When you graduate or leave school
Leaving school: graduating, withdrawing, or dropping below half-time
Once you are no longer enrolled at least half time in an eligible program, you'll receive a 6-month grace period (see below) on your Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans during which you are not required to make loan payments. You must begin repayment at the end of your grace period.
If you have an in-school deferment on a Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loan that entered repayment at an earlier date (before you returned to school) and you graduate, drop below half-time enrollment, or withdraw from school, you will be required to immediately begin making payments on the loan because the 6-month grace period has already been used up; there is no second grace period.
Make sure that both your school and loan servicer know that you are no longer enrolled. If you don't begin making payments when required, there is the possibility that you will lose repayment incentives you may have received or even go into default.
Your school is required to ensure that you receive exit counseling before you graduate or withdraw. Check with your school to see how exit counseling is conducted, whether as a personal or group exit interview or as a session that you can complete online.
When you graduate, drop below half time, or withdraw from your academic program, you will receive a six-month grace period for your Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans. Your grace period begins the day after you stop attending school on at least a half-time basis. Once your grace period ends, you must begin repaying your loan(s).
If you re-enroll in school at least half time before the end of your 6-month grace period, you will receive the full 6-month grace period when you stop attending school or drop below half-time enrollment.
There is no grace period for Direct PLUS Loans—the repayment period for a PLUS Loan begins on the day after the final loan disbursement is made. However, if you're a graduate or professional student PLUS borrower (or if you're a parent PLUS borrower who is also a student), you can defer repayment while you're enrolled in school at least half time and (for Direct PLUS Loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008) for an additional 6 months after you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment.
If you're a parent PLUS borrower, you can defer repayment of Direct PLUS Loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008, while the student for whom you obtained the loan is enrolled at least half time, and for an additional 6 months after the student graduates or drops below half-time enrollment.
Remember, if you choose to defer payment on a Direct PLUS Loan, any interest that accumulates during the deferment period will be added to the unpaid principal amount of your loan. This is called "capitalization," and it increases your debt because you'll have to pay interest on this higher principal balance.
Reservists Called to Active Duty: If you are called or ordered to active duty for more than 30 days from a reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces, the period of your active duty service and the time necessary for you to re-enroll in school after your active duty ends are not counted as part of your grace period. However, the total period that is excluded from your grace period may not exceed three years. If the call or order to active duty occurs while you are in school and requires you to drop below half-time enrollment, the start of your grace period will be delayed until after the end of the excluded period. If the call or order to active duty occurs during your grace period, you will receive a full 6-month grace period at the end of the excluded period.
If you are a reservist called to active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces for more than 30 days, contact your loan servicer to let them know your status.
Choosing a repayment plan
You'll have the choice of several plans, and the loan servicer will notify you of the date your first payment is due. If you do not choose a repayment plan, you will be placed on the standard repayment plan. Most Direct Loan borrowers choose to stay with the standard repayment plan, but there are other options for borrowers who may need more time to repay or who need to make lower payments at the beginning of the repayment period.
If you have multiple federal education loans, you can consolidate them into a single Direct Consolidation Loan. This may simplify repayment if you are currently making separate loan payments to different loan holders, as you'll only have one monthly payment to make. There may be tradeoffs, however, so you'll want to learn about the advantages and possible disadvantages of consolidation before you consolidate. To learn more, visit our Direct Consolidation Loan website.