By Ashley Sutphin Watkins (LendEdu)
Whether someone is applying for federal student loans or private student loans can affect very important factors in the student loan process, such as the interest rate and repayment options. Additionally, the loan application process and processing time can vary significantly between federal and private student loans.
If you’re wondering how long it takes to process a student loan, it might help to know that federal student loans are usually disbursed before the first day of school starts, while private loans can take anywhere from two weeks to two months.
How Long Does It Take to Get Federal Student Loans
With federal student loans from the U.S. Department of Education, it can take about one to three weeks for your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be processed, and within that time a financial aid package is put together for the individual student. If you agree with offered aid package and sign the Master Promissory Note, funds can be disbursed.
In most situations, federal student loans should be disbursed within 10 days of the first day of classes. For first-time borrowers, and also first-year students, there are sometimes delays in the disbursement of funds. If there is a delay, the funds may be allocated within 30 days after the first day of the payment period.
How Long Does It Take to Get Private Student Loans
Private student loans can vary significantly in the time it takes to receive funding because each individual lender varies in its approval and disbursement process. The time it takes for a school to receive the funds from a private lender can be anywhere from two to 10 weeks after a loan is approved.
There can also be differences in disbursement times based on whether you’re using a school-certified loan or direct-to-consumer loans, in which case the loan funds are deposited into your account rather than going directly to the school you’re attending.
Steps to Get Federal Student Loans
The general steps to apply for and receive federal loans include the following:
1) Complete the FAFSA
The FAFSA can be completed online at FAFSA.ed.gov. You can also complete the Renewal FAFSA if you are a returning student. What’s put on the FAFSA will be used to determine your financial aid offer. The school you attend can let you know how to accept part of the loan you’re offered or all of it.
2) Review Your Offer
Once you receive your financial aid award, which will likely include a Direct Subsidized Loan – if you’re eligible – and a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you should review the letter carefully.
3) Complete Entrance Counseling
Before you can receive the funds from your loan, you have to complete entrance counseling. Your financial aid office can give you more information on your school’s requirements for entrance counseling. This is a way to ensure borrowers understand what their obligations are in terms of paying back a loan. Then you can sign the Master Promissory Note, which outlines the terms of the loan.
Steps to Get Private Student Loans
While the steps to get private loans can vary somewhat between lenders, the following are some general things you might expect.
1) Research Your Options
The first step with private student loans is to do thorough research. You will want to compare the interest rates and terms that are available. You might also check with the school you plan to attend because they might have preferred lenders they work with.
Once you decide on the loans you’ll apply for, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to receive them. With private student loans, the process may take as long as two months, so you want to ensure you’re planning ahead.
2) Decide if a Cosigner is Necessary
You should determine if you need a cosigner, and if so, who that person might be. Check your credit score, and since it’s likely you don’t have much credit history, having a cosigner can be helpful or even necessary for approval.
3) Gather Paperwork for the Application
Gather the necessary paperwork to complete the student loan application. This can include your personal information, income information for your cosigner, monthly rent or mortgage for you or your cosigner, a copy of tax returns, employment information, and a list of assets. A private lender may also want to have information for the school you plan to attend, including costs and what you’re going to study.
4) Submit the Application
Once you have all the necessary information and documentation, you can submit an application, which you may be able to do online. Once approved, you can accept the offer.