Each has its pros and cons, and only you can judge what's best for you.
If you want to significantly lower your monthly payments, you often can do so by extending your repayment period well past the 10-year term typical for federal student loans.
Doing so, however, means you will pay more in interest in the long run since you will be making payments over a greater length of time.
In terms of providing immediate payment relief, however, "loan consolidation can be a really good debt management tool," said Martha Holler, a senior director at Sallie Mae.
That's because with consolidated federal loans, "there is no prepayment penalty," Holler said.
Direct Loans from the government may be consolidated through a federally approved private lender or the Department of Education.
That's because doing so today means you may be given the higher rates currently in effect.
Some consolidators, however, such as Collegiate Funding Services and Sallie Mae, will allow you to apply for consolidation now and have it take effect on July 1 or any other date you specify.
Still, that doesn't necessarily mean everyone needs to rush out and have their consolidation in place come July.
Sallie Mae reserves the right to approve a lower loan amount than what the school has certified.