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How to apply for student loan deferment or forbearance

    Are you considering submitting a request for either student loan deferment or forbearance? These options can allow you to temporarily postpone making student loan payments or temporarily make smaller payments. Importantly, these arrangements can help you avoid defaulting on your student loans when you’re unable to make your required payments.

    In this article, we’ll cover what to expect from student loan deferment or forbearance when it comes to federal student loans. Private student loans may have options to postpone payments, but the rules will vary among lenders.

    How to decide if you should request student loan deferment or forbearance

    Student loan deferment or forbearance can help you if you’re struggling financially due to temporary financial difficulties. The critical difference between a deferment and a forbearance is that in some cases, with deferment, interest will stop accruing on the loan.

    That means, in those circumstances, your loan balance won’t increase during the deferment period in which you’ll also not be required to make payments on the loan principal. However, this isn’t always the case. Some deferment plans do accrue interest, and it’s important to check on your loan or loans to determine if they would or wouldn’t accrue interest during a deferment period.

    Both deferment and forbearance can be short-term solutions to financial difficulties. If you can’t see your financial situation improving, switching to an income-driven repayment plan may be a better solution.

    How to apply for student loan deferment

    You have to qualify for deferment. There are several circumstances that might qualify you, including:

    • If you’re undergoing cancer treatment
    • If you’re experiencing economic hardship
    • If you’re participating in a graduate fellowship
    • If you’re enrolled in specific degree programs
    • If you’re engaged in military service and post-active duty
    • If you’re a Parent PLUS borrower
    • If you’re undergoing rehabilitation training
    • If you’re experiencing unemployment

    You request a deferment through your loan servicer. If you choose to do this, you’ll complete a request form and submit it along with any documents that prove you’re eligible for the deferment.

    How to apply for student loan forbearance

    There are two types of forbearance: general and mandatory. With “general,” the loan servicer decides whether to grant the request. With “mandatory,” those who meet the eligibility requirements must be granted forbearance.

    Speak to your loan servicer to request to apply for forbearance. Your loan servicer representative will supply you with a forbearance request form and tell you what documents you need to show your eligibility. Submit your completed form and supporting documentation to your loan servicer.

    What happens after you apply for student loan deferment or forbearance

    Continue making loan payments as scheduled until you find out that your deferment or forbearance is granted. If you don’t, your loan will become delinquent, negatively impacting your credit score. In some cases, your loan servicer may contact you requesting more information. Supply this promptly to minimize processing delays.

    If you’re approved for a deferment that waives interest, you’ll move into your deferment period. If, during your deferment, your loan will continue to accrue interest or you’ve been approved for a forbearance, you’ll continue paying the interest charges rather than the full loan repayment amount or the interest that will accrue during the deferment or forbearance period will be added to your loan principal balance.

    Paying the entire interest charge each month will ensure your loan balance doesn’t increase. A student loan calculator can help you determine your expected monthly interest charges.

    If your request isn’t granted, explore changing your repayment terms or consolidating your loans as potential next step.

    Final thoughts

    When you’re struggling financially due to a temporary hardship, student loan deferment or forbearance can help you improve your financial situation in the short term. Start the application process as soon as you can for the earliest approval and explore other options like income-driven repayment plans.