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How Long Does It Take to Get a Student Loan?

February 26, 2019 · 4 minute read

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How Long Does It Take to Get a Student Loan?

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss is popular with recent high school graduates because it provides a lot of general, ageless advice like, “…you are the one who decides where to go,” “face up to your problems whatever they are,” and even, “never mix up your right foot with your left.”

What it doesn’t provide is information on specific questions like, “how long does it take to get a student loan?” or tips on the student loan process in general. Fortunately, we’re here to help fill in the gaps Dr. Seuss left. (Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on your mindset—we aren’t going to do the whole thing in rhyme.)

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 interest rates and the most flexible repayment plans.

Additionally, there are also private lenders that offer a variety of student loan options. 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 .

Even if you think you won’t qualify because of your household income or high school GPA, you’ll still want to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) application.

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 you submit your FAFSA application, you’ll generally know how much aid, what types of aid, and what student loan amounts are available to you within two weeks or so. If you submit your application digitally, you could have results as soon as three to five days. If you submit your application by mail, you may be looking at a wait time of over two weeks.

However, you do not actually receive your funds the day you’re approved. If you’ve already decided on a college or university, you’ll have to work with their financial aid department to receive your aid package. During that process, you may also be considered for school-based aid, although there is no guarantee you will qualify for any (but it never hurts to ask).

Once the student loan and aid process is complete, you’ll still have to wait to receive your funds. Your college is the one who will disburse your federal student loan funds . Generally, they disburse your loans 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 your contract and know when you are expected to begin paying back your loans. Private lenders may not grant you the six-month grace period that federal loans offer.

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 three to 10 weeks.

What Happens When It’s Time to Repay My Loans?

Most federal loans don’t expect students to begin repayment until six months post-graduation.

Private loans have different repayment requirements, which are outlined in your original contract. Federal loans will generally allow you a forbearance or deferment period to pause your loans during times of unemployment or personal hardship, but private loans may not.

If you find yourself with multiple federal or private loans (or a combination of the two) after you graduate, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans through a private lender. Keep in mind that refinancing your loans means you’ll lose your federal loan benefits like deferment or forbearance.

If you refinance, your new lender will pay off your original loans and give you a brand-new loan. You’ll also be given a new interest rate based on your current financial profile, which could be lower than your former interest rate(s). Even if you only have one student loan, you can still apply to refinance your loans with SoFi.

So, regardless of the timeline of getting your loan, with SoFi you’ll learn you aren’t on your own! (Guess we rhymed after all.)

Whether you are looking to borrow for school or refinance your student loans, SoFi can help.

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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.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
SoFi private student loans are subject to program terms and restrictions and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See for more information. View payment examples. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. 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.

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