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Best private student loans

LenderBest for…APR RangeMinimum Credit Score
International students3.79% to 15.41%
*with autopay discount
citizens bankMulti-year borrowing4.43% to 12.57%
*with autopay and loyalty discounts
elfibankCustomer Service4.50% to 14.22%
*with autopay discounts
Parent borrowers4.22% to 17.99%
*with autopay discount
Rate matchStarting at 4.39%
*with autopay discount
No cosigner7.49% to 12.99%
*with autopay discount
Not required
Traditional bank features4.49% to 12.24%
*with autopay discount
Not disclosed
Part-time students4.40% to 8.45%
*with autopay discount
Speedy cosigner release4.15% to 15.49%
*with auto debit discount
Member benefitsFixed APR rate: 4.19% - 14.83%
Variable APR rate: 5.74% - 15.86%
*with autopay discount (See disclosure below)
Not disclosed

Find out more about how we chose the best student loans.

Student Loan Lenders

Best for international students

Loan amounts
  • Minimum: $2,001
  • Maximum: Up to 100% cost of attendance ($200,000 aggregate)
Variable APR5.99% to 15.85% with autopay discount
Fixed APR3.79% to 15.41% with autopay discount
Terms5, 7, 10, 12, 15 years
Origination feeNone
Minimum credit scoreVaries

  1% cash back graduation reward (if all terms are met)

  Access to the Ascent Scholarship Giveaway Program

  Earn up to $525 for each friend you refer

  International students must use a U.S. cosigner

  Credit score requirements not specified

  International students don’t qualify for the non-cosigned, outcomes-based loan.

What to know Need additional funds while studying abroad in the U.S.? Ascent Student Loans offers student loans for non-U.S. citizens, non-U.S. permanent residents and non-Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students.

Undergraduate students can borrow up to 100% of their school’s cost of attendance ($200,000 aggregate) after other financial aid, with graduate student loans going up to $400,000. You can opt for up to nine months of deferred repayment after graduation — though interest will accrue during the deferment.

You may also be able to access a personal loan for non-U.S. citizens to cover non-educational-related expenses.

Eligibility requirements

You must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible institution and have a U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosigner when applying for an Ascent international student loan. You and your cosigner must meet income and credit score requirements, which vary.

U.S. citizens, permanent residents and DACA students can apply with or without a cosigner.


citizens bank

Best for multi-year borrowing

Loan amounts
  • Minimum: $1,000
  • Maximum: Up to 100% cost of attendance ($150,000 aggregate)
Variable APR5.81% to 13.96% with autopay and loyalty discounts
Fixed APR4.43% to 12.57% with autopay and loyalty discounts
Terms5, 10, 15 years
Origination feeNone
Minimum credit score700

  Multi-year approval saves time from needing to reapply every year

  Interest-only and deferred repayment plans available

  Relatively high 0.50 point interest-rate deduction after autopay and loyalty discounts

  Must make at least 36 on-time payments and meet credit criteria before applying for cosigner release

  Few refinancing perks compared to other lenders

  Doesn’t offer an unemployment protection program

What to know With loan options for students and parents, Citizens Bank sets itself apart by offering multi-year approval. Whether starting a four-year program or working toward your advanced degree, you only need to apply once for multiple years of financing. Citizens Bank is also one of the few loan providers that offer student loan refinancing even if you didn’t finish school.

Eligibility requirements

You must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-earning program and have no prior student loan defaults. You need a good credit score (700+) or a qualified cosigner to qualify. International students can apply with a creditworthy U.S. cosigner.


Best for Customer Service

Loan amounts
  • Minimum: $1,000
  • Maximum: Up to 100% cost of attendance
Variable APR6.00% to 14.22% with autopay discount
Fixed APR4.50% to 14.22% with autopay discount
Terms5, 7, 10, and 15 years
Origination feeNone
Minimum credit score680

  Industry best TrustPilot TrustScore of 4.8/5.0

  Borrowers are automatically paired with a dedicated Student Loan Advisor that will assist them through the application process

  There are no application or origination fees

  Borrowers can prequalify without a hard credit check

  Loan sizes up to the cost of attendance

  Cosigner release only available through refinancing

  Associate degree students are not eligible for loans

What to know 

ELFI is a division of SouthEast Bank. SouthEast Bank is a FDIC insured for-profit bank and is owned by Education Loan Finance, Inc. which is an education-focused not-for-profit founded in 1994. Borrowers are help guided through the application process with their dedicated Student Loan Advisor. ELFI takes a modern approach to college financing with a simple online application, no application or origination fees, and flexible repayment options. Additionally, ELFI has a TrustPilot Star Rating of 4.8/5.0 and has received national recognition for its customer service.

