When do I need to start paying my federal student loans?

Answer: For most federal student loans, you must start making payments six months after leaving school. 

The six-month period following school where you don’t have to pay is called a “grace period.” Federal student loans require online “exit counseling” when you are about to leave your school, which will tell you about when you’ll need to make payments.

You should know that you are never penalized for making federal student loan payments before you are required to start paying. Making early payments will reduce the total balance of your loans when required payments begin. This can lead to substantial savings in interest costs over time. Make sure if you make an additional payment that you inform your loan servicer that you would like this payment to be applied to your loan principal – the amount of money that you currently owe on your loan.


Sometimes when you pay more than your monthly payment, your lender will “credit” the amount against a future payment rather than apply it toward your loan balance. For example, say you had a loan with a monthly payment of $115, and one month you decide to pay $300. If your lender is crediting your payments forward, the next month you would get a statement that showed no payment due; you would get your next actual bill the month after.

Even though you don’t have a payment due, you should continue making payments each month if you can afford it. You won’t actually be paying your loan back any faster unless you keep making payments each month.


If you plan to pay more than your minimum monthly payment, you can instruct your lender or servicer to credit the payment against the principal.


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