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Ascent Blog

How Long Does it Take to Get Student Loans? (Federal and Private)

How long does it take to get a student loan? Factors such as when you submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), your credit score, and the loan certification process all play a role in determining when you will receive your student loan funds. However, we understand that you must get your student loans in time to pay for tuition, books, and other college expenses. Let’s unpack how long the application and review process takes for federal and private student loans and the steps you can take to get ahead of the process. 

When to Apply for Student Loans

The best time to apply for student loans is as soon as possible. For most students, this is shortly after their acceptance. 

There are several reasons for this timeline. Overall, loan providers (including the federal government) receive increasing applications as the school year approaches. Some loans and other forms of student aid are granted on a first-come-first-served basis, meaning that an earlier application makes it more likely you will receive them.

Because timing fluctuates considerably from applicant to applicant, it’s challenging to estimate exactly how long it takes for student loan approval. However, you should still be aware of the general timeline for the process. Starting the loan application process as early as possible will help save you some stress in the long run and may even increase your chances of securing funding.

It’s also important to consider that even if you qualify for federal loans, these may only cover part of the cost of college attendance. Because of this, it’s common to apply for other financing options, such as private student loans, or alternative forms of financial aid, such as grants and scholarships. Starting the application as soon as possible will give you more time to find supplemental funding if needed.

How Long Does it Take to Get Federal Student Loans?

How long does it take to get a student loan from the federal government? The average time to receive your funds can vary significantly based on several factors, primarily when you fill out your FAFSA application. The process generally takes several weeks to a few months, depending on how many applications they receive. Here is a general list of steps to be completed to receive your funds:

  • Create an FSA ID: The Federal Student Aid (FSA) is your electronic signature for the FAFSA and other federal student aid documents. To create your FSA ID, visit
  • Gather necessary information: You will need your Social Security Number, full name, date of birth, tax information, and other details about your family’s financial situation.
  • Complete and submit the FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the application for federal student aid and will determine your qualifications for federal student loans.
  • Receive and review your Student Aid Report (SAR): After processing your FAFSA, the government will send you your SAR. Review for accuracy and make any necessary corrections.
  • Review financial aid offers: Colleges and universities you have applied to will send you financial aid offers once your FAFSA has been processed.
  • Accept or decline federal student loans: If you choose to accept the loans, you will follow the instructions provided by the school. 
  • Complete entrance counseling: If you are a first-time borrower of federal student loans, you must complete entrance counseling to learn about your rights and responsibilities as a borrower. 
  • Sign the Master Promissory Note (MPN): The MPN is a legal document in which you promise to repay your federal student loan. 

How Long Does It Take to Get a Private Student Loan?

Like federal loans, the typical timeline can vary. This is because each lender has its process, and each applicant must navigate it uniquely. Generally, most applications take a few days to several weeks or months. Here is a general list of steps to complete when working with Ascent to receive your funds:

  • Determine loan amount – Calculate the amount you need to borrow, including tuition, fees, living expenses, and other educational expenses. Remember that private loans can cover up to 100% of the total cost of attendance, minus other aid received.
  • Check your eligibility – Every lender has eligibility requirements for borrowers, but most consider credit history, income, enrollment status, and similar factors.
  • Gather necessary information – The exact information required will vary but will likely include personal, academic, and financial information.
  • Apply for the loan – Most loan applications can be completed online or at a lender’s office. 
  • Pass the credit check – Most lenders require a credit check to determine your creditworthiness. With Ascent, you can check your rate in under 3 minutes without impacting your credit score. 
  • Find a cosigner if necessary – If you lack sufficient credit history or do not meet the eligibility requirements of the loan, you may need a cosigner. (Even if you qualify without a cosigner, applying with one may qualify you for a lower rate or better terms).
  • Get the loan approved – The lender will review your application after it’s submitted.
  • Review and accept loan terms – If you are conditionally approved, you must carefully review all the loan terms, including interest rate, fees, and repayment terms. Then, you must decide whether to accept the loan offer.
  • Complete school certification – Once you accept the loan offer, the school’s financial aid office may need to certify the loan amount by confirming your enrollment status and ensuring the loan amount adheres to the school’s cost of attendance.
  • Finalize the loan – Complete any additional requirements the lender demands, such as signing the loan or providing additional documentation.

Once your loan is finalized, review your loan terms and conditions to determine when the payment will be issued to your school. For example, Ascent’s student loans are distributed to schools on the second Wednesday after the program starts.

How to Monitor Your Student Loan Status

For a federal student loan, you must first access your personal FSA account to monitor your federal student loans. From there, you can view loan details and identify the loan servicer for each loan. You can also create an account on using our FSA ID to access your federal student aid information and manage your loans. There is also a Federal Student Aid Mobile App that can help monitor your federal loan status.

The process of monitoring your private student loans will vary significantly from lender to lender. The best way to begin is to contact your lender directly. Check your loan agreement or the lender’s website for contact information. Many lenders have an online portal where you can log in to view your account, while some (including Ascent) may offer a mobile app for added convenience.

If you have specific questions or concerns about your student loan, contact your lender’s customer service department or the phone number on your monthly statement.

If you’d like to contact your dedicated Ascent college student loan specialist, contact us at 877-216-0876 or [email protected].

Private Student Loans vs. Federal Student Loans: What’s Right for Me?

Choosing what type of loan is right for you is entirely determined by your unique needs and circumstances. Some students will find that federal loans alone will meet their needs, but most will find they will need additional funding sources. Similarly, the amount of aid available to students will dramatically differ based on needs.

The only way to know for sure whether federal, private, or both student loans are the right choice for you is to complete the application process and compare your options. Whatever option you choose, you must begin the process as soon as possible to give yourself the most time and options.

For more information about student loans, visit our Student Loans 101 page or learn how to get a student loan.

Learn More with Ascent

Prioritizing your student financial aid and ensuring it is all in place before you start your college education is crucial to your success with the loan process. That means you should start the student loan application process as soon as possible. Luckily, you can start the process today.

Ascent offers a variety of undergraduate student loans and graduate student loans to help you achieve your financial goals and academic dreams. With cosigned student loans and no cosigner student loans, you can find a loan type that best fits your unique needs.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Student Loan FAQs

How Long Do Student Loans Take to Process?

The time it takes to process a student loan varies significantly by the lender and the school. While some loans may be processed in as little as a few days, others may take several months.

Are Student Loans Given to You Immediately?

Most student loans are paid out after some time and will be disbursed directly to the school shortly before the start of the school year.

Why Hasn’t My Student Loan Been Disbursed?

The only way to find out why your student loan hasn’t been disbursed is to contact your lender and speak with one of their representatives. Some common reasons why a lender would not have disbursed a student loan include incomplete loan requirements, enrollment status, school certification delays, incomplete verification process, incomplete loan acceptance, or the loan not yet scheduled to be disbursed.

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