How to Extend a Student Loan Grace Period (And Other Repayment Strategies)

 December 12, 2020
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A student loan grace period, which generally lasts six months, gives you time to become financially settled after graduating, leaving school or dropping below full-time status before you start to repay your federal or private student debt.

If you’re still not ready to take on this obligation when the time comes, you might explore a student loan grace period extension, or consider other repayment strategies.

Interest continues to accrue on most federal (and all private) loans during your grace period, but you’re not charged fees for delaying repayment. Depending on both the amount of your loans and the size of your paycheck, adding the loan payments to your financial obligation mix can make a huge impact on your budget.

You should know your options if you’re unable to manage the upcoming payments. It might involve trying for a student loan grace period extension, or exploring other options for repayment. In order to get a handle on what to do, let’s look at the following topics:

How to extend your student loan grace period extension

Typically, the student loan grace period ends six months after a student’s attendance at college drops below half time. For grads, this period begins six months after completing their degree.

However, some grace periods don’t end after six months. In certain situations, you can put off payments longer.

Type of loan Student loan grace period
Federal direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans 6 months
Federal direct PLUS loans for graduate students 6 months
Federal direct PLUS loans for parents 6 months (upon request)
Federal Perkins loans 6 to 9 months (depending on your school)
Private or alternative loans Varies by lender, typically 6 to 9 months

Ways to qualify for a federal student loan grace period extension

Generally, if you return to school at least half time before your student loan grace period ends, then your loan clock is reset. You won’t need to make student loan payments while you’re taking classes, and you’ll get a new six-month grace period once you graduate or drop below half-time attendance.

If you’re on active military duty, then you also get a break on repaying education loans. If you’re called to serve for more than 30 days before your grace period has ended, then you’ll get another six-month grace period once you return.

If neither of these situations applies, then you might still have other options. Your best bet may be to enroll in income-driven repayment (IDR) for a monthly payment as low as $0, or request deferment or forbearance on your loans.

As for your private education debt (if you have any), some lenders offer a nine-month student loan grace period. For a grace period extension, check with your lender or loan servicer for options. It’s possible your loans could be eligible for a deferment or forbearance, for example.

Keep in mind, however, that even if you do score a student loan grace period extension, you might not want to do it or simply shouldn’t. No option makes loans disappear. Also, because interest continues to accrue on most loans during deferment, it adds to the balance you’ll ultimately owe.

Other student loan repayment strategies

Whether or not you’re able to extend your student loan grace period, consider these strategies as well.

1. Set up your repayment system
2. Think carefully about consolidation
3. Take a look at your interest rates

1. Set up your repayment system

Paying back student loans can be confusing, especially if you have statements flying in from different sources. To make it easier on yourself, devise a system of keeping track of your bills.

One option is using a tool that tracks your student loan data and other financial information, like the My LendingTree dashboard. You can also come up with a system of your own using a spreadsheet.

Once you’ve organized your loans, figure out your best strategy for repaying them. One popular strategy is to make automatic payments from your bank account. Instead of manually paying each bill each month, it’s easier to put the payments on autopilot. Plus, some federal student loan servicers and private lenders may offer a 0.25% interest rate reduction if you opt to use autopay.

2. Think carefully about consolidation

You’ve probably heard about federal loan consolidation. It can be a good strategy, but you should know a few things before opting to consolidate.

Consolidation takes all your federal student loans and combines them together into one new loan. Interest rates are averaged based on the balance of each loan, meaning you’ll ultimately pay the same amount in interest charges, if not more, whether you consolidate or not. However, the interest rate will be fixed instead of having variable rates on different loans.

Pros of federal loan consolidation Cons of federal loan consolidation
  • Simplification: You pay only one bill each month instead of many.
  • You may also be able to lower your monthly payments by extending your repayment term, though you’re likely to pay more in interest charges over the life of the new loan.
  • If you have loans with different interest rates, your consolidated loan will have a rounded-up average of those rates
  • You could reset progress toward programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or lose existing benefits on some of your loans

In either instance, consolidation may cost you. Since you won’t be able to pay off loans with the highest interest rates first, you won’t save any money on interest.

Like consolidation for federal loans, refinancing for federal and/or private student loans would group your loans into one, simpler debt. Unlike consolidation, however, student loan refinancing could lower your interest rate, if you have good credit or a creditworthy cosigner.

Keep in mind: Once you consolidate or refinance, the process can’t be undone. It’s also important to know that if you decide to consolidate or refinance during your student loan grace period, you may yield the rest of that period and begin repayment after your direct consolidation loan is disbursed (though some refinancing companies honor any existing grace periods).

In most cases, your first payment will be due soon after disbursement, which could cut short your grace period. On top of that, refinancing federal loans would turn them private, stripping access to government-exclusive programs like IDR.

