Consolidation Loans are loans that you or your parents can get to combine multiple loan packages you have received into a single package. This can be particularly useful when interest rates have dropped since you first got your loan, as getting a new loan may well provide you with a lower interest rate. You can pursue a Consolidation Loan at any time that you have begun repayment, or entered into a "grace period" (a period of time after you graduate prior to when you need to start loan repayments).
The interest rate on a Consolidation Loan is variable in nature, but will not exceed 8.25 percent. Consolidation Loans can have a repayment period of 10 to 30 years. You can complete repayment early. Note that if you choose a loner repayment period the the total cost of the loan is likley to exceed the cost of the original loans as the longer payment period results in more total interest. Many people try to keep the payment period shorter for that reason.
All loans covered in the financial aid articles on this site are eligible for a Consolidation Loan. If you have received a FFEL Loan, contact your lender to pursue a FFEL Consolidation Loan. For Direct Consolidation Loans, contact the Loan Origination Center's Consolidation Department at (800) 557-7392 or visit: http://www.loanconsolidation.ed.gov.
Source: The Student Guide, published by the US Department of Education. Note that federal financial aid programs are subject to change. Check with the school(s) of your choice to get the very latest information.