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Student Loans

Custom Choice by Cognition Financial Student Loans Review

4.3 /5
LendEDU Rating
Private Student Loans
  • 2% principal reduction with proof of graduation
  • Choose your repayment term
  • Undergraduates have higher approval odds for future years with a cosigner
  • No fees, including late or prepayment
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit score
  • Must make 36 on-time payments to release your cosigner
Rates (APR)4.43%15.56%
Loan amounts$1,000 – $99,999
Repayment terms7, 10, or 15 years

Custom Choice is a financial service from Cognition Financial and Citizens Bank that offers private student loans with a few unique benefits traditional lenders don’t offer.

In this review, we’ll explain why its graduation reward, repayment support programs, and convenient automatic income and employment verification help it stand out.

Our take on Custom Choice private student loans

Custom Choice stood out for its graduation reward, which reduces the principal balance for all student loans by 2% upon receipt of proof of graduation. This is an excellent reward for earning your degree that reduces the total cost of your loan.

If your principal balance were $20,000 when you graduated, you’d have that reduced by $400 thanks to this reward.

Rates, borrowing limits, and fees

Custom Choice’s private student loans have rates and borrowing limits that mostly align with other lenders.

Fixed rates (APR)4.43%14.04%
Variable rates (APR)5.38%15.56%
Rate discounts0.25% for automatic payments
Loan amounts$1,000 – $99,999 per year

Who’s eligible for a Custom Choice private student loan?

You must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident alien, or eligible non-citizen (DACA resident) with an eligible cosigner to be approved for a Custom Choice student loan.

According to Custom Choice, borrowers with a cosigner are four times more likely to be approved due to the credit and income requirements.

CitizenshipU.S. citizen, permanent resident alien, or eligible non-citizen (DACA resident)
State of residenceAll 50 states and D.C.
Minimum ageLegal age of majority
Enrolled schoolTitle IV participating 4-year public or private not-for-profit institution
Enrollment statusMay be enrolled full-time, half-time, or part-time
Minimum credit scoreNot disclosed
Minimum incomeNot disclosed

How do you repay private student loans from Custom Choice?

The borrower customizes student loans from Custom Choice, so you can choose the type of interest rate, repayment term, and repayment plan. So, the repayment details will vary by borrower, but here’s a view of the available terms.

Repayment terms7, 10, or 15 years
Grace period6 months
Repayment plansIn-school (full, interest-only, $25 flat) or deferred
Cosigner releaseAfter 36 consecutive on-time full monthly payments
Support programsNo fees for missed payments if affected by job loss or a natural disaster

When you start repaying a student loan from Custom Choice depends on which in-school repayment plan you select.

Repayment planDescription
DeferredNo payments required while in school
FlatPay a flat $25 each month while in school
Interest onlyPay only the accrued interest each month while in school
FullBegin full repayments while still in school

Your selection can affect the overall cost of your loan. You’ll owe more if you defer payments while in school because interest will accrue and capitalize, meaning it’s added to your outstanding balance.

Here’s what your monthly in-school payments might look like for a $10,000 student loan at 6% APR, depending on which plan you select. 

Repayment planMonthly in-school payment
Interest only$50

*Calculated based on a standard 10-year repayment plan

After leaving school, you’ll get a six-month grace period before full principal and interest repayment starts unless you elected to make full payments while in school.

How can Custom Choice improve its student loans?

While the Custom Choice student loan is a solid option for borrowers, there are two main areas in which it could improve.

  1. Limited repayment terms: It only offers three terms (seven, 10, or 15 years) while others like College Ave (five, eight, 10, or 15 years) and Ascent (five, seven, 10, 12, or 15 years) offer more.
  2. Requires more payments than most before cosigners can be released: Borrowers must make 36 full consecutive on-time monthly payments before a cosigner can be released from a loan. Sallie Mae can release cosigners after just 12 consecutive payments.

Is Custom Choice a reputable lender?

As of April 2024, neither Custom Choice nor Cognition Financial have any reviews or ratings on BBB, Google, or Trustpilot. This makes it tricky to gauge their reputations from customer feedback. 

Does Custom Choice have a customer service team?

Custom Choice doesn’t service its loans in-house. Firstmark Services handles repayment management and communication. As the loan servicer for Citizens Bank, Firstmark Services is a reputable company specializing in student loan management, offering a strong support structure to borrowers.

If you need to get in touch with the Custom Choice customer service team, you have several options:

  • Phone: You can reach out at 866-232-3889.
  • Email: Send your queries to [email protected]
  • Mail: Contact Cognition Financial, 200 Clarendon Street, 3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02116
  • Website chat: Engage with customer service via the chat function on the Custom Choice website.

The specific hours of operation for the customer service team are not available online.