3. Take a look at your interest rates

There are three ways to save money while repaying student loans:

  1. Reducing interest rates
  2. Increasing payments
  3. Having loans forgiven

The popular option for reducing interest rates is to refinance with a private lender. Current fixed rates are as low as 1.95% APR, but you must qualify. Want to learn more? Check out the questions to ask before refinancing student loans.

Increasing payments without refinancing or consolidating can be a great option for paying off your debt faster while saving money. Your best bet is to pay off student loans with the highest interest rates first.

For example, let’s say you have three loans:

  • Loan 1: $8,000 balance at 11% interest
  • Loan 2: $6,000 balance at 3.5% interest
  • Loan 3: $5,000 balance at 6.8% interest

Since you’re charged the most interest every month on Loan 1, you should pay that loan off as soon as possible. To do this, make the minimum payments on Loans 2 and 3 each month, and put everything else toward Loan 1. After Loan 1 is paid off, pay the minimum on Loan 2 and put everything else toward Loan 3.

By following this strategy, you’ll save the most amount of interest possible on each subsequent payment. Just make sure your servicer applies the extra payments toward the principal balance and not to future payments.

Why you shouldn’t skip payments once your grace period ends

One of the worst choices you can make is to skip a payment once your student loan grace period expires. It’s a bad decision for a variety of reasons including:

  • You can end up defaulting on your loan, which can mean that your loan becomes a case for collection agencies.
  • Charges can be added to your balance — and not small ones, either. For instance, you may incur the cost of placing your loan with a private collection agency.
  • You can ruin your credit score. Late payments and loans in default will damage your credit score. This could affect your chances of getting approved for an auto loan or mortgage in the future.

Remember, there are options available most of the time. Listed above are some popular ways to begin paying off your student loans, but don’t forget other options like forbearance and deferment. When in doubt, do your research and call your servicer to see what help is available.

Andrew Pentis and Laura Woods contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.88% – 6.15%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.88% – 5.64%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.50% – 6.85%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.89% – 5.90%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.99% – 6.59%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.88% – 5.64%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

1.90% – 5.25%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.39% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

2.13% – 5.25%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit PenFed

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of June 1, 2021.


2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Interest Rate Disclosure

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.48% APR to 5.79% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.88% APR to 5.64% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 2.04% and 5.8% to the one month LIBOR. Earnest rate ranges are current as of 6/8/2021, and are subject to change based on market conditions.

Auto Pay Discount Disclosure

You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay.

Student Loan Refinancing Loan Cost Examples

These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042.39. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,249.77. Your actual repayment terms may vary.Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest. com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

Earnest Loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC or One American Bank, Member FDIC. Earnest Operations LLC, NMLS #1204917. 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105. California Financing Law License 6054788. Visit earnest.com/licenses for a full list of licensed states. For California residents (Student Loan Refinance Only): Loans will be arranged or made pursuant to a California Financing Law License.

One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC with support from Navient Solutions LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

© 2021 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved.


3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

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. ‍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 Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates from 2.49% APR to 6.94% APR (with autopay). Variable rates from 1.99% APR to 6.59% APR (with autopay). All variable rates are based on the 1-month LIBOR and may increase after consummation if LIBOR increases; see more at SoFi.com/legal/#1. If approved for a loan your rate will depend on a variety of factors such as your credit profile, your application and your selected loan terms. Your rate will be within the ranges of rates listed above. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or may become available, such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license #6054612; NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Additional terms and conditions apply; see SoFi.com/eligibility for details. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.


6 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

1. NaviRefi loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC, a member of the Navient family of companies, subject to individual approval and underwriting criteria. California residents only: Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license. Additional terms and conditions apply.

– To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen permanent resident of the United States, reside in a state we lend in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.navirefi.com/help-and-questions. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Loan terms are subject to eligibility. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application. Loan approval is subject to confirmation that your debt-to-income, free cash flow, credit history and application information meet the minimum requirements. You must have a minimum FICO score to be considered.

– You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.75% – 6.04% APR (2.50% – 5.79% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.13% – 5.89% APR (1.88% – 5.64% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.

– You can take advantage of the 0.25% Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. NaviRefi rate ranges are current as of June 1, 2021 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

– Loan cost examples: These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,250. Your actual repayment terms may vary.

– The information provided on this page is updated as of 06/1/2021. Earnest Operations LLC reserves the right to modify or discontinue (in whole or in part) this loan program and its associated services and benefits at any time without notice. Check www.navirefi.com for the most up-to-date information. Terms and Conditions apply. Call 855-284-4893 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

– Earnest Operations LLC – NMLS #1204917, CA CFL #6054788 – 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Navient Solutions, LLC – NMLS #212430 – 123 Justison St., Wilmington, DE 19801. Visit https://navirefi.com/lending-licenses for a full list of licensed states.


7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 04/07/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.13%-5.25% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.