Best Personal Loans for Students in 2024

If you’re building credit, don’t worry — checking rates won’t hurt your credit score

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How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.
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Best personal loan lenders for students in 2024

Written by Carol Pope and Jill A. Chafin | Edited by Jessica Sain-Baird and Janet Schaaf | Reviewed November 30, 2023
How Does LendingTree Get Paid?
LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.
LenderUser ratingsBest for…APR rangeLoan termsLoan amountsMinimum credit score
Achieve logo
(5,096)
User Ratings & Reviews rating-reviews-tooltip-icon

Ratings and reviews are from real consumers who have used the lending partner’s services.

Joint applications8.99% to 35.99%24 to 60 months$5,000 to $50,000620See Personalized Results
PenFed logo
(14)
User Ratings & Reviews rating-reviews-tooltip-icon

Ratings and reviews are from real consumers who have used the lending partner’s services.

Small loans7.99% to 17.99%12 to 60 months$600 to $50,000700See Personalized Results
SoFi logo
(97)
User Ratings & Reviews rating-reviews-tooltip-icon

Ratings and reviews are from real consumers who have used the lending partner’s services.

Financial planning guidance8.99% to 29.99% (with discounts)*24 to 84 months$5,000 to $100,000680See Personalized Results
Upgrade logo
(2,184)
User Ratings & Reviews rating-reviews-tooltip-icon

Ratings and reviews are from real consumers who have used the lending partner’s services.

Flexible due dates8.49% to 35.99%24 to 84 months$1,000 to $50,000580See Personalized Results
Upstart logo
(16,291)
User Ratings & Reviews rating-reviews-tooltip-icon

Ratings and reviews are from real consumers who have used the lending partner’s services.

Bad or no credit7.80% to 35.99%36 and 60 months$1,000 to $50,000300See Personalized Results

Personal loans for students at a glance

Achieve logo

Achieve: Best for joint applications

APR range8.99% to 35.99%
Loan terms24 to 60 months
Loan amounts$5,000 to $50,000
Minimum credit score620
Origination fee1.99% - 6.99%
ProsCons

  Offers APR discount for adding co-borrower

  May still be eligible with fair credit

  Same-day approval decisions

  Must have at least two years of credit history

  Charges an origination fee

  High minimum loan amount

  Not available in all states

See Your Personalized Results

PenFed logo

PenFed: Best for small loans

APR range7.99% to 17.99%
Loan terms12 to 60 months
Loan amounts$600 to $50,000
Minimum credit score700
Origination feeNone
ProsCons

  Low minimum loan amount

  Credit union membership comes with other benefits

  Competitive APRs

  Must join credit union to borrow

  Good credit required

  $29 late payment fee

See Your Personalized Results

SoFi logo

SoFi: Best for financial planning and career guidance

APR range8.99% to 29.99% (with discounts)
Loan terms24 to 84 months
Loan amounts$5,000 to $100,000
Minimum credit score680
Origination fee0.00% - 7.00% (not required)
ProsCons

  Financial planning and career coaching comes free with loan

  Allows co-borrowers

  Same-day funding possible

  High minimum loan amount

  Must have good credit

  Origination fee required to unlock the lowest APRs

See Your Personalized Results

Upgrade logo

Upgrade: Best for flexible due dates

APR range8.49% to 35.99%
Loan terms24 to 84 months
Loan amounts$1,000 to $50,000
Minimum credit score580
Origination fee1.85% - 9.99%
ProsCons

  Can change due date online

  Highly rated mobile app

  Open to borrowers with fair credit

  Will pay an origination fee

  High maximum APR

  No live chat

See Your Personalized Results

Upstart logo

Upstart: Best for bad or no credit

APR range7.80% to 35.99%
Loan terms36 and 60 months
Loan amounts$1,000 to $50,000
Minimum credit score300
Origination fee0.00% - 12.00%
ProsCons

  Low minimum credit score

  Quick time to funding

  Can use funds for student debt (in some states)

  No secured loan options

  May charge an origination fee

  No co-borrowers or cosigners

See Your Personalized Results

What is a personal loan for students?

A personal loan is a lump sum of money that you pay back to the lender in monthly installments, plus interest. Banks, credit unions and online lenders offer these and other types of loans.While you can use a personal loan for almost anything, many lenders do have some restrictions. Of those are direct post-secondary expenses. In other words, you usually can’t use a personal loan to pay for tuition.

