Putting the pieces together for lower payments.
Federal student loan consolidation doesn’t require professional assistance to be successful. Just like you see with other financial processes, such as credit repair, there is nothing that a professional student loan consolidation service does that you can’t do on your own.
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Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy – there’s a reason most people opt for paying a professional instead of doing it on their own. There’s a lot of paperwork and the process can be a bit complicated to navigate. But with time and patience, you can consolidate successfully on your own.
The information below can help you understand what to do for DIY student loan consolidation. If you get started and find yourself stuck, or you just have questions that could use a professional perspective, call us or complete the form to the right. We’ll put you in touch with the right experts to help you consolidate effectively.
Walking step-by-step through DIY consolidation
Here’s exactly what you’ll need to do to consolidate federal student loans on your own. Keep in mind that the loan consolidation programs described below only apply to federal student loans. If you have private loans, you will need to contact the lender directly to work out a repayment plan that works for your budget.
Fact: The consolidation program described below works for subsidized or unsubsidized loans.
- Choose the delivery method you want to use.
- To submit your application online, use the Direct Consolidation Loan Application you can find through studentaid.gov.
- To fill out a hardcopy and mail it in, download the Direct Consolidation Loan Application and Promissory Note PDF and mail it in following the instructions you can find here.
- Read through all of the paperwork
- Be prepared for a lot of fine print and disclosures.
- Read all terms and conditions carefully to make sure you understand what you’re really signing up for.
- Choose a loan servicer from the approved list.
- If you are applying for Student Loan Forgiveness, you must choose FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA)
- If you are just applying for consolidation without a forgiveness program, you can choose any servicer from the approved list on studentaid.gov.
- Note that if you apply online, you will be assigned a servicer. Their contact information will be provided at the end of your application process once you submit your request.
- Select your repayment plan.
- Choose which of the five programs you wish to apply for. These include:
- A standard repayment plan
- A graduated repayment plan
- Income-based repayment plan*
- Income-contingent repayment plan*
- Pay as You Earn repayment plan* †
- Fill out the Repayment Plan Request form to choose the plan you want to use.
- Review your application, sign it, and submit.
- Make sure all of the loans you want to include are detailed on your application.
- If you are submitting a hardcopy by mail and you need more space, download the Additional Loan Listing Sheet to include more loans.
* Note: You must be enrolled in one of these three repayment plans if you want to use a Student Loan Forgiveness program.
† This program cannot be used by parents holding PLUS loans. Parents and cosigners can use other programs, but not this one.
Avoiding application pitfalls
The following tips can help you avoid getting stuck as you try to navigate the process on your own:
- You will need your Federal Student Aid PIN to complete the process, regardless of which submission method you use. So find your PIN first before you get into the application process.
- If you apply for any hardship-based program (IBR, ICR, Pay as You Earn) you will have to prove at least partial financial hardship to qualify. This means your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) can be no more than 150% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) in your state.
- The easiest way to find your AGI is to refer to your Federal Income Tax Return
- If you are married and file jointly, your AGI must include your spouse’s income, too.
- You will be asked to provide the total number of members in your household. This family size may be different than the number of exemptions you claim on your tax return.
- If you don’t have an income tax return, you must provide documentation of all taxable income; this does not include things like Supplemental Social Security or child support payments.
- If you forget a loan or accidentally leave one off, you have 180 days from the date your consolidation loan was created to add loans to your application. Use the Request to Add Loan forms to do so.
- If you have questions, call the StudentAid.gov helpline at 1-800-557-7392.
- Don’t wait for the servicer to contact you. Use the contact information you received for the servicer to contact them and make sure your application was received and is being processed.
And of course, if you hit a roadblock or don’t feel comfortable completing all of the paperwork on your own, there are plenty of reputable service providers who can help get your loans consolidated for a nominal fee. Just make sure to use a provider who doesn’t charge you anything until your loans are consolidated or one that offers a money-back guarantee in case something goes wrong. That way you’re not out money trying to get the help you need.