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Personal Loans

Personal Loans for Students

If you’ve exhausted your federal and private student loans and still need money, you may need another financial product. A personal loan is one potential solution, and a significant advantage is that you can get fast funds.

Many lenders don’t allow you to use personal loans for education expenses, but you can use them for medical expenses, food, and other costs.

We’ve compiled a list of our top personal loans for students below, and we also cover the pros and cons, as well as alternative options.

In this guide:

Reviews of personal loans for students

A personal loan is a lump-sum installment loan you can get from many financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Once you receive funds, you must repay the loan in monthly installments.

You can use a personal loan for almost any purpose—but specific lenders don’t allow you to use funds for postsecondary education expenses.

As a college student, you may have trouble qualifying for a personal loan, especially if you have little to no credit—i.e., a thin credit profile—and no income. However, some lenders may allow you to apply for a personal loan with a cosigner who agrees to pay the loan if you can’t.

Best for small loans: Kora

Best for small loans

  • Innovative fintech platform for students
  • Application is online and user-friendly, with a quick prequalification process and instant decision
  • Offers valuable financial education resources and tools to empower students

Kora is the only lender on our list that offers loans just to college students. It could be a solid solution if you need to borrow a small amount for up to 12 months. Kora gives loans as small as $25, but you can borrow up to $3,000.

You can use funds to pay for almost anything, according to Kora’s website. Kora allows you to repay the loan in bimonthly or monthly installments.

Kora is available in the following states: 

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Here are several key terms to help you compare options:

  • Rates (APR): Up to 36%
  • Loan amounts: $25 – $3,000
  • Repayment terms: Up to 12 months
  • Credit score category: Not disclosed 
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes 
  • Deposit time: As fast as the next day
  • Origination fee: Not disclosed 
  • Late fee: $15 or 5% of the loan amount, whichever is less

Best for fair credit: Upgrade

Editorial rating: 4.9 out of 5

  • Free credit monitoring and educational resources to help students understand and improve their credit score
  • Apply for a loan online in minutes, and get a decision within seconds
  • No prepayment penalty

Upgrade could be a suitable option if you’re a student with poor or fair credit. Its minimum credit score requirement is just 560. You can choose from various repayment terms between two and seven years.

However, you’ll need to explore other options if you want to use a personal loan for postsecondary education expenses, such as school supplies or room and board.

  • Rates (APR): 8.49%35.97%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – $50,000
  • Repayment terms: 24 – 84 months
  • Credit score category: Fair, bad
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes
  • Deposit time: As fast as the next day
  • Origination fee: 1.85% – 9.99%
  • Late fee: $10

Best for thin credit: Upstart

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Unique underwriting approach considers academic history in addition to credit score and income
  • Provides resources for financial education, including articles and webinars, to improve financial literacy
  • No prepayment penalty

Upstart’s minimum credit score requirement is just 300—the lowest score possible—for applicants with credit scores, it’s a solid option for borrowers with minimal or no credit histories. When you apply, Upstart considers factors beyond your credit, such as your college major and the school you attend.

You can choose college or graduate school as a loan purpose while filling out Upstart’s prequalification application. You can receive funds as fast as the next business day if approved.

  • Rates (APR): 6.7% – 35.99%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – $50,000
  • Repayment terms: 36 or 60 months
  • Credit score category: Minimal or no credit history
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes
  • Deposit time: As soon as the next business day
  • Origination fee: 0% to 10%
  • Late fee: $15 or 5% of the loan amount, whichever is greater

Best for changing payment date: LendingPoint

Editorial rating: 4.9 out of 5

  • Proprietary underwriting algorithm considers credit score, income, and other factors to create a customized loan offer
  • Offers a credit education program to help students improve their credit score
  • No prepayment penalties

LendingPoint might be a solid choice if you’re a student with fair or poor credit. According to a customer service representative, the lender’s minimum credit score requirement is just 580. You can use the funds for any legal purpose—including education expenses.

A LendingPoint rep we contacted advised you can request a permanent due date change once per year after your first billing date. And as of this writing, the lender doesn’t charge late fees.