But tuition isn’t the only expense you’ll face when going to college. You may also have to pay for food, rent, books, car insurance and gas, for instance.

It’s not ideal to go into debt to pay for living expenses. However, if you have no choice but to put these expenses on a credit card, a personal loan may be a better option. Personal loans typically carry lower APRs than credit cards.

  How hard is it to qualify for a personal loan as a student?

There’s no sugarcoating it — it can be difficult to get a personal loan as a student. After all, you’re just starting out on your credit journey. You might have a low credit score, simply because you haven’t had the opportunity to borrow.

You might need to take a few steps to build your credit from scratch before applying for a personal loan. You could also add a creditworthy co-borrower or cosigner to your application. This could be a parent or other family member with good credit.

However, there are some risks when adding a co-borrower or cosigner. If you get behind on payments, both of your credit scores will take a hit.

Student loans vs. personal loans

Student and personal loans share many similarities. With both, you receive a lump sum upfront and pay back what you borrowed in installments. Student loans and personal loans are typically unsecured debt, meaning you don’t need to provide collateral.

The biggest difference between personal loans and student loans is how lenders allow you to use the funds:

  • Student loans: Generally, you can only use student loans for tuition and school-related expenses. These could include room and board, food, textbooks and supplies, transportation and more. If you can, take out federal student loans before private. Federal student loans come with borrower benefits like income-driven repayment plans.
  • Personal loans: You can use personal loans for almost anything, but most lenders have some exclusions. Tuition is usually one of them, as are real estate and investing.

Talk to your lender about approved expenses before obtaining a personal loan. If you need more money for school costs, consider applying for a federal or private student loan. Otherwise, a personal loan could help if your most significant expenses aren’t school-related.

Terms to know when comparing personal loans for students

This is likely your first time applying for a personal loan, and all the jargon can be confusing. Use the definitions below as a cheat sheet when comparing your offers.

  • Prequalification: When you prequalify on a personal loan, you’re checking how likely it is the lender will approve you based on your basic financial information and a soft credit pull.
  • APR: Your APR is the total cost of your loan, including your loan interest rate and applicable fees. The lower the percentage, the less expensive your loan. Also, know that most financial experts agree that an APR above 36% falls into predatory lending.
  • Origination fee: An origination fee is an up-front fee that the lender typically takes out of your loan’s proceeds before it sends it to you. Origination fees sometimes help the lender cover administrative expenses like loan underwriting.
  • Loan term: Your loan term is the length of time you have to pay back your loan. Since your loan payments are stretched over more time, a longer loan term means lower monthly payments. It also means that you’ll pay more interest over the life of your loan.
  • Funding timeline: Funding timeline measures how long it typically takes a lender to review a loan application, make an approval decision and release the loan funds.
  • Disbursement: Disbursement is just a fancy word for “send.” When a lender disburses a loan, it sends it to the borrower (usually as direct deposit or a check).

How to apply for a personal loan

While the application process varies by lender, here are a few common steps you’ll take when applying for a personal loan.

Estimate how much you need

You should only borrow what you think you can repay. Use our personal loan calculator to estimate monthly payments and the total interest for the loan to see whether it’s within your budget.

Check your credit score

Having a good credit score can help you qualify for competitive rates on a personal loan. However, certain lenders are more lenient for students, especially if you can add a cosigner. Check your credit score for free to see where you stand.

Prequalify with multiple lenders

Not all lenders offer prequalification, so prioritize those that do to minimize hard credit pulls. This will help you get a handful of potential offers you can compare.

Compare offers

Scrutinize potential loan offers to find the best deal. Pay attention to estimated APR, fees and penalties, terms and your potential monthly payment.

Gather documents

Every lender will differ, but you’ll likely need to provide proof of income, address and a valid ID.

Submit official application(s)

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, you can apply to your top picks. Make sure to submit all applications within a 14-day window to limit the effect on your credit score. This is called “rate shopping.”

Review offer and accept

Read the fine print to ensure that the final offer will work for your needs and that you understand the repayment schedule.

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Alternatives to personal loans for students

If a personal loan doesn’t meet your needs (or you’ve been denied), here are other options to explore.

Emergency school funds

Many colleges have emergency funds set aside for students in need. Some schools might offer emergency grants, while others provide emergency student loans. Reach out to your school to learn about what’s available.

