The student loan process can be confusing, to say the least. Between new terminology, applications and paperwork, and trying to understand what all goes into it, there’s a lot to consider. One thing that many students find themselves asking as they dive in: how long does it take to get a student loan?
The Short Answer
In short, it depends. The time it takes to get a student loan can vary depending on a number of factors, such as:
- The type of loan (whether it’s federal or private)
- The loan source’s/lender’s application requirements
- Their process for disbursing funds
We’ll break down more of the factors that can influence your wait time for each type of loan below.
Federal Student Loans
The first step in the process of applying for federal student loans is to file the FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) through the Department of Education. Doing this is the only way to apply for federal student loans, along with other forms of federal financial aid (such as scholarships and grants).
If you file the FAFSA digitally, you could receive your Student Aid Report (or SAR) in about three to five days. This outlines your eligibility for federal financial aid. If you file the FAFSA by mail, it can take longer to hear back – most likely one to three weeks.
You may see that you’ve been approved for a federal student loan. However, you won’t receive the money immediately. Typically, you’ll work with your school’s financial aid department to get your financial aid package, including any loans. Many schools disburse federal loan funds once per term. This is usually ten days before classes start for that term.
Private Student Loans
Because private student loans come from a variety of sources and different lenders, the process can vary. In general, you can expect your loan funds to be disbursed within two to ten weeks. Typically, lenders release the money directly to your college or university, but again, every lender has a different process. If you’re not sure, ask your lender what their timeline for releasing loan funds generally looks like.