayment plans. Because there are so many different financial institutions offering private student loans, you might have to do a bit more research to find out your exact payment options.

Don’t let this get away from you — if you have more than one lender, you may be required to make monthly payments to multiple lenders. Of course, you can also explore loan consolidation as a way to combine your loans into a single monthly payment from one provider.

Repayment Plans Based On Your Loan Type

Depending on what type of student loans you have , there are a few different student loan repayment plans available to you. Just as you had a choice in picking one type of loan or the other (or both!), you will now have the option to choose a repayment plan to pay them back.

You need to have a clear understanding of how to start paying student loans so you can take advantage of the repayment plans that best suit your finances.

Federal Student Loans

If you have any student debt provided directly by the federal government, you may qualify for quite a few different repayment plans that are meant to help you successfully pay off your student loan balance.

Below is a list of the various federal student loan repayment plans as well as a brief description of each plan.

  • Standard Repayment Plan: This repayment plan is automatically applied to your student loan balance, and is slated for a 10-year repayment term. You’ll be asked to pay the same amount every month for 120 months, and if you keep up with your repayment plan, your loans (plus interest) will be completely paid off by the end of those 120 months.
  • Graduated Repayment Plan: Unlike the standard repayment plan, this plan starts your payments low and increases them as time goes on. If you are not making a lot of money after graduation, but expect to have a salary increase over the repayment term, this could be a great option for you. Generally, this is subject to a 10-year term. However, it can vary from 10 to 30 years if you have a consolidation loan.
  • Extended Repayment Plan: The extended repayment plan is similar to the standard repayment plan in that you could make the same payment every month for a designated period, but it also offers a graduated payment plan. Unlike the standard repayment plan, there is also a minimum loan amount of $30,000. The extended repayment plan works on a 25-year repayment term as opposed to a 10-year term. While your monthly payments will be lower than the standard repayment plan’s payments, you will wind up accruing more in interest over that 25-year term. As a result of this increased interest, you’ll end up paying more over the life of the loan even though the principal loan amount remains the same.
  • Income-Driven Repayment Plans: This loan type allows you to potentially consolidate multiple federal education loans into a single loan with a fixed interest rate based on the average of the interest rates on the loans being consolidated, according to studentaid.gov. This may make managing your federal student loans easier.

While the finer details may vary, all federal repayment plans exclusively apply to federal student loans.

If you choose to refinance your student loans under a private lender at any point, you will lose access to these federal repayment plans – but you could potentially gain a lower monthly payment, better interest rate or more favorable terms. If you refinance a federal student loan you will no longer be eligible for those benefits such as a COVID-19 temporary interest rate of 0%, payment deferment, public service loan forgiveness, economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal. It’s important to weigh these considerations carefully when deciding what to do with your student loan debt.

Private Student Loans

Unfortunately, unlike federal student loans, private student loans cannot qualify for any federal student loan repayment programs. Many loan servicers are still willing to help you find a suitable repayment plan.

First and foremost, you should contact your private lender to discuss how to start paying off student loans and your repayment plan options.

They will be able to tell you their specific plans unique to their particular institution. Some commonly offered plans and discounts include:

  • Autopay Discounts: IA lot of private lenders will offer you a discount on your interest if you sign up to make automatic payments. This involves your monthly payments automatically being withdrawn from your checking or savings account without you even needing to lift a finger. Usually, you can get a 0.25 percent discount on your interest rate from private lenders if you go this route.
  • Consolidation Loans: Most private lenders will also allow you to consolidate your loans into a single monthly payment. Consolidation allows you to bring several different loans — either in part or in whole — under one umbrella, drastically simplifying the management of your payments. This could potentially make it much easier for you to make your payments every month and reduce the amount of your total monthly payment overall.
  • Refinancing Your Loans: Many private lenders will also offer you the option to refinance all or a portion of your loans. This refinancing process potentially gets you more favorable loan terms and a new interest rate. If you can secure a lower interest rate through refinancing, you could potentially save money on your monthly payments and total loan costs.

Any one of these repayment options could be a great choice depending upon your situation. The goal should always be to find the most suitable, and manageable plan for you.

Alternate Ways To Help With Student Loan Payments

Because of the occasionally confusing and often overwhelming nature of student loan payments, it helps to know how to start paying student loans and what payment options are available to you.

If you are still worried about making student loan payments, there are some alternative things you can do to help bring down your monthly costs after graduation.

Ways you can help to reduce or control your monthly student loan payments include:

  • Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
  • Deferment and Forbearance
  • Refinancing

Let’s discuss the finer details of each of these individual programs to see exactly how they can help you better manage your student loan debt.

Forgiveness Programs

Luckily, if all of your student loans (or even a portion of your loans) are federal, then you may qualify for certain federal student loan forgiveness programs.

The most common program that graduates qualify for is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). The PSLF forgives a portion of your student loan balance if you are employed by a qualifying employer and make 120 monthly payments in total.

While this forgiveness program is mainly reserved for nonprofit workers and government workers, it’s worth exploring the specific terms of this program to see if you qualify. What’s more, you may also qualify for Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge or Teacher Loan Forgiveness.

Deferment and Forbearance

No matter if you have federal or private student loans, you may qualify for student loan deferment or student loan forbearance. Both deferment and forbearance offer you a chance to temporarily pause your student loan payments for a specified period – usually between a minimum of six months and a maximum of three years. This specific period will vary not only from borrower to borrower but also from subsidized and unsubsidized student loans.

With forbearance, most loans will accrue interest throughout the payment pause — no matter if they’re private or federal. However, forbearance will also allow you to make extra payments to pay down your student loan interest.

Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is one way to potentially lower your student loan interest rate and/or your monthly payments.

It works like this: when you refinance, private lenders will offer you new, potentially lower interest rates on your existing student loans after evaluating the total amount of loans to be refinanced and your creditworthiness.

Depending on your credit score, refinancing may be a way to help you save money on your total loan balance and monthly payments through the lowering of your interest rates.

Beyond credit score, you’ll also need to demonstrate a dependable income to prove you’ll be capable of making your refinanced payments. If you happen to slip up on either qualification, then you may need a cosigner to refinance.

Explore Today’s Refinancing Rates

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when thinking about how to start paying off student loans after graduation.

It’s important to stay on time with your payments, but it’s even more important to make sure that you have the best repayment terms available to you. If you’re finding it difficult to manage your existing terms, it may be worth considering student loan refinancing.

Check out the current refinancing rates through Splash Financial, and see if refinancing your student loans is a viable option for you.