If you fish around on the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website for information on when to start repaying your student loans, you might come away with the wrong impression.
The FSA dutifully informs you that you don’t have to begin repayment until after you leave school (or become a part-time student), and that you can in fact wait further until you exhaust your post-graduation grace period.
But just because you don’t “have to” doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest to delay.
Delaying repayment increases your debt
The information on the FSA site might lead you to believe you don’t need to act until your assigned loan servicer provides you with a repayment schedule that includes your start date.
However, if you follow the norm and defer your payments until after leaving school, you’ll face a much larger balance than what you originally borrowed.
Say you take out $7,000 worth of direct unsubsidized loans per year for four years and agree to repay the total of $28,000 at 5.05% interest rate over a standard, 10-year term. After accounting for interest, you would owe in excess of $32,000 when your grace period expired, according to our loan deferment calculator — more than $4,000 above what you originally received.
|Year in school||Original loan amount||Months of interest (including six-month grace period)||Balance after grace period|
You might think that ignoring unnecessary student loan payments would give you the peace of mind to enjoy college. That $4,241 worth of accrued interest, for example, might seem like a worthy price to pay.
Consider, however, that you could avoid that multi-thousand-dollar bombshell with paltry in-school payments in small increments. With a 5.05% rate, just $29.46 per month would keep your debt from growing while you’re studying.
To scrounge $30 a month, you might only need to make small sacrifices, such as forgoing a dinner out with friends or a new pair of jeans.
Note that this could even be a valuable strategy for need-based direct subsidized loans (which don’t accrue interest until your grace period expires). Although your balance wouldn’t grow while you’re in school, you could still make headway against your debt by sending loose change to your loan servicer.
Unfortunately, however, the benefits and processes of making in-school payments are nowhere to be found on the FSA website.
The same goes for private student loans
The FSA notes on its website that private student loan lenders could require you to make in-school payments, though this is actually a little misleading.
The truth is that the vast majority of reputable private student loan companies — a group that includes traditional banks and credit unions, as well as online lenders — offer in-school deferment and a federal loan-like grace period of six months.
Unlike the FSA, however, these lenders encourage borrowers to begin repaying their loans before graduating. College Avenue, for example, is among companies offering borrowers four different in-school repayment options:
- Full: Make principal-and-interest payments for the greatest possible savings
- Interest-only: Cover the interest to ensure you graduate with the same balance you borrowed
- Flat: Submit $25 payments to cover (part of) your interest charges and potentially eat into your balance
- Deferred: Hold off on making payments in exchange for racking up some interest to repay later.
Competing lender Sallie Mae, which offers three in-school repayment options, claims that its freshman borrowers who make interest-only payments cut their loan cost by 29%.
Look at in-school payments as a practice run for the real world
Once you understand how student loan interest works, you might be more motivated to get ahead of your education debt repayment.
Consider, too, that it’s easier to get started while you’re living in the bubble of college. As a student, you probably have fewer living expenses than you will once you graduate.
To prepare yourself for postgraduate life, you could view in-school repayment as a practice run. Create your first budget, set aside enough money to cover at least your loans’ interest and track your progress.
If you’re anything like your peers, you’re probably short on cash. However, there are plenty of ways to increase your income (such as starting a side hustle) or decrease your current expenses (like cutting the cable cord).
If you’re still short of what you need, you could explain your goals of graduating “debt interest-free” to your parents or other family members to see if they’d be willing to throw you a few extra bucks.
You decide when your repayment begins
There’s a big difference between when payments become due and when it’s wise to start submitting them.
If you decide to hold off on making payments until after hearing from your loan servicer, make that decision because it’s what’s best for you — not because it’s a blanket recommendation or because your classmates blindly follow it.
At least run the numbers to see how much interest you’d be kicking down the road. Then you can accurately gauge whether it’s worth deferring or getting a jump-start with smallish payments. (This exercise is equally useful if you’re considering student loan deferment as a college graduate.)
Either way, pay attention to loan entrance counseling when you borrow from the federal government, and keep communication lines open with private lenders, too. If you aren’t aware of all your options, you’ll likely end up following the crowd — even if it’s not the best route for your own situation.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2021!
|1.04% – 11.98%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|1.13% – 11.23%*,2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|3.80% – 9.36%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.05% – 11.44%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.22% – 11.66%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.68% – 11.98%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.24% – 11.99%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers. |
1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
Information advertised valid as of 4/22/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.37% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.12% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.30% to 11.52% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.29% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 10.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 4/1/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.68% – 11.98% (1.68% – 11.07% APR)Fixed interest rates range from 4.24% – 12.40% (4.24% – 11.43% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.91% – 11.63% (1.91% – 11.33% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.64% – 11.93% (4.64% – 11.61% APR).
Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.91% – 10.19% (1.91% – 9.47% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.38% – 10.44% (4.38% – 9.72% APR).
Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.91% – 8.99% (1.91% – 8.69% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.28% – 9.24% (4.28% – 8.94% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.49% – 8.33% (2.49% – 8.33% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.94% – 8.58% (4.94% – 8.58% APR).
Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.46% – 9.60% (4.46% – 9.54% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.83% APR).
Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.55% – 7.05% (3.55% – 6.78% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.98% – 10.09% APR).
Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of May 10, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.11%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%.
Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7 Important Disclosures for Discover.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.