It can take up to six weeks to process your federal student loan consolidation application, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
When you’d like to lower your monthly student loan payments, you likely don’t want to waste a minute. Let’s cover the definition of consolidation, answer the question, “How long does it take 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 “combine,” and that’s a great first step in understanding how student loan consolidation works. If you have multiple federal loans, you can combine them into a single loan using a Direct Consolidation Loan. Consolidating, which is a free application process, gives you a single monthly payment instead of having to make multiple payments.
It can also lower your monthly payment by giving you a longer period of time (up to 30 years) to repay your loans. You can also access additional loan repayment plans and forgiveness programs through a Direct Consolidation Loan. The interest 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:
• FFEL Consolidation Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans (only under certain conditions)
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?
From the time you apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan, it typically takes 30 to 45 business days to achieve consolidation. Repayment begins 60 days after the loan is paid out. Your loan servicer will tell you when you must make your first payment.
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, as mentioned above, the process of consolidation generally will take anywhere from 30 to 45 business days. With some services, the timeline could extend as long as 75 days for processing.
Until the consolidation process is complete, you must continue to make payments on your current loans. Only once the servicer determines your loans are eligible for consolidation and you get the go-ahead should you begin paying your new loan in order to pay off your old 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 student loans together.
However, you can refinance, which means you switch to a private lender to get a better rate or terms. You can refinance a single loan or combine a number of loans to give you a new loan. Refinancing federal student loans means that all of your loans become private loans. However, you lose access to federal student loan benefits like interest rate discounts and loan cancellation benefits when you do this. (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 — just a few business days. However, this timeline can be longer if additional documentation is needed or if you have a co-applicant. In these cases, the process can take from 10 business days up to three weeks, depending on the lender.
Recommended: Consolidating vs. refinancing student loans
Is There Any Way to Accelerate the Student Loan Consolidation Process?
No, you cannot accelerate the federal student loan consolidation process.
However, 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. However, you may want to 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 the federal loans you have into a single federal direct consolidation loan? Why might you want to steer clear of consolidation altogether? Let’s take a look at the various reasons why you might want to dive into truly asking, “How long does it take for student loan consolidation?”
|Pros of Consolidating Student Loans||Cons of Consolidating Student Loans|
|Simplify your loan payments: You’ll simplify your loan payments with just one loan payment instead of several payments for multiple loan types.||May pay more: You may pay more in the long run, especially if you change your repayment term to a lengthier term. This will cause you to pay more in interest over time.|
|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.||Could lose out some benefits: If you choose to consolidate your loans using a refinance, you may lose out on interest rate discounts, principal rebates, or loan cancellation benefits.|
|Can 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.||Lose 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.|
|Can switch to a fixed-rate loan: You can switch any variable interest rates to a fixed-rate loan, which can offer you more stability in your monthly payments.||Interest added to your principal balance: 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.|
Potentially Faster Alternatives to Student Loan Consolidation
If you think it might take too long to consolidate your student loans or might just want a different option instead, 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 could prevent you from facing the potential downsides of consolidation, like paying more in interest due to a longer loan term.
If you’re tired of making multiple federal student loan payments, consolidation might be the answer. Just make sure you’re okay with the answer to the question, “How long does student loan consolidation take?” before moving forward with it. In general, the process should last around 30 to 45 business days.
As you’re weighing your options, you might also consider private student loan refinance as an option to take care of your student loan payments. SoFi makes it easy to see what rates you may be eligible for with student loan refinancing. Plus, with SoFi, you can skip paying origination fees, application fees, and prepayment penalties.
Does it take longer to consolidate federal or private student loans?
Your best bet is to check with your loan servicer and ask them yourself, “How long does the student loan consolidation process take?” If you’re not sure whether you want to consolidate your federal student loans or refinance with a private student loan lender, consider doing your own in-depth research before you make a final decision. (Remember, you can’t consolidate private student loans.)
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.
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Student Loan Refinancing
If you are a federal student loan borrower you should take time now to prepare for your payments to restart, including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.) 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, such as the SAVE Plan, or extended repayment plans.