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Student Loans

Best Private Student Loans

If you’ve exhausted all your scholarship, grant, work-study, and federal student loan options and still need money for school, private student loans can be a good option. In the table below, you’ll find the best private student loans based on hours of research into rates, repayment terms, unique benefits, borrower reviews, and more.

Company
Best for…
Rating (0-5)
Best overall
5.0
Best for cosigners
4.8
Best for large loans
4.7
Best for member benefits
4.7
Best marketplace
4.6
Best student loan advisors
4.5

Since most private student loan lenders require good credit, we recommend adding a creditworthy cosigner to your application to improve your chances of approval. A cosigner can also help you receive a lower interest rate, which will reduce the overall cost of your loan.

Reviews of the 6 best private student loans

Best of Badge

Check out the reviews below for an in-depth explanation of why we selected each lender as one of the best private student loans.

College Ave

Best Overall

5.0 /5
LendEDU Rating

Why College Ave is one of the best

College Ave is an online student loan lender based in Wilmington, Delaware. Its sole focus is making a college degree more attainable by helping students and parents afford the rising cost of higher education.

Its Multi-Year Peace of Mind™ program has resulted in 90% of undergraduate borrowers being approved for additional loans for future years with a cosigner.

College Ave lets you select your repayment term and explains how the term and plan you choose will impact your loan’s long-term cost.

  • Borrow up to 100% of certified costs
  • Choose your repayment terms
  • Students enrolled less than half-time are eligible
  • Multi-Year Peace of Mind™ increases your approval odds for future loans
  • Ability to apply for an additional 6-month grace period
  • Cosigners can’t be released until halfway through the repayment term
Rates (APR)5.59%16.99%
Loan amounts$1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms5, 8, 10, or 15 years
Eligibility requirements

College Ave student loans are available to undergraduates, graduates, parents, and for career training. According to the lender, 98% of all undergraduate loans are cosigned. By adding a cosigner, you can improve your chances of meeting the following eligibility requirements:

Financial requirements

  • Minimum credit score: Not disclosed
  • Minimum income: $35,000 per year
  • Approval after prior bankruptcy: No

Educational requirements

  • School eligibility: Must be enrolled in a degree-granting program at an eligible school
  • Enrolled half-time or more: Yes

Other requirements

  • Citizenship: U.S. citizen or permanent resident or international students with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • State: Available in all 50 states
Repayment details

College Ave allows you to choose your repayment term (between 5, 8, 10, or 15 years) and select amongst four in-school repayment options.

In-school repayment options

  • Full: Pay principal and interest
  • Interest-only: Pay interest every month
  • Fixed: Pay $25 every month
  • Deferred: No payment

Post-school repayment options

  • Repayment terms: 5, 8, 10, or 15 years
  • Grace period: 6 months for undergraduates & 9 months for graduate students
  • Grace period extension: Apply for an additional 6 months
  • Deferment options: In-school & military
  • Forbearance: Up to 12 months, in increments of 3 or 6 months

Other repayment options

  • Cosigner release: Yes, after finishing more than half of the scheduled repayment period and meeting additional criteria
  • Death discharge: Yes
  • Disability discharge: Yes

Sallie Mae

Best for Cosigners

4.8 /5
LendEDU Rating

Why Sallie Mae is one of the best

Sallie Mae, the most widely known student loan lender, is based in Newark, Delaware. It was founded as a government entity servicing federal education loans. Then, between 1997 and 2004, Sallie Mae transitioned into a fully privatized bank, now controlling the largest share of the private student loan market.

Sallie Mae has a short cosigner release period on its student loans. Graduated students can release their cosigner after 12 on-time principal and interest payments.

Other benefits include its Multi-Year Advantage program and no origination or application fees. With Multi-Year Advantage, 96% of undergraduate students with a cosigner were approved again when they returned with a cosigner the following year.

