Short answer: it takes around 1 to 3 weeks to process a federal student loan, and 2 to 10 weeks to process a private student loan. But there’s much more to know.
Many college students end up taking out student loans. Whether that means federal or private loans, there’s a waiting period before you get the money. The application process and time it takes to process federal student loans are different from that of private student loans. So, how long does it take to get a student loan?
Federal Student Loans
To get federal student loans, you must first file the FAFSA. Filing the FAFSA is the only way to get federal student loans, as well as merit-based scholarships and grants. We strongly recommend you file the FAFSA, regardless of your financial circumstances, or whether or not you think you qualify for any money.
It takes about 1 – 3 weeks to process the FAFSA and put together a financial aid package that is customized for your needs. If you agree with the amount and terms of the loan, you will need to sign a Master Promissory Note agreeing to the terms of the loan, specifically with regard to the repayment. Federal student loans are disbursed only after you sign this Master Promissory Note.
In most cases, you can expect federal student loan funds to be disbursed within 10 days before the 1st day that classes commence. If you are a first-year student and a first-time borrower, there may be a 30-day delay in allocating the funds. In this case, the funds may be disbursed 30 days after the 1st day of the payment period.
Private Student Loans
It can take anywhere from 2 – 10 weeks for you or your college to receive the funds from the date that your loan application is approved. If you are taking a school-certified loan, the funds are disbursed directly to the school you are enrolled in. If you are taking a direct-to-consumer loan (or uncertified), the funds will be disbursed directly into your personal bank account.
Keep in mind that private student loans should be your last resort. File the FAFSA, apply for scholarships, take federal student loans, before you turn to private loans. Private student loans aren’t as forgiving as federal loans and usually have higher interest rates.
Other Things to Keep in Mind About Loans
Many students, despite the number of scholarships and grants they receive, still need to take out student loans. If your college isn’t offering you enough federal student loans, here are some things to keep in mind with private loans:
- Don’t feel pressured to commit to a private lender. Shop around, and decide which loan and interest rates are best for you. Remember, the loan can heavily impact your financial situation after graduation.
- If you take out a direct-to-consumer, or uncertified, loan, make sure you research what you should be spending your money on. Just because the money goes straight to you, doesn’t mean you can spend it on anything you want. Only spend the money on education-related necessities, such as textbooks.
- Only take out as much as you need and not any more. Again, you have to repay the money someday.
Use College Raptor’s free Student Loan Finder to compare lenders and interest rates side by side!