Student loans

Often, students don’t fully exhaust their available federal financial aid. Contact the financial aid office at your institution to see if you’re eligible for additional federal student loans. If you’ve exhausted your available federal aid, you may consider exploring private student loan options. You can also ask your parents about applying for a parent PLUS loan.

Secured loans

The personal loans discussed above are unsecured, which means you won’t lose your car or home if you default on your loan. However, if you’ve been rejected or have poor credit, you might consider a secured loan. Keep in mind that if you’re unable to repay your debt, you could lose the collateral securing the loan.

Credit cards

If you have little to no credit, consider applying for a student credit card. Some student credit cards begin with a smaller credit amount — say, under $1,000 — to keep your debt more manageable as you learn to handle credit responsibly.

Friends and family

Borrowing money from a friend or family member could be more affordable (and attainable) than a personal loan. However, you should get the terms of the arrangement in writing — and stick to them. You don’t want to spoil a relationship over missed payments.

Part-time job

Juggling classes and a job might seem impossible. However, working even 10 to 20 hours a week can significantly impact your budget. Plus, having a steady job can improve your odds of qualifying for credit or loans.

How we chose the best personal loans for students

We reviewed more than 28 lenders to determine the overall best five personal loans. To make our list, lenders must offer joint loans with competitive annual percentage rates (APRs) From there, we prioritize lenders based on the following factors:

  • Accessibility: Lenders are ranked higher if their personal loans are available to more people and require fewer conditions. This may include lower credit requirements, wider geographic availability, faster funding and easier and more transparent prequalification and application processes.
  • Lower credit score requirements (or the ability to co-borrow): Many students have a thin credit profile. Because of this, we chose lenders with lower credit score requirements. If a lender requires good credit, they must also allow coborrowing to help the student meet eligibility requirements.
  • Rates and terms: We prioritize lenders with more-competitive fixed rates, fewer fees and greater options for repayment terms, loan amounts and APR discounts.
  • Repayment experience: For starters, we consider each lender’s reputation and business practices. We also favor lenders that report to all major credit bureaus, offer reliable customer service and provide any unique perks to customers, like free wealth coaching.

Frequently asked questions

Stipulations for spending your personal loan funds will vary from lender to lender. Most lenders do not allow borrowers to use funds for school-related expenses, including repaying student loan debt. Upstart is an online lender that allows you to pay student debt with a personal loan (in some states).

Most lenders want to see a reliable source of income. However, adding a creditworthy co-borrower could help you get approved if you don’t meet this requirement. Keep in mind, though, that your co-borrower’s credit score will be negatively affected along with yours if you make late payments. Never borrow money that you aren’t sure you can pay back.

If you’re in desperate need of funds, reach out to your school first. They might find you have extra aid available, such as a work-study opportunity you overlooked.
 
Your school may also have emergency loans for students experiencing financial hardship. Although applying for a private student loan can be an option, a personal loan can be one of the fastest ways to get funds.

*Pricing Disclosure:
Fixed rates from 8.99% APR to 29.99% APR reflect the 0.25% autopay interest rate discount and a 0.25% direct deposit interest rate discount. SoFi rate ranges are current as of 02/06/2024 and are subject to change without notice. The average of SoFi Personal Loans funded in 2022 was around $30K. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, and a variety of other factors. Loan amounts range from $5,000– $100,000. The APR is the cost of credit as a yearly rate and reflects both your interest rate and an origination fee of 0%-7%, which will be deducted from any loan proceeds you receive. Autopay: The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. Direct Deposit Discount: To be eligible to potentially receive an additional (0.25%) interest rate reduction for setting up direct deposit with a SoFi Checking and Savings account offered by SoFi Bank, N.A. or eligible cash management account offered by SoFi Securities, LLC (“Direct Deposit Account”), you must have an open Direct Deposit Account within 30 days of the funding of your Loan. Once eligible, you will receive this discount during periods in which you have enabled payroll direct deposits of at least $1,000/month to a Direct Deposit Account in accordance with SoFi’s reasonable procedures and requirements to be determined at SoFi’s sole discretion. This discount will be lost during periods in which SoFi determines you have turned off direct deposits to your Direct Deposit Account. You are not required to enroll in direct deposits to receive a Loan.