What's the Best Thing You Can Do During Your Student Loan Grace Period?

The hurdle all recent college grads face is getting a job. Some have a job lined up before graduation. Most search for a job for a couple months after. And some struggle to find employment within 6 months of their graduation date. But the best thing you can do during that student loan grace period is to earn some kind of income — especially if you have private loans.


The average amount a college grad owes in student loans upon graduation is around $37,172. The 6-month grace period is meant to give graduates enough time to find their first job before loan payments start becoming due. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way.

If you do find yourself out of work when your loan payments come due, you have a few options. With federal loans, you can apply for a payment adjustment based on your income. An Income-Based Repayment Plan is based on income, family size and residence, not on the amount borrowed. For most, these payments are capped at no more than 15 percent of a borrower's discretionary income. Additionally, loans taken out on or after Oct. 1, 2011, these payments are capped at 10 percent of discretionary income.

Unfortunately, uninsured private loans and Perkins loans are ineligible for an Income-Based Repayment Plan. If you do have private loans, you may be able to work out a reduced payment with your lender or your lender might have options to refinance. But this can vary. It would be much better to be able to make the payments, or at least be able to pay some amount, right?

Obviously, when searching for a job, you don't have control over whether you get hired or not. You can do everything right. Make a good first impression, have great references, and a stellar résumé — but still don't get the job. However, you can still earn some income or save money while you're looking for your first full-time job. And if you can, it would go a long way to begin making payments during your grace period. But if it's too much a strain, then don't worry about it.

Consider taking a paid internship with flexible hours or pursue freelance work. Sure, you could take a part-time retail job, but probably it won't offer the flexibility or experience a job in your field will. The goal is to find something with some income (even if it's less than ideal) while you're looking for a great full-time job. And if it's in your field, you can list it as applicable experience on your résumé and maybe even get a good reference out of it.

So, if you want to become a teacher and you're struggling to find work, try substituting with your local school district. Want to work in advertising? Try to find a short-term position or a paid internship. If they end up liking you, you might also be hired full-time. If you want to work as a journalist or another kind of writer, freelance work is your best bet. Evaluate your options based on your field and choose what works best for you.

The goal is to earn some money — even if you can't find a job right away — so you don't have to worry about making your student loan payments when they come due.

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