Being a student in a higher educational institution is a rich and rewarding experience. It is also a privileged one: only a small percentage of the world’s population has the opportunity to go to college or graduate school.With that privilege comes responsibility. Part of the responsibility that comes with higher education is that of paying for the education itself. Some lucky students enter college, study for a few years, and then graduate without ever having to pay a dime of their own money or take out a loan. However, for the majority of students, attending college requires taking out one or more student loans.The responsibility for making student loan payments begins not long after graduation, when the grace period ends. Student loan payments can be a heavy burden, especially for recent grads who have not yet had the chance to get a high-paying job but who still must keep a roof over their heads and pay for food. It can make money very tight.For graduates who hold multiple student loans, loan consolidation can significantly reduce the amount of their monthly payments. How does it work? It’s pretty simple: by consolidating their loans, students can stretch out their payments over more years than their current loans allow.For example, their current loans may have repayment schedules of 5 or 10 years, whereas with consolidation they can stretch out their payments over 30 years. Doing so will definitely bring down the monthly payments they have to make.Federal Versus Private Loan ConsolidationIf you are interested in consolidating your loans, you will need to first determine whether you should apply for federal or private consolidation. Put simply: if your existing student loans are federal loans, you should apply for federal consolidation. Otherwise, private consolidation is what you need to pursue.If you are wanting a federal consolidation student loan, here are 5 tips that can help:1. Decide Whether To Consolidate:First, decide whether it makes sense to consolidate at all. For example, if you are more than half-way through repayment of your existing loans and are able to make monthly payments, consolidation may not make sense.2. Take An Account Of Your Existing Loans:If you believe consolidation is the right path for you, start by taking stock of where you are now. Write down all of your student loan balances and interest rates. This is important because the interest rate for your new federal loan will be a fixed rate and it will be calculated by taking the weighted average of the rates of your existing loans.3. Determine Whether You Qualify For A Federal Consolidation Loan:Check out the U.S. Department of Education website to find out which federal student loans qualify for consolidation.4. Figure Out The Repayment Period You Want:Since your interest rate will be determined for you based upon your existing loans, the most important strategic decision you can make in the consolidation process is that of choosing the right repayment schedule (e.g., 10 years, 20 years, etc.) for you. In general, your rule of thumb should be to choose the shortest possible repayment period while still leaving you with manageable monthly payments.5. Fill Out An Application:Finally, fill out the federal student consolidation loan application and start on the road to approval.Federal consolidation student loans are a snap if you take the right steps. The end result could be a very significant reduction in your monthly loan payments.