Best Private Student Loans

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Mike Brown
Updated: December 4, 2019

Note from the editor: Our research, news, ratings, and assessments are scrutinized using strict editorial integrity. In full transparency, our company may receive compensation from partners listed on our website. Learn more about how we make money by visiting our advertiser disclosure.

If you have exhausted all of your scholarship, grant, and federal student loan options, but still need help paying for college, then a private student loan may be right for you.

You can compare interest rates, repayment terms, and eligibility requirements of the best private student loan companies below. Having a good credit score or a creditworthy cosigner can increase your chances of being approved and qualifying for the lowest rates.

On this page:

Compare Private Student Loan Interest Rates and Terms

Get personalized rates and repayment options from the private student loan lenders below.

LenderFixed APRVariable APRRepayment TermsEstimated APR
Discover Student Loans

5.49%-12.99%3

Fixed APR

4.24%-11.99%3

Variable APR

15 or 201

Repayment Terms

4.24%-12.99%3

Estimated APR

What we like

  • Discover's lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments
  • Cover up to 100% of your school-certified college costs1
  • Get a great interest rate with no required fees
  • Cash rewards for good grades2
  • Choice of fixed or variable interest rates

Additional Information

See our Discover Student Loans Review and Important Disclosures1,2,3,5

ServicerDiscover Bank
Loan Minimum$1,000
Loan MaximumCost of Attendance1
Loan TypesUndergraduate, Graduate, and Professional
FeesNo application, origination or late fees
College Ave Student Loans

5.29%-12.78%2

Fixed APR

4.20%-11.44%2

Variable APR

5, 8, 10, or 153

Repayment Terms

4.20%-12.78%2

Estimated APR

What we like

  • New private undergrad, graduate, and parent loans available
  • Full, interest-only, flat, and deferred payment choices when in school
  • Zero application fees, origination fees, or prepayment fees
  • 0.25% interest reduction for automatic payments while in school

Additional Information

See our College Ave Student Loans Review and Important Disclosures

ServicerUAS
Loan Minimum$1,0001
Loan MaximumSchool-Certified Expenses1
Loan TypesUndergraduate, Graduate, and Parent
FeesNo origination or prepayment fees
Sallie Mae Student Loans

5.49%-11.85%1

Fixed APR

4.25%-11.35%1

Variable APR

5 to 152

Repayment Terms

4.25%-11.85%1

Estimated APR

What we like

  • Borrow up to 100% of school-certified expenses1
  • Interest, $25 Fixed, or Deferred Repayment Options while in school1,2
  • Applying is fast and easy
  • 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction available with auto debit3
  • No application, origination, disbursement, or prepayment fees1

Additional Information

See our Sallie Mae Student Loans Review and Important Disclosures1,2,3

ServicerSallie Mae
Loan Minimum$1,000
Loan MaximumSchool-Certified Expenses1
Loan TypesUndergraduate
FeesNo origination or prepayment fees1
LendEDU

Easily Compare Private Student Loans

Find out what rates you are eligible for in 3 simple steps!

Easily Compare Private Student Loans

Ascent Student Loans

3.97%-12.93%

Fixed APR

3.63%-12.90%

Variable APR

5, 10, or 15

Repayment Terms

3.63%-12.93%

Estimated APR

What we like

  • In-school interest only, deferred repayment, and a $25 minimum payment plan are available
  • 1% Cash Back at Graduation
  • No early repayment penalties, origination fees, application expenses, or disbursement charges when an application is submitted
  • 0.25% interest reduction for automatic payments
  • Choose a term length of 5, 10, or 15 years

Additional Information

See our Ascent Student Loans Review

ServicerGoal Structured Solutions
Loan Minimum$2,000
Loan Maximum$200k Aggregate
Loan TypesUndergraduate and Graduate
FeesNo origination or prepayment fees
Citizens Bank Student Loans

4.72%%-12.04%

Fixed APR

3.24%%-11.35%%

Variable APR

5, 10, or 15

Repayment Terms

3.24%-11.71%

Estimated APR

What we like

  • Cosigner release available after 36 consecutive on-time principal and interest payments
  • 0.50% discount on rates for autopay and for opening a student checking account with Citizens Bank
  • No application or origination fees

Additional Information

See our Citizens Bank Student Loans Review

ServicerFirstmark Services
Loan Minimum$1,000
Loan Maximum$100,000 (undergrads) or $110,000 (graduate students)
Loan TypesUndergraduate, Graduate, Professional, and Parent Loans
FeesNo origination or prepayment fees

Best Private Student Loans

We took our research and put together reviews for each of the companies that made our list of the best private student loans. Select a lender below to jump to their review.

