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How Long Does It Take to Get a Student Loan?

August 16, 2021 · 4 minute read

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How Long Does It Take to Get a Student Loan?

Questions about student loans can feel endless, and when all those questions pile up while you’re trying to pay for college, it can be stressful. Understanding how long it takes to get a student loan can be incredibly helpful, especially when you get that alert that tuition is due.

Getting a Student Loan: How Long Does it Take?

The timing for student loans can vary depending on whether you are looking at private or federal student loans.

Federal student loans are generally disbursed once per term. The process for private student loans may vary depending on the lender. Read on for a detailed explanation on how long it takes to get a student loan and a few tips on the student loan process in general.

Does the Length of Time Vary Between Loan Types?

One thing to keep in mind is that the wait time on receiving student loans varies depending on the loan source. The federal government is the most common source for student loans, since it usually offers the lowest fixed interest rates and the most flexible repayment plans.

Additionally, there are also private lenders that offer private student loans. Moving forward, we’ll refer to the loans that come from the federal government as “federal loans” and the loans that come from private lenders as “private loans.”

How Long Does It Take to Get a Federal Student Loan?

Federal loans funded by the federal government offer income-based repayment programs, and depending on the loan will usually give you a six-month grace period after graduation. Applying for federal student loans is an easier process than it sounds. You start the process by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).

Recommended: Student Loan Grace Periods: What You Need to Know

Even if you think you won’t qualify because of your household income or high school GPA, it doesn’t hurt to submit the FAFSA, it’s completely free. You may find out that you’re eligible for federal aid like grants and work-study, and therefore may not need as many loans as you thought. Alongside your eligibility for federal aid, this application will also let you know your federal student loan options.

But how long does it take? Depending on how the FAFSA is submitted, the wait time can vary between about five days to over two weeks. Applications submitted online may be processed as soon as three to five days. Those submitted by mail may take up to 10 days.

Once the FAFSA is processed, students will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), the expected family contribution and student eligibility for Pell Grants. Colleges listed on the FAFSA will receive a copy of the SAR and will use this information to determine the exact type and amount of federal aid a student is eligible for.

Generally, the student’s college will disburse federal student loan funds at least once per term. Some colleges may be subject to a 30-day delay (past the first day of the payment period) when it comes time to disburse funds among first-time borrowers.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Private Student Loan?

Private loans come from private (aka non-government) lenders who don’t have the same set standards as federal loans. No private lender functions exactly the same as the next when it comes to interest rates and payment plans, which includes when you are required to begin student loan repayment.

When applying for a private loan it’s very important that you clearly read the contract and know when loan repayment is expected. Private loans may not have the six-month grace period that federal loans offer.

Recommended: Private vs Federal Student Loans

And they won’t necessarily offer fixed interest rates, which means your interest rates could increase over time if you opt for a variable-rate loan.

Because each lender will have different application requirements and payment processes, there is no specific timeline you can expect to receive your funds on. However, you can generally expect that your private lender will send your loan funds to your college or university in anywhere from two to 10 weeks from the date your loan application is approved.

Private lenders may offer school-certified loans or direct-to-consumer loans. When borrowing a school-certified loan, the loan amount is disbursed directly to the school. Direct-to-consumer loans are disbursed directly to the borrower.

The Takeaway

When applying for a federal loan using the FAFSA it may take anywhere from a few days to two weeks to find out what types of loans you are eligible for. The loans will then be disbursed directly to your school, at least once per term. If you have questions, contact the financial aid office at the school.

The application process for private student loans varies from lender to lender. It can take anywhere from two to 10 weeks for the loan to be disbursed once the loan application has been processed.

SoFi offers private student loans for undergraduates, graduate students, and parents. All applications can be completed entirely online and there are absolutely no fees. Plus, there are up to four repayment plans for borrowers to choose from. Potential borrowers can find out if they pre-qualify in just a few minutes.

Find out if you pre-qualify for a SoFi Private Student Loan in just a few minutes—with no pressure to sign up.


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SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

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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.
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