  • Borrow up to 100% of certified costs
  • Choose your repayment terms
  • Students enrolled less than half-time are eligible
  • Multi-Year Peace of Mind™ increases your approval odds for future loans
  • Cosigners can be released faster than most other lenders
  • Borrowers receive free credit score tracking
  • Doesn’t offer prequalification with a soft credit check
  • Can’t choose to make full payments while enrolled in school
Rates (APR)5.59% – 16.99%
Loan amounts$1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms10 – 15 years
Eligibility requirements

Sallie Mae student loans are available to undergraduates, graduates, parents, and for career training. According to the lender, students are nearly four times more likely to be approved when a cosigner is added to the application. Here are some of the eligibility requirements for a Sallie Mae student loan:

Financial requirements

  • Minimum credit score: Not disclosed
  • Minimum income: Not disclosed
  • Approval after prior bankruptcy: Yes, with no open bankruptcy

Educational requirements

  • School eligibility: Must be enrolled in a degree-granting program at an eligible school
  • Enrolled half-time or more: Yes

Other requirements

  • Citizenship: U.S. citizen or permanent resident or non-U.S. citizen with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • State: Available in all 50 states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico
Repayment details

Sallie Mae offers a wide range of repayment terms that can be anywhere between 10 and 15 years. Borrowers also have access to several deferment options, allowing payments to be paused under certain conditions.

In-school repayment options

  • Interest-only: Pay interest every month
  • Fixed: Pay $25 every month
  • Deferred: No payment

Post-school repayment options

  • Repayment terms: 10 – 15 years
  • Grace period: 6 months
  • Deferment options: In-school, military, internship, residency, and fellowship
  • Forbearance: Up to 12 months, in increments of 3 months

Other repayment options

  • Cosigner release: Yes, after 12 consecutive on-time payments
  • Death discharge: Yes
  • Disability discharge: Yes

Earnest

Best for Large Loans

4.7 /5
LendEDU Rating

Why Earnest is one of the best

Earnest is an online lender based out of San Francisco, California. Its loans can be used by undergraduates, graduates, and parents.

One of the main benefits of taking out a loan with Earnest is that there are no fees. Many lenders market their student loans as having no application fees, but this only refers to origination and application fees. With Earnest, you won’t be charged any fees to apply, plus you won’t be charged for paying off your loan early or any late payments.

Its loans can cover the total cost of your education and have several repayment benefits, such as the ability to skip one payment per year, no late payment fees, and a 9-month grace period.

  • No late payment, disbursement, or origination fees
  • Skip one payment per year if needed
  • Choose your repayment terms
  • 50% longer grace period than most lenders
  • Check your rate in 2 minutes without impacting your credit score
  • Cosigners can’t be released from the loan
  • Must be enrolled at least half-time
Rates (APR)5.59%16.99%
Loan amounts$1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years
Eligibility requirements

Earnest student loans are available to undergraduates, graduates, and parents. According to the lender, two-thirds of its borrowers have a cosigner, and students are four times more likely to get approved when applying with a cosigner. Here are some of the eligibility requirements for an Earnest student loan:

Financial requirements

  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Minimum income: $35,000 per year
  • Approval after prior bankruptcy: No

Educational requirements

  • School eligibility: Must be enrolled in a degree-granting program at an eligible school
  • Enrolled half-time or more: Yes

Other requirements

  • Citizenship: U.S. citizen or permanent resident or non-U.S. citizen with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • State: All states other than Nevada, plus Washington D.C.
Repayment details

Earnest offers several repayment terms of 5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years. With a longer than average grace period, borrowers can take extra time, if needed, to set themselves up to comfortably meet future payments.

In-school repayment options

  • Full: Pay principal and interest
  • Interest-only: Pay interest every month
  • Fixed: Pay $25 every month
  • Deferred: No payment

Post-school repayment options

  • Repayment terms: 5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years
  • Grace period: 9 months
  • Deferment options: In-school, military, residency, and fellowship
  • Forbearance: Up to 12 months

Other repayment options

  • Cosigner release: No
  • Death discharge: Yes
  • Disability discharge: Yes

SoFi

Best for Member Benefits

4.7 /5
LendEDU Rating

Why SoFi is one of the best

SoFi is a nationally chartered bank based in San Francisco, California. It made a name for itself in 2012 as the first company to refinance federal and private student loans. Since then, it has expanded into nearly all consumer lending markets, with over $73 billion in loans funded.

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest draws to borrowing from SoFi is the wide range of benefits available to its members. This includes complimentary financial advising in which members can work one-on-one with a coach to better manage their money.