  1. College Ave
  2. SoFi
  3. Sallie Mae
  4. Ascent
  5. PNC
  6. Earnest
  7. U-fi
  8. Citizens Bank
  9. SunTrust

1) College Ave

College Ave Student Loans

College Ave, our top choice for the best private student loan company, offers loans to students at different education levels and provides a choice of variable or fixed rate loans.

There’s a discount for autopay and borrowers can choose from a large range of repayment plans. With loan amounts between $1,000 and 100% of school-certified cost of attendance, almost every qualified student can find a College Ave student loan that meets their needs.

Here are some key details of College Ave’s student loans:

  • LendEDU Editorial Rating: 5/5
  • Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Parent, and Career Training
  • Variable Interest Rates (APR): 3.99% to 11.98% for undergraduates
  • Fixed Interest Rates (APR): 4.73% to 12.94% for undergraduates
  • Discounts: 0.25% interest rate reduction for making automated payments from your bank account
  • Repayment Terms: 5, 8, 10, or 15 years
  • Loan Amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance minus any other financial aid
  • Fees: There are no prepayment penalties or origination fees
  • In-School Repayment Options: Full deferment, $25 monthly, interest-only payments, and full principal and interest payments
  • Cosigner Release: Available after 24 months of making consecutive interest and principal payments on time

Best Features

  • College Ave offers Success Rewards for career loans. This cash-back program provides $150 as a statement credit to the loan principal upon completing a degree.
  • You can pre-qualify for College Ave student loans, so your credit score won’t be affected when you check your rates.

Drawbacks

  • You can’t apply for College Ave loans over the phone.
  • The cosigner release period is twice as long as Sallie Mae’s requirement.
Learn More

>> Read our full College Ave Student Loans Review


2) SoFi

SoFi Student Loans

SoFi is next up on our list of the best places for student loans. SoFi is an online lender that provides a variety of financial products, including student loans as well as personal loans, mortgages, and even investment accounts. SoFi offers loyalty discounts to members and makes it fast and easy to qualify for a student loan online.

Here are some key details about SoFi's student loans:

  • LendEDU Editorial Rating: 4.92/5
  • Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Professional, Parent
  • Variable Interest Rates (APR): 3.52% to 11.12% for undergraduates
  • Fixed Interest Rates (APR): 5.05% to 11.71% for undergraduates
  • Discounts: 0.25% loyalty rate reduction
  • Repayment Terms: 5, 10, or 15 years
  • Loan Amounts: $5,000 to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance
  • Fees: $0 application fee, $0 prepayment fee
  • In-School Repayment Options: Deferred, interest-only, fixed payments
  • Cosigner Release: 24 months

Best Features

  • SoFi provides cosigner release after just 24 months, making it possible for cosigners to be released from liability.
  • SoFi provides member benefits including a loyalty discount, career assistance, and more.
  • There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with SoFi loans.

Drawbacks

  • SoFi offers a shorter maximum forbearance time than some competitors, which could be a problem if you get into financial trouble.
  • SoFi loans are available only to U.S. citizens so international students may not have access to financing they need.
Learn More

>> Read our full SoFi Private Student Loans Review


3) Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae Student Loans

Sallie Mae is one of the most popular student loan providers because it provides a wide range of options, low rates, and a variety of different repayment plans.

Students can take out private loans to cover costs of almost every level of education, from undergrad to graduate to professional programs. Loans can be repaid over a period of 5 to 15 years and there are also multiple in-school repayment options.