How to apply for a Custom Choice private student loan

Applying for a Custom Choice student loan is a process that aligns with industry standards. The lender offers an online application that’s efficient and user-friendly, making it quick for prospective borrowers to check rates and begin the application process. 

To apply for a Custom Choice student loan, follow these steps:

  1. Check rates: This initial step takes only a few minutes. Visit the Custom Choice website and input basic information to get an estimate of the loan rates you might qualify for.

Source: Custom Choice

Source: Custom Choice

Source: Custom Choice

Source: Custom Choice

  1. Complete application: If you’re satisfied with the rates, proceed to the full application. Provide your Social Security number, school information, and the desired loan amount. Proof of income may also be necessary.
  2. Include your cosigner (if applicable): If you’re applying with a cosigner, provide their Social Security number, proof of income, and a government-issued ID.
  3. School certification: Once your application is approved, Custom Choice will send it to your school for certification. This step could take several days to a few weeks depending on the school.
  4. Accept the terms and sign the documents: After your school certifies the loan, you’ll accept your loan terms and electronically sign your loan documents.
  5. Wait for disbursement: Following certification and document signing, Custom Choice schedules loan funds to be sent to your school according to its timeline.

Applying for a student loan is a significant decision because it could take many years to repay. Consider all your options and the terms of any loan before proceeding.

What if I’m denied a private student loan from Custom Choice?

Custom Choice, like most lenders, should provide a reason if it denies your loan, giving you a better understanding of any potential issues with your application.

The first step after denial is to address any issues that might have led to the denial. This might involve improving your credit score, finding a cosigner, or considering other lenders. You can reapply with Custom Choice once you address these issues, but it might be wise to consider alternative loan providers.

To help you navigate your options, we’ve compiled resources on the best private student loans, student loans for borrowers without a cosigner, and graduate student loans. Here’s a brief guide to who should consider each:

  • Best private student loans: This resource is useful for all students considering private student loans. It offers a comprehensive review of our highest-rated lenders, helping you find the one that suits your financial needs and credit situation.
  • Best no-cosigner student loans: If you don’t have access to a creditworthy cosigner, this guide can help you find lenders specializing in loans for individuals in your situation.
  • Best graduate student loans: If you’re considering Custom Choice loans for grad school, see why we designated several companies as the best for grad students.

Custom Choice FAQ

Does Custom Choice offer private or federal student loans?

Custom Choice, powered by Cognition Financial, offers private student loans to meet the needs of those pursuing higher education. We recommend considering these loans when federal student loans, scholarships, and grants aren’t sufficient to cover education costs. 

Private loans, though helpful, often come with higher interest rates and fewer protections than federal loans.

Does applying with Custom Choice hurt my credit?

Prequalifying with Custom Choice doesn’t affect your credit because the company carries out a soft credit check when you apply. However, once you accept the loan terms, Custom Choice conducts a hard credit inquiry. 

A hard inquiry can affect your credit score, but it’s a standard part of the loan approval process across most lenders.

Does Custom Choice require a cosigner?

Custom Choice by Cognition Financial doesn’t require a cosigner for its private student loans. However, a cosigner can improve your chances of approval, especially if your credit history is limited. 

A cosigner with strong credit can help you qualify for a lower interest rate, making the loan more affordable over time.

Does Custom Choice allow cosigners to be released?

Yes, Custom Choice provides the option for cosigner release after 36 consecutive months of on-time payments. The primary borrower must demonstrate the ability to manage the loan independently, which includes meeting specific credit requirements.

What can Custom Choice student loans be used for?

Custom Choice student loans are designed to cover education-related expenses. This includes tuition, room and board, books, supplies, and other school-related costs. 

You may not use the funds for noneducational expenses, and it’s essential to use student loans responsibly to avoid accruing unnecessary debt.

How long does it take to receive funds from Custom Choice?

After applying, the time it takes to get funds from Custom Choice by Cognition Financial can vary because each school has its own certification process and timeline. However, it could takes several days to a few weeks from application to the disbursement of funds.

Can Custom Choice student loans be forgiven?

Private student loans such as those from Custom Choice do not offer forgiveness programs. Federal loans have programs including Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), but these options are not available for private loans. Keep this in mind when deciding between federal and private student loans.

How we rated Custom Choice by Cognition Financial student loans

We designed LendEDU’s editorial rating system to help consumers identify companies that offer the best financial products. Our experts spend hours researching these companies each year to ensure our ratings are fresh and accurate.

Our most recent evaluation compared Custom Choice to several lenders across a number of factors, including rates, repayment terms, customer reviews, and benefits. We weighted, scored, and combined these factors to produce a final editorial rating. This rating is expressed on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest possible score. We rounded all ratings to the nearest tenth decimal place.

Loan typeOur rating
Private student loan4.3 out of 5View rates