Apply to vetted scholarship programs in one clickAdvertiser disclosure
Student-centric advice and objective recommendations
Higher education has never been more confusing or expensive. Our goal is to help you navigate the very big decisions related to higher ed with objective information and expert advice. Each piece of content on the site is original, based on extensive research, and reviewed by multiple editors, including a subject matter expert. This ensures that all of our content is up-to-date, useful, accurate, and thorough.
Our reviews and recommendations are based on extensive research, testing, and feedback. We may receive commission from links on our website, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. You can find a complete list of our partners here.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Student Loan?
Student loans are a huge financial decision that often serves as a student’s first foray into financial independence. As a result, one common question that students have as they figure out their college finances is, “How long does it take to get a student loan?” The timeline can vary based on a few factors, including whether the loan is federal or private.
In this article, we’ll go over a timeline of how long it takes to get a student loan, and explain how you should plan around it. Let’s get into it!
How long does it take to get a federal student loan?
Federal loans are typically the first loan that students consider. Specifically, the Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans are most popular among undergraduates. In most cases, they have the most favorable terms for the borrower. Parent PLUS and PLUS loans are also common forms of federal loans.
When you receive a college financial aid offer, it will include the option of federal student loans. After that, you can choose how much of the available student loans to take out. Once you submit your decision to your college, the funds are effectively already paid. For an example of this procedure, you can check out the Penn State financial aid page (though processes vary by school).
The loan servicer will send the funds directly to your school. Although they make some time to actually disperse the funds, your school will immediately count you as having paid your tuition for the semester. So, when it comes to federal loans, all you have to do is ensure that you have accepted all the funds you need by the deadline your school sets.
What if I missed the FAFSA deadline?
If you missed your state’s priority FAFSA deadline, you may not be eligible for federal financial aid this semester. Call your school’s financial aid office as soon as possible to find out if there is anything you can do. There is no hard-and-fast rule for this, unfortunately. The best you can hope for is the possibility that your financial aid office can help.
How long does it take to get a private student loan?
Private student loans vary widely by the lender. Lenders typically perform credit checks before approving students for loans, and they can vary in the amount of time they take to do so. As a result, you should begin the process as early as possible.
Once you’ve actually been approved for a loan, the process should move along quickly. If you wait until the very last minute, your financial aid office may charge you a late fee, which can range widely. But you will most likely not have any problems with your enrollment status, so long as you show proof that you have secured the necessary funds.
With private loans more than anything, it’s a good idea to plan ahead. Here are a few reasons why planning can save you a lot of money with private student loans.
Give yourself plenty of time to shop around
Private loans can vary widely in terms of interest rate and repayment terms. Even a small change in interest rate can lead a student to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more back over the lifetime of a loan. So, it’s a good idea to do some thorough research and apply to a variety of loans so as to ensure you get the best deal.
Student loan marketplaces are a great tool for doing just this. You’ll be able to look at a collection of loans and their terms to help decide which is right for you.
Finding a cosigner
Many students who are taking out loans have little or no credit history. However, a good credit history can prove invaluable when applying for private loans. Lenders will offer higher credit lines with lower rates of interest to borrowers who have a strong credit history.
To solve this problem, students can recruit a cosigner. The cosigner must accept responsibility for the loan should the student fail to repay it. This can be a big responsibility and some students may have a hard time finding someone with a good credit score willing to do so.
However, if you can find someone, you open up the possibility of much more favorable loan terms. Oftentimes, parents, other family members, or another trusted adult can be a great option.
Also see: What is a student loan credit score?
What should I do if I missed a student loan deadline?
When it comes to applying for student loans, there are two main deadlines: the FAFSA deadline, and the deadline set by your school’s financial aid office for submitting payments. Private loans do not have specific deadlines, and you can apply for them whenever you want. Here is what you should do if you miss either of the other two deadlines:
If you missed the FAFSA deadline, you should get in touch with your financial aid office ASAP to see if they can help you. This is the best way to try to qualify for federal loans that year. Your other option is to take out private loans, but be wary of taking out more than you can handle, as these loans are harder to pay back and typically gather interest more quickly.
Financial aid office deadline
If you have not figured out how to pay for the semester and payment is due, you should get in touch with the financial aid office and explain your situation. Explain any extenuating factors that led to your tardiness, and/or the ways in which you are planning to pay. You can face two consequences for failing to pay: a late fee, or being withdrawn from your school.
The late fee can range widely, but if you are charged a late fee, you can try working with the financial aid office to see if they will waive it. There are no guarantees, but they are often willing to work with students who are in difficult financial situations.
Most of the time, they will only withdraw you from school if you are entirely unable to pay your fees. So long as you have a concrete means of paying, you will probably not be withdrawn. But in either case, you should have open communication with the financial aid office to alert them of your situation.
Tuition payment plans
If a student experiences any delay that affects the timeliness of their tuition payment, they can reach out to the financial aid office about tuition payment plans. These allow the student to pay a smaller portion of their financial aid and pay the rest over the course of the semester. In some instances, this will incur an additional fee, but it can be a great relief overall in cases of delayed tuition.
How to decide how much debt you are willing to take on
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, student loans are a huge financial decision. What’s more, it’s a decision often made by students who have little experience in these matters. So, it’s very important to weigh your decision carefully. Check out our guide on how much student debt is too much to help decide whether you are making the right choice for you.
Also see: What to do if you can’t pay for college