Here are some key details of Sallie Mae’s student loans:

  • LendEDU Editorial Rating: 4.85/5
  • Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Professional, Parent
  • Variable Interest Rates (APR): 4.25% to 11.35% for undergraduates
  • Fixed Interest Rates (APR): 5.49% to 11.85% for undergraduates
  • Discounts: 0.25% interest rate discount for borrowers who enroll in automatic payments
  • Repayment Terms: 5 - 15 years
  • Loan Amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance minus any other aid received
  • Fees: Sallie Mae charges no origination fee and no prepayment penalties
  • In-School Repayment Options: Interest-only, $25 monthly, or full deferment until after graduation
  • Cosigner Release: If primary borrower meets certain requirements including making 12 on-time payments

Best Features

  • Sallie Mae loans provide death and disability loan forgiveness, so borrowers and cosigners don’t have to worry about repayment if tragedy strikes.
  • Lengthy deferment periods during internships and residency periods for professional students make it easier to complete your training without worrying about making loan payments.
  • Cosigners will appreciate that Sallie Mae loans have the shortest cosigner release qualification periods in the student loan industry.

Drawbacks

  • There’s no option to get preapproved for a Sallie Mae loan without a credit check.
  • No option to receive in-person support.
Learn More

>> Read our full Sallie Mae Student Loans Review


4) Ascent

Ascent Student Loans

Ascent is a great place to get private loans for college for borrowers without a cosigner but still need a private student loan. Borrowers also benefit from flexibility in their loan repayment plans and a choice of fixed-rate or variable-rate loans.

There are some downsides to Ascent, though, including potentially higher rates if you don’t have a cosigner or good credit.

Here are some key details of Ascent’s student loans:

  • LendEDU Editorial Rating: 4.73/5
  • Loan Types: Ascent cosigned option (which is for students with cosigners) and Ascent non-cosigned option (which allows eligible juniors, seniors, and graduate students to qualify on their own based on earning potential, satisfactory academic progress, and credit history)
  • Variable Interest Rates (APR): 4.23% to 13.23% for Ascent Tuition Loans and 4.23% to 13.23% for Ascent Independent Loans
  • Fixed Interest Rates (APR): 4.98% to 14.16% for Ascent Tuition Loans and 4.98% to 14.16% for Ascent Independent Loans
  • Discounts: 0.25% discount for making automatic payments from a checking or savings account
  • Repayment Terms: 5, 10, or 15 years for Ascent Cosigned Loans and 10 or 15 years for Ascent Non-Cosigned Loans
  • Loan Amounts: Ascent allows loans between $2,000 and the school-certified cost of attendance, but the maximum aggregate is $200,000 for credit tested loans; $20,000 for non-credit tested loans
  • Fees: There are no prepayment penalties and no origination fees
  • In-School Repayment Options: Interest-only, $25 monthly, or deferring repayment until after you graduate
  • Cosigner Release: Available after 24 consecutive on-time full payments that cover both the loan principal and interest

Best Features

  • Borrowers who meet certain criteria can get up to a 1% cash reward after graduation.
  • If you refer a friend to Ascent, you can earn a $100 gift card for each referral, up to six friends.
  • Ascent aims to help students qualify without a cosigner by considering potential future earnings and the degree program you’re participating in, among other factors.
  • Ascent provides loan forgiveness in cases of death or disability.

Drawbacks

  • Cosigner release isn’t an option until 24 payments have been made, which is double Sallie Mae’s requirement.
  • The minimum loan amount of $2,000 is higher than some other lenders.
  • Rates can be higher than competitors for some Ascent loans.
Learn More

>> Read our full Ascent Student Loans Review


5) PNC

PNC Student Loans

Whether you are an undergraduate, graduate student, or professional student, there’s a PNC student loan available to help you fund your education.

Borrowers with PNC loans benefit from a 0.50% discount for autopay, which is a bigger discount than what some competitors offer. There are also flexible repayment options when it comes to both in-school payments and repayment after graduation.

On the downside, cosigner release isn’t available until after 48 monthly payments, which is a much longer cosigner release period than most competitors offer.