  • Rewards points earned in the mobile app can be used for repayment
  • Financial planning services
  • No fees
  • Rate discount for taking out multiple student loans
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit score
  • Must be enrolled at least half-time
  • Higher minimum balance than other lenders
Fixed (APR)4.19%14.83% w/ autopay
Variable (APR)5.74%15.86% w/ autopay
Loan amounts$5,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms5, 7, 10, or 15 years
Eligibility requirements

SoFi offers student loans for undergraduates, graduates, and parents. According to the lender, those with a creditworthy cosigner are seven times more likely to be approved. Here are some eligibility requirements for a SoFi student loan:

Financial requirements

  • Minimum credit score: Not disclosed
  • Minimum income: None
  • Approval after prior bankruptcy: Yes

Educational requirements

  • School eligibility: Must be enrolled in a degree-granting program at an eligible school
  • Enrolled half-time or more: Yes

Other requirements

  • Citizenship: U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or visa holder (E-2, E-3, H-1B, J-1, L-1, or O-1), and international or DACA students with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident as a cosigner
  • State: Available in all 50 states
Repayment details

SoFi offers several repayment terms of 5, 7, 10, or 15 years. Borrowers have the option to choose between all four in-school repayment options.

In-school repayment options

  • Full: Pay principal and interest
  • Interest-only: Pay interest every month
  • Fixed: Pay $25 every month
  • Deferred: No payment

Post-school repayment options

  • Repayment terms: 5, 7, 10, or 15 years
  • Grace period: 6 months
  • Deferment options: In-school and military
  • Forbearance: Up to 12 months, for three months at a time

Other repayment options

  • Cosigner release: Yes, after 24 consecutive on-time monthly payments
  • Death discharge: Yes
  • Disability discharge: Reviewed on a case-by-case basis

Credible

Best Marketplace

4.6 /5
LendEDU Rating

Why Credible is one of the best

Credible is not a student loan lender, unlike the other companies on this list. Instead, it offers a free comparison tool where borrowers can fill out a quick online application and compare real prequalified rates from the lenders it partners with.

If you receive an offer that you’d like to move forward with, Credible’s staff will help you complete an application with that lender and confirm your approval. There are no fees for filling out an application, and your credit will not be impacted.

  • Compare prequalified rates from multiple lenders
  • No costs
  • Doesn’t impact your credit score
  • Only shows rates from lenders in its network
Rates (APR)5.59%16.99%
Loan amounts$1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms5 – 20 years
Eligibility requirements

There are no eligibility requirements to use Credible’s comparison tool. Whether or not you’re approved by one of its partner lenders depends on that lender’s unique requirements.

Repayment details

The lender or its servicer of choice will handle your repayment responsibilities. Credible doesn’t collect or facilitate payments.

ELFI

Best Student Loan Advisors

4.5 /5
LendEDU Rating

Why ELFI is one of the best

Education Loan Finance (ELFI) is a student loan provider based in Farragut, Tennessee. It offers loans for undergraduates, graduates, and parents.

All borrowers are paired with a student loan advisor who helps them through the application process and answers any questions as they arise. Many of ELFI’s customer reviews speak highly of these advisors, leading to an “Excellent” rating on Trustpilot.

  • Paired with a student loan advisor
  • Excellent ratings from over 2,000 borrowers on Trustpilot
  • Owned by a not-for-profit organization
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit score
  • Requires a credit score of 680 or higher
  • Must be enrolled at least half-time
Rates (APR)5.59%16.99%
Loan amounts$1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms5, 7, 10, or 15 years
Eligibility requirements

ELFI recommends adding a cosigner to its student loans to improve your chances of approval.

Financial requirements

  • Minimum credit score: 680
  • Minimum income: $35,000 per year
  • Approval after prior bankruptcy: Not disclosed

Educational requirements

  • School eligibility: Must be enrolled in a degree-granting program at an eligible school
  • Enrolled half-time or more: Yes

Other requirements

  • Citizenship: U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • State: Available in all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico
Repayment details

ELFI offers repayment terms of 5, 7, 10, or 15 years and all four in-school repayment options.

