1. Sign in to Your Federal Student Aid Account
An FSA account is necessary to apply for federal student aid, so you likely already have login credentials. Start the consolidation process by signing in at StudentAid.gov and navigating to “Manage Loans” and then “Consolidate My Loans” in the toolbar.
2. Gather the Necessary Documents
Before beginning the consolidation process, compile the documents necessary to complete the application and promissory note, including your education loan records and personal income information. If you’re completing the application online, you’ll have access to all of your federal loan details. You also should locate contact information for two references who have known you for at least three years, including one parent or legal guardian.
3. Complete a Consolidation Loan Application
After gathering the necessary documentation, complete a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan Application and Promissory Note. This free application can be submitted online or in hard copy and includes the following sections:
Choose Loan & Servicer. The first section of the loan application requires you to select which loans to consolidate and then calculates the new consolidated loan amount and interest rate. This is also where you’ll request a grace period and choose a loan servicer.
Choose Repayment. Federal student loan repayment options depend on the types of loans you’re consolidating and your financial status. This section of the application calculates your estimated monthly payments under several plans using your income, family size and tax status. Finally, you’ll be asked to choose a repayment plan before moving on to the next section of the application.
Terms & Conditions. This portion of the application includes the Borrower Understandings, Certifications and Authorizations, which—among other things—describes and authorizes the U.S. Department of Education’s processing and application of a direct consolidation loan against a borrower’s account. It’s also where you’ll promise to make payments on the consolidated loan and assert your understanding of—and agreement to—the terms and conditions of the consolidated loan.
Personal Information. In this section, complete all of the borrower information, including your driver’s license number, address, contact information and employer details. Then, enter the names and contact information of two references.
Review & Sign. Finally, review your completed application, acknowledge that all of the information is true and correct—and that you understand repayment requirements—and sign.
4. Await Approval & Continue Making Payments
After you submit your application, contact the consolidation servicer you selected with any questions about your application status. Online applicants receive their servicer’s contact information at the end of the application process; paper applicants receive it when they download or print their application. In general, the loan approval process takes between 30 and 90 days, but this varies by servicer.
Once your application is approved, the lender will pay off the balance of your existing loans with your direct consolidation loan. However, there will be a delay between your application, loan approval and when your original federal loans are paid off. For that reason, it’s important to continue making payments on your existing federal loans until your servicer notifies you the new loan was disbursed and your loans consolidated.
·5. Begin Repayment
Your repayment amount and schedule are based on the repayment plan selected during the application process. The loan servicer will contact you with your payment schedule—and the date of your first payment—but borrowers generally have up to 60 days after loan disbursement to begin repayment. If some of your existing loans were in the grace period and you requested to delay consolidation, you won’t have to make payments until closer to that date.