Here are some key details of PNC’s student loans:

  • LendEDU Editorial Rating: 4.73/5
  • Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, and Professional
  • Variable Interest Rates (APR): 4.99% to 11.34% APR including 0.50% discount for automatic payments.
  • Fixed Interest Rates (APR): 4.58% to 11.13% APR including 0.50% discount for automatic payments.
  • Discounts: 0.50% discount on interest rates for making automatic payments
  • Repayment Terms: 5, 10, or 15 years
  • Loan Amounts: Up to $50,000 annually (undergrad) or $65,000 (graduate) with an aggregate limit for all educational debt of $225,000.
  • Fees: No application fees, no origination fees, and no prepayment penalties
  • In-School Repayment Options: Full deferment until leaving school, interest-only, full principal and interest
  • Cosigner Release: After 48 consecutive on-time monthly payments of both principal and interest

Best Features

  • Would-be borrowers can apply for loans up to 60 days after the school term ends and can receive a preliminary decision on their application within minutes of applying for a loan.
  • Remaining loan balances are forgiven if a borrower passes away.
  • Interest rates are competitive for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Drawbacks

  • The maximum loan limits are lower than some competitors’ loans.
  • Cosigner release is not available until after 48 consecutive full payments are made, which is a much longer time period than many competitors require.
Learn More

>> Read our full PNC Student Loans Review


6) Earnest

Earnest Student Loans

Earnest is an online lender that provides private student loans as well as student loan refinancing. Earnest was acquired in 2017 by Navient, which is another major student loan servicer that offers both federal and private student loans.

Here are some key details of Earnest's student loans:

  • LendEDU Editorial Rating: 4.70/5
  • Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Professional, Parent
  • Variable Interest Rates (APR): 3.35% to 11.44% APR
  • Fixed Interest Rates (APR): 4.69% to 12.78% APR
  • Discounts: 0.25% cosigner rate reduction and 0.25% autopay reduction
  • Repayment Terms: Grace period of
  • Loan Amounts: $1,000 to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance
  • Fees: late fee; prepayment penalty; origination fee
  • In-School Repayment Options: Deferred, interest-only, fixed payments
  • Cosigner Release: Not available

Best Features

  • Earnest provides a nine-month grace period before repayments begin, which is longer than most other lenders offer.
  • Earnest provides flexibility in your loan repayment term, giving you the option to choose a payoff plan that is affordable to you.
  • Earnest allows borrowers the option to skip one payment every 12 months and does not charge late fees, unlike many other lenders.

Drawbacks

  • No option for cosigner release.
  • Earnest requires a hard credit check when applying.
  • Loans are not available in all states.
Learn More

>> Read our full Earnest Student Loans Review


7) U-fi

U-fi Student Loans

U-fi provides private student loans and student loan refinancing options. This online lender offers a flexible repayment schedule as well as a choice of fixed- and variable-rate loans.

Unlike many other lenders, U-fi allows non-residents to obtain private student loans, opening up the door for international students to finance their educations.

Here are some key details of U-fi's student loans:

  • LendEDU Editorial Rating: 4.69/5
  • Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Professional
  • Variable Interest Rates (APR): Loans starting at 3.35% APR for undergrads
  • Fixed Interest Rates (APR): Loans starting at 3.35% APR for undergrads
  • Discounts: 0.25% autopay reduction
  • Repayment Terms: for undergraduates
  • Loan Amounts: $1,000 to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance for undergraduates
  • Fees: origination fee
  • In-School Repayment Options: Deferred, interest-only, fixed payments
  • Cosigner Release: months

Best Features

  • U-Fi provides options for international students, which many other private student lenders do not offer.
  • You have a choice of flexible repayment terms, including longer terms than many competitors allow.
  • Loans can be cancelled in the event of the death or disability of the primary borrower.

Drawbacks

  • No parent loans are available from U-fi.
  • U-fi requires at least $36,000 in annual income which means many borrowers won't qualify without a cosigner.
Learn More

>> Read our full U-fi Student Loans Review


8) Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank Student Loans

Citizens Bank provides private loans for college to students in undergraduate, graduate, healthcare profession, and MBA programs. Parents can also take out a Citizens Bank student loan to pay for their children’s education.

Discounts are available for having a student checking account with Citizens Bank, as well as for autopay, which can make loans cheaper. There are, however, borrowing limits and a long period of required payments before cosigner release is possible.