In-school repayment options

  • Full: Principal and interest every month
  • Interest-only: Pay interest every month
  • Fixed: Pay $25 every month
  • Deferred: No payment

Post-school repayment options

  • Repayment terms: 5, 7, 10, or 15 years
  • Grace period: 6 months
  • Deferment options: In-school and military
  • Forbearance: Up to 12 months

Other repayment options

  • Cosigner release: Not available
  • Death discharge: Reviewed case-by-case
  • Disability discharge: Reviewed case-by-case

Is a private student loan a good option for you?

Federal student loans are limited to a certain amount each year of undergraduate study. If you need to borrow more than you’re awarded in federal aid, your options might include private student loans. Other options include federal Parent PLUS loans and state loan programs for residents or students in your state.

With all loans, you should understand your budget once you graduate. Once you pay for your basic necessities such as housing, food, and transportation, you should have enough left over to pay the monthly student loan payments from your expected starting salary.

If it looks like this will be a problem, more student debt may not be the answer to pay for your college expenses. Be sure you and your family compare all the costs and repayment options for the various student loan choices.

How to decide which private student loan is the best for you

While our evaluation of private student loans was created as a starting point for students and their families to find the best private student loan, we recommend you do your own research as well.

When looking for a private student loan, comparing your options is the most important thing you can do. By doing this, you’ll be able to find an affordable loan that comes with borrower-friendly repayment terms. Here are the steps we recommend taking to find the best private student loan:

  1. Compile a list of student loan lenders that you’re interested in. Ideally, you’ll want to choose between reputable companies that have demonstrated an ability to support borrowers during repayment.
  2. Review the eligibility requirements for each lender. All private lenders have their own unique eligibility requirements. Make sure you’re eligible with a lender before applying to limit unnecessary hard credit checks. Remember, we recommend adding a cosigner to your loan to improve your chances of approval, but that cosigner is on the hook to pay back your loan if you are unable to. If you and your cosigner don’t meet the eligibility requirements, you should remove that lender from consideration.
  3. Review the loan terms. Make sure you understand what happens if you were to die or become disabled during the loan term. The lenders in our reviews all allow loan discharge for death or disability, but not all lenders have this feature. If you borrow from a lender that doesn’t allow for forgiveness due to death or disability, students should consider inexpensive life insurance to protect their cosigners. Although private student lenders do not have the same income-driven repayment plans as federal student loans, they might have forbearance programs if you lose your job during the repayment period. It can be helpful to understand those programs up-front.
  4. Get quotes from the lenders you’re eligible with. While most lenders display an interest rate range on their website, the only way to know the rate you’ll receive is by prequalifying or submitting a complete application. Make sure to utilize soft credit checks when possible to reduce the total number of hard credit inquiries on your credit report.
  5. Compare your quotes. Once you’ve received a rate estimate from each lender, compare your offers to see which lender offers you the lowest rate. Make sure to consider other factors like the repayment term, borrower protections, and unique benefits as well.
  6. Choose a lender. The lender you borrow from should offer you the most affordable loan, with borrower protections that help you in times of need during repayment. Once you select a lender, you can submit your application and wait for the lender to inform you of your next steps.

Private student loan FAQ

How do private student loans work?

Private student loans are a form of financial aid that students can use to cover the cost of their education. These loans are offered by banks, credit unions, and online lenders.

You’ll need to apply for a loan directly with a lender and meet certain eligibility requirements to be approved. If you can’t meet the eligibility requirements alone, you’ll need to add a creditworthy cosigner who can.

Most lenders allow you to borrow up to the total cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid you receive. Once your loan amount is finalized, the funds will be disbursed to your school to cover tuition and other expenses. Any remaining funds will be sent directly to you to use as needed.

How do you repay private student loans?

When you start repaying your loan will depend on which in-school repayment plan you select. Your options include making full, interest-only, fixed, or deferred payments.

If you choose full, interest-only, or fixed payments, you’ll start making payments while attending school. If you defer your payments until after you graduate, repayment won’t begin until your grace period is over.

After your grace period, you’ll start making full payments for the duration of your loan term, typically from five to 20 years.

What are the eligibility requirements for a private student loan?