  • Rates (APR): 7.99%35.99%
  • Loan amounts: $2,000 – $36,500
  • Repayment terms: 24 – 72 months
  • Credit score category: Fair, bad
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes
  • Deposit time: As fast as the next business day
  • Origination fee: 0% – 8%
  • Late fee: No

Best for good credit: SoFi

Editorial rating: 5 out of 5

  • No fees required
  • Offers career services to help students improve earning potential and advance their careers.
  • Membership benefits include discounts on additional SoFi products and services, invitations to exclusive events, and access to financial planning tools and resources

SoFi might be a decent fit if you’re a student with good to excellent credit. This lender offers competitive rates and there are no fees required. If you qualify, you can have funds deposited in your account as soon as the same business day.

You can use a SoFi loan for many purposes, such as emergencies or moving expenses. But you can’t use it to pay for postsecondary education expenses.

  • Rates (APR): 8.99% – 23.43%
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 – $100,000
  • Credit score category: Good, excellent
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes
  • Deposit time: As fast as the same business day
  • Origination fee: 0% to 6%
  • Late fee: No
  • Repayment terms: 24 – 84 months

Pros and cons of personal loans for students 

Before taking out a personal loan as a college student, consider the potential advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

  • Quick funding times

    Once approved, some lenders can deposit funds into your account as soon as the same business day.

  • No collateral required

    Most personal loans don’t require you to attach collateral—an asset such as a bank account or investment account a lender can take if you fail to repay the loan.

  • Flexibility

    You can use a personal loan for many purposes, such as emergencies or medical expenses.

Cons

  • Potentially high rates

    Some lenders have maximum rates of 36%.

  • Eligibility requirements

    You often need good credit and a steady income to qualify for the best personal loans, both of which many students lack.

  • Fees

    Some lenders charge fees, such as origination and application fees, that can add to your borrowing costs.

Does taking out a personal loan as a student make sense?

Whether taking out a personal loan as a student is a wise move depends on your unique financial circumstances. It could be a good idea if:

  • You’ve explored all your financing options.
  • You can afford to repay the loan.
  • You can qualify for a favorable interest rate.

If you can’t afford to repay your loan, exploring other options is best. Defaulting on the loan can cause significant damage to your credit.

Alternatives to personal loans for students

If you don’t believe it makes sense to take out a personal loan, consider alternatives, such as:

  • Emergency grants. Some organizations provide emergency grants to students who can prove financial hardship. For instance, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) offers emergency grants for homelessness, food insecurity, and natural disasters.
  • Federal student loans. After you’ve exhausted scholarship and grant options, we recommend filling in any funding gaps with federal student loans. These loans come with several federal benefits, such as access to income-driven repayment (IDR) plans and student loan forgiveness programs.
  • Private student loans. Once you’ve exhausted your federal student loan options, consider filling in additional funding gaps with private student loans.
  • Credit cards. Using a student credit card could make sense, especially if you want to establish a credit history by making on-time payments. If you decide to get one, do your best to pay off your balance in full each month to avoid interest payments.

FAQ

What is the difference between a student loan and a personal loan?

The following table breaks down the differences between personal and student loans.

Personal loansStudent loans
Typical repayment terms1 – 7 years5 – 20 years
Annual percentage rateOften higher than student loan ratesOften lower than personal loan rates
Loan purposeAlmost any purposeEducation-related expenses
Requires credit checkYes, in most casesMost federal loans don’t require a credit check. (Private student loans do.)
Access to income-driven repayment (IDR) plansNoFederal student loans include access to IDR plans

What is the best personal loan for students?

It depends on your unique borrowing needs and financial situation. To find the best personal loan for you, compare eligibility requirements, terms, fees, and rates from as many lenders as possible.

What are the best personal loans for students with bad credit?

If you have bad credit, applying with a lender that considers factors outside your credit score or has a low minimum credit score requirement is wise. 

For example, Upstart has a minimum credit score requirement of 560 and considers nontraditional factors when you apply, such as the school you attended and your field of study.

What are the best personal loans for college students for living expenses?

The best personal loan to cover living expenses is one that matches your unique needs and offers your desired repayment terms.

Specific lenders won’t allow you to use funds for postsecondary living expenses such as room and board. Still, according to a lender we contacted, they may allow you to use them for other living expenses, including groceries and clothing.

Are there personal loans for students with no income?

Most lenders will require proof of income when you apply for a personal loan. However, lenders such as Upstart may approve if you provide evidence of a full-time job offer.

Are there personal loans for international students?

Many U.S. lenders require borrowers to be U.S. citizens to qualify for a loan, but some will allow international students to qualify. For example, if you’re an international student with a .edu email address, you may qualify for Kora.