Here are some key details of Citizen Bank’s student loans:

  • LendEDU Editorial Rating: 4.68/5
  • Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Professional, and Parent
  • Variable Interest Rates (APR): 4.14% to 11.64% for undergraduates
  • Fixed Interest Rates (APR): 5.47% to 12.04% for undergraduates
  • Discounts: 0.50% discount on rates for autopay and for opening a student checking account with Citizens Bank
  • Repayment Terms: 5, 10, or 15 years
  • Loan Amounts: $1,000 up to $100,000 (undergrads) or $110,000 (graduate students)
  • Fees: No loan application fees, origination fees, disbursement fees, or prepayment penalties
  • In-School Repayment Options: Interest-only, full interest and principal, full deferment until after graduation. Deferred loans may have higher interest rates.
  • Cosigner Release: Available after 36 consecutive on-time principal and interest payments

Best Features

  • Borrowers can get discounts on interest for opening a student bank account with Citizens Bank.
  • Citizens Bank is the only student loan lender that provides multi-year loan approval as an option. This means you may be able to get funding secured for all of your years of schooling without having to apply again later.
  • Interest rates are competitive, especially if you begin making payments immediately on your loan instead of deferring payments while in school.

Drawbacks

  • Cosigner release isn’t available until 36 consecutive full payments are made, which is longer than many competitors.
  • Citizens Bank has lower loan limits than many competitors offer.
  • You’ll pay a higher interest rate for deferred payments while in school if you borrow from Citizens Bank.
Learn More

>> Read our full Citizens Bank Student Loans Review


9) SunTrust

SunTrust Student Loans

SunTrust rounds off our list of the best student loan companies. This lender offers several different loans for undergraduates, graduate students, and business school students. Borrowers benefit from a choice of repayment plans as well as multiple options for in-school payments, including deferment or interest-only payments.

Here are some key details of SunTrust’s student loans:

  • LendEDU Editorial Rating: 4.58/5
  • Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Graduate Business School
  • Variable Interest Rates (APR): 3.27% APR to 10.80% APR for the Custom Choice Loan® and from 3.77% APR to 13.25% APR for the Union Federal Private Student Loan
  • Fixed Interest Rates (APR): 4.07% APR to 11.30% APR for the Custom Choice Loan and from 4.77% APR to 13.95% APR for the Union Federal Private Student Loan
  • Discounts: 0.25% interest rate reduction for consistent on-time payments on the Union Federal Private Student Loan, as well as up to a 0.50% discount for autopay on all SunTrust private student loans. Low APRs shown above include a 0.50% interest rate reduction for auto pay from a SunTrust account.
  • Repayment Terms: For the Union Federal Private Student Loan and Custom Choice Loan, borrowers have the option to repay loans over 7, 10, or 15 years. A Graduate Business School Loan can be repaid over 7 or 10 years.
  • Loan Amounts: Students in most states can borrow between $1,000 and $65,000 for the Custom Choice Loan or Union Federal Private Student Loan. Students can borrow up to $95,000 for the Graduate Business School Loan.
  • Fees: There are no fees to apply, no origination fees, and no prepayment penalties
  • In-School Repayment Options: Full deferment, $25 monthly payments, or interest-only payments or full principal and interest payments.
  • Cosigner Release: After 36 consecutive on-time principal and interest payments are made.

Best Features

  • SunTrust loans reward borrowers with either a 1% principal reduction (for Graduate Business School Loans) or a 2% principal reduction (for Custom Choice Loans) after graduation.
  • SunTrust loans are available to most U.S. citizens and permanent residents and the Union Federal Private Student Loan is also available to international students.
  • APRs are competitive, especially with discounts for autopay and on-time payments.

Drawbacks

  • Cosigner release isn’t available until after 36 on-time principal and interest payments, while many competitors allow cosigner release after 12 or 24 months. However, SunTrust will count lump sum payments that are larger than a regular monthly payment as multiple months.
  • Loan limits are lower than many competitors.
Learn More

>> Read our full SunTrust Student Loans Review


How We Chose the Best Private Student Loan Companies

LendEDU has rated and reviewed private student loan lenders since 2014. These ratings are completed by our Editorial team and are not influenced by compensation in any way.

