How to Consolidate or Refinance Student Loans
Step-by-Step Guide to Student Loan Consolidation and Refinancing
So, you’ve decided to consolidate or refinance your student loans? Great. You can look forward to fewer bills and probably a lower overall monthly expense. It takes a few steps to get there but the relief you feel may be well worth it. You'll need to follow these four steps. We break down the details below.
- Gather your student loan information
- Apply to consolidate your student loans
- Review and sign your application
- Wait for your application to be processed by the lender
STEP 1: Gather Your Student Loan Information
For each student loan you have, you'll need to have this information handy:
- loan type (e.g., Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, PLUS, Perkins, private)
- loan balance
- loan account balance
- name, address, and phone number of lender or servicer
You can find this information on your most recent loan statement. If you can't find your statement, here's how to get your loan info:
- Federal student loans: Visit NSLDS.ed.gov, the U.S. Department of Education's central database for federal student aid. Or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
- Private student loans: Request your free credit report (yes, it's really free, and it's legit) at AnnualCreditReport.com. The balances and lender information for your private student loans should be listed in your report.
STEP 2: Apply to Consolidate Your Student Loans
Do you have federal Direct Student Loans? To apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan, visit StudentLoans.gov. You may also choose to consolidate Direct Student Loans by refinancing with a private lender.
Note: The Federal Student Aid PIN has been replaced by the Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID). If you don’t have one, it’s easy to create a new FSA ID.
Do you want to consolidate private student loans via refinancing? Apply online with the lender you choose. Be aware that each lender has its own unique loan terms, interest rates, and eligibility qualifications. Lenders may prequalify you to give you an idea of your eligibility before running a complete credit check.
STEP 3: Review and Sign Your Application
You’ll receive a promissory note and other documentation when you refinance or consolidate student loans – these items detail the promise you’re making to repay, so read them carefully. Many lenders have an online eSignature process, but you may need to mail signed paper applications to the lender or, for federal Direct Consolidation Loans, the U.S. Department of Education.
STEP 4: Application Processing
Once you submit your application, a process called loan retrieval starts. Your new consolidation lender will retrieve your balances from each of your current lenders, and pay them within 60 days. And then – congratulations! You’ve just consolidated your student loans. Don’t worry if you receive statements from previous lenders – once you receive the new billing statement from your consolidation lender, your old loans are paid off.
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