Each lender has its own eligibility requirements. Generally, you’ll need to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, have good credit, attend a Title IV school at least half-time, and meet an income threshold.

If you can’t meet those requirements independently, you’ll likely need to add a cosigner to your loan application. Make sure your cosigner understands the risks of being added to the loan. If you’re unable to make your monthly payments, your cosigner will be responsible for continuing to pay back the loan.

If you can’t meet the eligibility requirements and don’t have a cosigner to add to your loan, there are student loan lenders that student loans without a cosigner and student loans for international students.

How do student loan interest rates work?

Your interest rate is arguably the most important part of your student loan. For private loans, the interest rate you receive will depend on you or your cosigner’s credit and income, amongst other factors. If you have an excellent credit score and steady income, you are more likely to receive a lower interest rate.

Private student loans also come with either a fixed or variable interest rate. If you choose a fixed rate, your rate will remain the same for the duration of your loan. If you choose a variable rate, your rate will change throughout your loan term and increase or decrease depending on economic conditions.

With private student loans, interest accrues while you attend school. This means that your balance will be larger than your original loan amount when you begin repayment under a deferred repayment plan. However, lenders typically allow you to save on interest by selecting an in-school repayment plan where you make partial payments while still attending school.

Do private student loans have fees?

Private student loans can come with fees; however, none of the lenders listed above charge an origination, application, or prepayment fee. We take this stance because we don’t believe borrowers should be charged for taking out a loan or paying one off early.

That being said, let’s look at the different types of fees typically discussed with student loans.

  • Origination fee: This fee is charged when you take out a loan. It’s usually calculated as a percentage of the total loan amount. For example, if you have a $10,000 loan with a 5% origination fee, the fee would come to $500. While federal student loans do come with an origination fee, none of the lenders in our list above charge one.
  • Application fee: This fee is charged to you when you fill out and submit an application for a loan. Like the origination fee, none of the lenders selected above charge this fee.
  • Late payment fee: This fee is charged to you if you don’t make a payment on time. A lender may set this as a flat amount (e.g., $25) or a percentage of the missed payment (e.g., 5%). Some of the lenders in our list do charge this fee, so we recommend putting together a repayment plan that can help you ensure you stay on schedule with payments.
  • Prepayment fee: This fee is charged if you pay off your loan early. None of the lenders listed above charge this fee.

How do private student loans differ from federal student loans?

Federal student loans are offered by the Department of Education and require you to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility. Federal student loans should always be considered before borrowing private student loans due to lower rates and friendlier repayment benefits, such as income-driven repayment plans and forgiveness programs.

Unfortunately, federal student loans come with borrowing limits that can limit students’ ability to cover their entire cost of attendance. Because of this, many turn to private student loans to bridge the gap.

Private student loans are offered by banks, credit unions, and online lenders. These loans typically allow you to borrow up to the total cost of attendance. Unlike federal student loans, you can’t fill out one application to determine your eligibility for all private student loans. Each lender sets its own eligibility requirements, typically including income and credit minimums.

Whether you borrow from the government or a private lender, always understand if your after-graduation budget will allow you to pay back your student loans before deciding to use them for your education.

>> Read More: Federal vs. private student loans

How we selected the best private student loans

Since 2015, LendEDU has evaluated student loan lenders to help readers find the best student loans. Our latest analysis reviewed 725 data points from 25 lenders and financial institutions, with 29 data points collected from each. This information is gathered from company websites, online applications, public disclosures, customer reviews, and direct communication with company representatives.

These data points are organized into broader categories, which our editorial team weights and scores based on their relative importance to readers. These star ratings help us determine which companies are best for different situations. We don’t believe two companies can be the best for the same purpose, so we only show each best-for designation once.

Higher star ratings are ultimately awarded to companies that create an excellent borrower experience. This includes offering online eligibility checks, cost transparency, competitive interest rates with no fees, flexible repayment plans, and unique benefits that support borrowers throughout repayment.

Recap of the best private student loan lenders

Company
Best for…
Rating (0-5)
Best overall
5.0
Best for cosigners
4.8
Best for large loans
4.7
Best for member benefits
4.7
Best marketplace
4.6
Best student loan advisors
4.5