In order to find the best student loans for this article, four members of our team collectively spent over 50 hours analyzing 25 data points for 22 different lenders.

Data points were weighted based on their importance to borrowers. You can see the breakouts and weightings below. Note that some of the categories shown include multiple data points:

  • Term Length Offerings (15%)
  • BBB Rating (10%)
  • In-School Repayment Options (10%)
  • Discounts Available (10%)
  • Variable Rates (7.5%)
  • Fixed Rates (7.5%)
  • Loan Amounts (7.5%)
  • Cosigner Release Availability (7.5%)
  • Forbearance Options (5%)
  • Deferment Options (5%)
  • Initial Soft Credit Pull (5%)
  • Customer Support (5%)
  • Extra Rewards & Benefits (5%)

To learn more about how these ratings work, you can visit our Ratings Methodology page.


Differences Between Federal Student Loans and Private Student Loans

Federal Student LoansPrivate Student Loans
LenderFederal governmentPrivate banks, credit unions, and other lenders
Interest Rate TypeFixedFixed or variable
Repayment OptionsNot required until after graduationMay be required while in school or not until after graduation
Approval Based onThe FAFSA and expected family contributionCreditworthiness, income, debt, school, sometimes field of study, and other factors
Cosigner RequirementsDo not need a cosignerMost private lenders require a cosigner

>> Learn More: Visit our Federal Student Loans Guide


Private Student Loan FAQs

You should use private student loans after you’ve exhausted all other sources of financial aid, including scholarships, grants, savings, and federal student loans.

Scholarships and grants are free money to pay for school, so they should always be prioritized first. You should use savings next because interest isn’t charged on this money.

After those two options, you should consider federal student loans. These typically have lower interest rates, better benefits, more protections for borrowers, and access to a wider variety of repayment plans. There are, however, federal student loan limits, so you may not be able to cover the rest of your education costs with them. In this situation, most students will turn to private student loans.

In most cases, students can use private student loans for any costs associated with college. These may include tuition, room and board, books, computers, and even living expenses like food. For more specific student loans, check out our Student Loans for Living Expenses page.

Typically, lenders will send your student loan money directly to your college. First, the money will be used for remaining mandatory expenses like tuition. Then, your college will give you any leftover money for you to use how you see fit.

There is no set time in which you can apply for private student loans. If an unexpected expense comes up in the middle of the semester and you need some extra money to help pay for it, you can apply for a new loan.

It can, however, take anywhere from a week to up to two months for colleges to receive your loan funds. If you need the money for a mandatory expense like tuition, make sure that you leave enough time to get through the process.

If you are unsure if the money will be available in time, ask the lender before accepting the loan or learn more by reading our Student Loan Disbursement guide.

Each lender has its own eligibility requirements, but most lenders will examine an applicant’s credit history, debt, income, college or university, field of study, and residency status.

Generally, you will need to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, have a credit score of 700 or higher, and meet some income threshold to be eligible for a private student loan without a cosigner.

A LendEDU study found that the average approved private student loan applicant had a credit score of 737 and annual income of just under $73,000. In addition, only 8.66% of applicants without a cosigner were approved for a loan.

If you aren’t able to qualify for a private student loan on your own, adding a creditworthy cosigner can help. The same study found that when students applied with a cosigner, the approval rate jumped to 40.51% from 8.66% without a cosigner.

If you don’t have a cosigner and don’t meet the eligibility requirements on your own, you should consider looking into student loans for those without a cosigner or student loans for those with bad credit.

There are a few things you should look for to find the best private student loan.

Eligibility Requirements

First and foremost, you will have to see which loans you may be eligible for to narrow down your choices. If you don’t meet the credit, income, or school/program requirements of a certain lender, then you shouldn’t waste time considering them.

If you want to quickly see which lenders you may be eligible for based on your school and grade level, you can use our free comparison tool to see your options in one place.

Interest Rates & Fees

The next thing you’ll want to consider is how much the loan will cost you over time.

Since most private lenders don’t charge fees, they won’t likely play a factor. But if you do see that a lender has fees, you’ll want to factor that into your cost estimates.

What will vary from lender to lender are the student loan interest rates they offer you. The lower the rate you receive, the better. Even a difference of one or two percentage points could result in thousands of dollars in savings over the life of the loan.

