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Student Loans

Best Small Student Loans

Student loans are necessary for most college students, and the amount you need depends on your circumstances. Some students must borrow hundreds of thousands, while others require much less.

Here’s the good news—small student loans are good for your wallet and future because they mean you have less to pay back after graduation. This article covers how to find the top lenders for small student loans.

What is the minimum student loan amount? 

Most private lenders offer minimum loan amounts of $1,000. Some lenders have higher minimum amounts, but if you only need $1,000, you have plenty of lenders to choose from. Consider your federal loans, part-time income, and savings before deciding how much you need to borrow from a private lender. 

For example, imagine tuition and living expenses cost $20,000 per year. Thanks to your grandparents, you have $10,000 in savings and an additional $7,000 from federal student loans. You plan to work part-time and earn an additional $2,000 throughout the school year. You need $1,000 extra, so a small private student loan might be a great solution. 

4 best small private student loans

Make sure to max out your federal student loans before applying for loans from one of the private lenders listed below. Federal student loans offer superior features, including income-driven repayment plans and eligibility for loan forgiveness programs.

The lenders below offer small private student loans, but eligibility requirements and minimum loan amounts may differ. Make sure you meet these requirements before applying.

LenderRates (APR)Min. loan amount
College Ave4.07% – 16.69%$1,000
Sallie Mae4.05% – 16.70%$1,000
EarnestStarting at 4.11%$1,000
Based on undergraduate student loans

College Ave – Best overall

LendEDU rating: 5 out of 5

  • Minimum loan amount of $1,000
  • Flexible repayment options while in school, including deferment
  • Use funds for any school-related expense 

With a low minimum loan amount, College Ave is a solid pick for small student loans. But if you decide you need a higher amount, you can borrow up to 100% of the cost of attendance. 

The lender offers competitive interest rates and different repayment terms—five, eight, 10 and 15 years. Repayment might seem like a long time away, but having options, especially a shorter term, like five years, is helpful. Borrowers can start making payments during school or defer the loan until after graduation. 

Sallie Mae – Best for cosigners

LendEDU rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Minimum loan amount of $1,000
  • Quick cosigner release after 12 consecutive on-time payments
  • No origination fees or prepayment penalties 

Sallie Mae is a reputable lender offering one of the lowest loan amounts of $1,000. If you need additional funds, you can borrow up to the total cost of attendance minus other financial aid. However, repayment terms are longer than other lenders, and the shortest option is ten years. 

As an extra perk, borrowers can secure a lower interest rate by selecting an in-school repayment plan and making small payments during school. You can also choose to defer payments until after graduation. 

Earnest – Best for no fees

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Minimum loan amount of $1,000
  • Skip one payment each year
  • No cosigner release

Like other lenders on this list, Earnest offers a minimum loan amount of $1,000 and a maximum of 100% of the cost of attendance. The lender also has similar repayment options while you’re in school—interest-only, flat payment of $25, or deferment. 

Earnest stands out from other lenders with an extended grace period after graduation. While most lenders—including the federal government—offer a six-month grace period, Earnest offers nine months. Borrowers can also skip one payment each year without penalty. Those small perks can make a big difference as a recent graduate. 

Ascent – Best for eligibility

LendEDU rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Minimum loan amount of $2,001
  • 1% cash back after graduation
  • Check rates without impacting credit score

Ascent’s minimum loan amount is higher than other lenders on this list, at $2,001. But it’s still low enough that it’s a great option for a small student loan. 

Borrowers can choose between five repayment terms, which adds extra flexibility. Plus, if you experience financial difficulty, you can enter forbearance for up to 24 months.

The company differs from other lenders because it offers cosigner and no-cosigner student loans. Some private student loan companies require a cosigner because students might not have enough income or credit history. 

Ascent recognizes that some students don’t have adults who are eligible or willing to be cosigners and offers no-cosigner loans.

How to take out a small student loan

The application process for a small student loan is quick and only takes a few minutes. But there are steps to complete before that. To save money, utilize federal student loans and free funding options before applying for a private student loan. Here’s how.

  1. Complete the FAFSA: Federal student loans typically offer more competitive rates and repayment terms than private loans, so reviewing federal aid offers first is smart. Complete the FAFSA to qualify for federal financial aid, including student loans, grants, and work-study. Students who complete the FAFSA can receive unsubsidized federal student loans even if they don’t qualify for other aid
  2. Take out federal loans: After completing the FAFSA, you will receive an offer for financial aid. Review the offer and determine which federal student loans you want to accept. You might also receive an offer for work study, which guarantees a part-time job on campus to help pay for the cost of college.  
  3. Apply for free financial aid: Free aid like grants and scholarships can help pay for college. Most colleges offer internal scholarships for students who attend. External scholarships are also available, and they are open to everyone. Apply for as many as possible to increase your chances. 
  4. Consider income and savings: If you have savings or plan to work during school, consider whether you want to use the funds to pay for college. Savings and part-time income can help reduce your total loan amount, which might be a goal for some students. 
  5. Apply for private student loans: Once you’ve exhausted cheaper funding options, it’s time to apply for a private student loan. Select a lender and determine whether you want to apply alone or with a cosigner. After that, completing the application process takes a few minutes. The lender will run a credit check to determine your eligibility. Once complete, you can review the offer and select a loan amount and repayment term. 

How you can use small student loans

You can use small student loans to cover fees for studying abroad, the cost of a new laptop, textbooks, and more. But here’s the deal—attending college can be expensive, so make sure you only use student loans for tuition, bills, and other necessary expenses.

Remember, the more money you borrow, the more you’ll have to pay back—with interest—after graduation. Take this into account when calculating how much to borrow.

What happens if you borrow more than you need?

Suppose you take out a larger federal student loan balance than necessary. You can return that money to the financial aid department or loan servicer within 120 days of disbursal. Contact the financial aid department at your school to determine your next steps.

If you borrow more private loans than you need, there’s no easy way to return the money. Start by contacting the lender and asking whether you can refund the money.

If you can’t return it, immediately apply the money to your student loan balance. The sooner you apply the extra funds, the less interest will accrue. Go online and make a lump-sum payment. If you have multiple private student loans, use the extra money for the loan with the highest interest rate.

Another option is to keep the funds in a savings account for next semester’s expenses, which will allow you to take out fewer loans in the future.


Where can I get a $1,000 student loan?

You can get a $1,000 student loan from private lenders, including Sallie Mae, College Ave, and Earnest. Many lenders offer $1,000 as the minimum loan amount, so you have options. 

Consider whether you need a cosigner and then apply with the lender that offers the best rates and repayment terms. 

Where can I get a $2,000 student loan?

You can get a $2,000 student loan from any private lender with a minimum loan that’s less than that amount, including Sallie Mae, College Ave, and Earnest. Some lenders, like Ascent, have a minimum loan amount of $2,001 and might still be worth considering if you need a $2,000 loan. 

What is the minimum federal student loan amount?

The minimum federal student loan amount is under $1,000 since it’s based on financial need. The Department of Education lists the maximum federal loan amounts, which are between $5,500 and $7,500 per year, depending on your year in school.