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Guide to How Long the Student Loan Consolidation Process Can Take

By Melissa Brock · January 23, 2024 · 7 minute read

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Guide to How Long the Student Loan Consolidation Process Can Take

Applying for a student loan consolidation can take approximately 30 minutes for borrowers who have their financial information on hand, according to the Federal Student Aid website. Repayment of the consolidated loan usually begins within 60 days after the loan is disbursed.

When you need to simplify your monthly student loan payments, you don’t want to waste a minute. Let’s cover the definition of consolidation, examine how long it takes to consolidate student loans, and go over the steps in the student loan consolidation process. We’ll also discuss whether it’s possible to speed up how long student loan consolidation takes.

What Is Student Loan Consolidation and How Does It Work?

“Consolidation” is just a fancy word for combining, and that’s a great first step to understand how student loan consolidation works. If you have multiple federal loans, you can combine them into a single loan using a Direct Consolidation Loan. After a free application process, consolidation gives you a single monthly payment instead of multiple bills.

A Direct Consolidation Loan may lower your monthly payment by giving you a longer repayment period (up to 30 years) or access to income-driven repayment plans — but not by lowering your interest rate. The rate you receive will be a weighted average of your prior loan rates, rounded up to the nearest ⅛ of a percent.

You can consolidate most federal student loans, including the following:

•   Direct Subsidized Loans

•   Direct Unsubsidized Loans

•   Direct PLUS Loans

•   Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students

Check the Federal Student Aid website for a complete list of qualified loans.

How do you consolidate your student loans?

•   Gather your loan records, account statements, and bills so you have everything in front of you to complete the Direct Consolidation Loan Application and Promissory Note.

•   Fill out borrower information, such as your name, address, and Social Security number, as well as the names of two adult references.

•   Next, you’ll enter the loans you want to consolidate (including requested information and codes) as well as the loans you don’t want to consolidate.

•   You’ll also walk through how you want to repay your loans and review the borrower understandings, certifications, and authorizations. Finally, sign the note, which promises that you’ll repay your loans.

How Long Does Student Loan Consolidation Take?

The federal Direct Consolidation Loan application process takes approximately six weeks from the day it is submitted. Consolidating private student loans — called refinancing – typically takes less time. Read on for details.

Federal Loans

Federal student loans come from the federal government through the U.S. Department of Education. Terms and conditions are set by law, including the interest rate.

To consolidate federal student loans, you first must fill out the Federal Direct Consolidation Loan Application and Promissory Note, which should take about 30 minutes to complete. From there, the process of consolidation takes approximately six weeks. Borrowers can check the status of their application at StudentAid.gov.

Until the consolidation process is complete, you must continue to make payments on your current loans. Once the servicer determines your loans are eligible for consolidation, you may begin paying your new loan instead.

Private Loans

Private student loans, unlike federal student loans, originate from a private lender — a bank, online lender, or credit union. You cannot change private student loans into federal student loans through the federal loan consolidation process. You also cannot consolidate private and federal student loans together.

However, you can refinance private loans. Refinancing means switching to a private lender to get a better rate or term. You can refinance a single loan or combine a number of loans to give you one new loan.

Refinancing federal student loans means that all of your loans become private loans. As a result, you lose access to federal student loan benefits like interest rate discounts and loan cancellation benefits. (You can learn more about the pros and cons in our student loan refinancing guide.)

Refinancing with a private student loan lender typically takes less time — sometimes just a few business days. However, this timeline can be longer if additional documentation is needed or if you have a coapplicant. In these cases, the timeline can vary depending on the lender and the time it takes the borrower to gather and submit the documents.

Recommended: Consolidating vs. Refinancing Student Loans

Is There Any Way to Accelerate the Student Loan Consolidation Process?

Unfortunately, you cannot accelerate the federal student loan consolidation process.

You may want to consider skipping the consolidation process altogether and refinance your student loans with a private lender, which will likely take less time. You can take a look at a student loan refinancing rate calculator to make sure it will financially work to your advantage.

Pros and Cons of Consolidating Student Loans

Why might you want to consolidate federal loans into a single federal Direct Consolidation Loan? Or why might you want to steer clear of consolidation altogether? Review the pros and cons below to get a better understanding of whether consolidating student loans is right for you.

Pros Cons
Simplify your loan payments. You’ll have just one loan payment instead of several payments for multiple loan types. Losing benefits. If you choose to consolidate your loans using a refinance, you will lose out on federal benefits, like income-driven repayment and forgiveness.
Lower your monthly payment. You could lower your monthly payment. It’s possible to extend your payment term to 30 years, which allows you to take more time to repay.

Paying more interest. You will pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.
Change loan servicers. You can switch loan servicers, the entity that handles the day-to-day details of your loan, which can help you out if you’re unhappy with your current servicer. Losing credit for prior payments. If you’ve been working toward an income-driven repayment plan or PSLF, you’ll lose credit for any payments made toward them.
Switch to a fixed-rate loan. You can switch any variable interest rates to a fixed-rate, which can offer you more stability in your monthly payments. Paying capitalized interest. Outstanding interest on loans you consolidate becomes part of your principal balance on the new loan, which means interest will then accrue on a higher principal balance.

Alternatives to Student Loan Consolidation

If you think it might take too long to consolidate your student loans or you just want a more options, you may have these alternatives available to you:

•   Deferment: If you can claim medical or financial hardship, or you’re back in school or between jobs, you may be able to pause your student loan payments through deferment.

•   Forbearance: Forbearance means that you won’t have to make a payment or that you’ll be allowed to make a smaller payment on your federal student loans.

•   Income-driven repayment plans: Income-driven repayment plans allow you to make payments based on your family size and income.

•   Modification: A student loan modification changes the terms and conditions of an existing student loan. Unlike consolidation, a modification means you keep the same loan but adjust it.

You might also consider keeping your plan and improving your financial situation in order to comfortably be able to make your payments. This will avoid the potential downsides of consolidation, like paying more in interest due to a longer loan term.

The Takeaway

If you’re tired of making multiple federal student loan payments, consolidation might be the answer. In general, the process takes about six weeks after submitting the application.

You may also consider student loan refinancing to help you manage your monthly payments. SoFi makes it easy to see what rates you may be eligible for. Plus, with SoFi, you can skip paying origination fees, application fees, and prepayment penalties.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

FAQ

Does it take longer to consolidate federal or private student loans?

It typically takes six weeks to consolidate federal student loans — longer than refinancing — but you retain your federal benefits. If you’re uncertain whether you want to consolidate your federal student loans or refinance with a private student loan lender, consider shopping around before you make a final decision.

When can consolidating student loans make sense?

Consolidating can make sense if you want to reduce multiple student loans into one monthly loan payment. Additionally, if you want to lower your monthly payments, switch loan servicers, or change to a fixed-rate loan, consolidation might be worth exploring.

Why would you consolidate rather than refinance student loans?

When you’re weighing the pros and cons of consolidating vs. refinancing, it’s important to determine your goals. If simplification is your major goal, you may want to consolidate. Additionally, if you have federal student loans and don’t want to lose protections, it might be wise to forgo refinancing and instead opt for student loan consolidation.


Photo credit: iStock/TanyaJoy

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


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