Note that just because a lender advertises lower rates than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will actually be offered a lower rate. As mentioned, each lender has its own eligibility requirements and will determine your personal rate based on different factors.

Most of the best private school loan lenders also allow students to select a fixed or variable interest rate.

Fixed interest rates will stay the same for the life of the loan but usually start our higher. Variable interest rates, on the other hand, fluctuate over time according to the market rate, but typically start our lower. There is no right answer to which is the best private student loan rate type; it really depends if you think interest rates will generally increase or decrease in the future.

Repayment Terms

When choosing a lender, there are two things to consider regarding loan repayment.

First, you’ll want to take a look at what repayment options lenders offer for students while they are in school, so you can find one that fits your budget. Making payments while you are in school can help you save on interest, but you should only sign up for a payment plan you can keep up with. As long as your lender doesn’t impose prepayment penalties, you can always make additional payments when you can afford it.

Here are the most common in-school repayment options offered:

  • Full payments: Make full monthly principal and interest payments while in school. This saves the most money in interest.
  • Partial payments: Make a flat payment each month to help reduce the total cost of your loan. This does not save as much as making full payments, but saves more than full deferment.
  • Interest-only payments: Pay only the accrued interest each month. When you graduate, your loan balance will be equal to what you originally took out.
  • Full deferment: Do not make any payments while in school. Interest will continue to accumulate the entire time making this the most expensive option.

The other thing to consider with repayment is what your repayment term will be after you leave school. Most often, lenders will offer multiple term lengths ranging from 5 to 15 years, though some do offer longer terms. The longer your term, the lower your monthly payment will be, but the more your loan will cost over time, and vice-versa for shorter terms.

You can use our Student Loan Payment Calculator to see what your monthly payment and total loan cost would be based on your loan amount, interest rate, and term length.

Benefits

The last thing to consider when choosing a private student loan lender is the benefits offered. Lenders will offer different perks to try to make their loan options more attractive and to help borrowers.

Here are some common benefits offered by lenders:

  • Autopay Discount: This is a discount for setting up automatic payments on your loans from a bank account. Typically, lenders will offer an interest rate reduction of 0.25%.
  • Other Discounts: A few lenders offer discounts other than an autopay discount. In most cases, these are for having a bank account with the lender. Be sure to consider any possible discounts you qualify for when comparing interest rates.
  • Cosigner Release: If you are approved for a student loan with a cosigner, some lenders will allow you to release the cosigner from your loan (making them no longer responsible for repayment) after you make a certain number of on-time monthly payments. If this is something that is important for you, be sure to check if the lenders you are considering offer it and how long it takes.
  • Financial Hardship Support: Some lenders offer financial hardship options to borrowers struggling to afford payments. If you decide to go back to school or join the military, lose your job, or simply can’t afford your monthly payments for another reason, some lenders may be willing to let you temporarily delay payments.
  • Death of Disability Discharge: Finally, some lenders will forgive your student debt if you die or become permanently disabled. Check if the lenders you are considering offer this benefit and if a cosigner would become responsible for repayment in this scenario.

Applying for private student loans is usually easy and can almost always be done online. There are also many mobile-friendly applications that allow you to apply directly from your phone.

Here are the general steps of applying for a private student loan:

  1. Choose the lender or lenders you want to apply for.
  2. Fill out some basic personal and educational information and have your cosigner fill out similar information (if applicable). In most cases, the lender will use this information to run a soft credit check to see if you meet the initial eligibility requirements.
  3. Next, you will likely have to upload documents so the lender can verify that you are eligible and what your interest rate will be. This process usually takes a few hours up to a few days. If the lender runs a hard credit check as part of the application process, this is when it will happen.
  4. Once you receive your loan options, you will have to decide which to accept, if any. The offers will most likely have varying interest rates based on loan term lengths.
  5. After choosing the loan that best fits your needs, the last step is to sign the promissory note. This is a legally binding contract that requires you to pay back the student loan over time with interest.
  6. Shortly after you sign the promissory note, your student loan funds will be sent to your school for disbursement.

Other Helpful Student Loan Resources