Eligibility requirements

The borrower and cosigner must be U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens, and the age of majority or older at the time of loan application. The student must be enrolled at least half-time in a program for a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral Degree. The borrower or cosigner must have a minimum credit score of 680, minimum income of $35,000, maximum debt-to-income ratio of 55%, and minimum credit history of 36 months.


Best for parent borrowers

Loan amounts
  • Minimum: $1,000
  • Maximum: Up to 100% cost of attendance
Variable APR5.59% to 17.99% with autopay discount
Fixed APR4.22% to 17.99% with autopay discount
TermsBetween 5 and 15 years
Origination feeNone
Minimum credit score660

  Four repayment options for students, including a flat $25 a month in-school payment to reduce accrued interest

  Students can’t apply for cosigner release until they’re halfway through their repayment term

What to know 

Students and parents alike will appreciate College Ave’s range of perks, such as flexible repayment options, no application or origination fees, and competitive rates — despite the slow path to cosigner release.

Eligibility requirements

Parents, grandparents, guardians, family members and friends can take out a College Ave parent loan to help pay for a student’s education, in contrast to many lenders which restrict parent loans to just parents or legal guardians. The borrower will need to meet specific credit and income criteria. Undergraduates will likely need a cosigner if they don’t have an established credit history.


Best for rate match

Loan amounts
  • Minimum: $1,000
  • Maximum: Up to 100% cost of attendance
Variable APRStarting at 5.62% with autopay discount
Fixed APRStarting at 4.39% with autopay discount
Terms5, 7, 10, 12, 15 years
Origination feeNone
Minimum credit score650

  Option to skip one payment a year

  No minimum enrollment requirement for grad students

  Nine-month grace period vs. the standard six months

  Doesn’t fund student loans in Nevada

  Cosigner release isn’t available (unless you refinance)

What to know Earnest seeks to give you the lowest private student loan interest rate, via its 100% Rate Match Guarantee program. If you find a lower rate elsewhere, Earnest will match it and send you a $100 Amazon gift card.

Unlike most lenders, Earnest considers additional criteria besides credit score when determining your college loan’s interest rate, including your spending habits and bank account balances. On the downside, Earnest has stricter cosigner requirements than some other lenders.

Eligibility requirements

Undergraduate students must be enrolled at least half-time, while graduate students have no enrollment requirement as long as they pursue an approved degree. Non-U.S. citizens and permanent residents can apply with a creditworthy U.S. cosigner. Although a cosigner isn’t required, having one can improve your chances of approval and help secure a lower interest rate. Cosigners need a minimum of three years of credit history, a credit score of 650 and a minimum income of $35,000 per year.

Best for no cosigner

Loan amounts
  • Minimum: $3,000
  • Maximum: $20,000 per academic year
Variable APRNot available
Fixed APR7.49% to 12.99% with autopay discount
Terms10 years *varies by state
Origination feeNone
Minimum credit scoreNot required

  No cosigner required — ever

  Every student receives a dedicated loan officer to help guide them along the way

  Several forbearance options for times of economic hardship

  Part-time students, grad students and parents are ineligible

  First-year and sophomore students have more difficulty gaining approval

  Loans aren’t available in 12 states

What to know FundingU might be a good option for students who don’t have access to a cosigner (or who don’t want to use one). As the name implies, Funding U focuses on you and your potential, not your parents’ finances. This lender also offers loans to undocumented students, as well as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

Since Funding U works exclusively with undergraduates, parents and grad students must look elsewhere for loans. Also, loan amounts are limited compared to other lenders.

Eligibility requirements

U.S. citizens, permanent residents or DACA recipients aged 18 and older must be enrolled full-time in a bachelor’s degree program at an eligible not-for-profit college or university (online-only schools are ineligible). Currently, Funding U only lends to around 1,450 schools in 38 states.

Although your FICO Score doesn’t matter, your credit history does, so watch out for missed payments or collection issues. Since your grades and academic performance play a significant role in eligibility, juniors and seniors tend to have higher chances of approval.

Best for traditional bank features

Loan amount
  • Minimum: $1,000
  • Maximum: $50,000 per academic year
Variable APR5.64% to 13.39% with autopay discount
Fixed APR4.49% to12.24% with autopay discount
Terms5, 10, 15 years
Origination feeNone
Minimum credit scoreNot disclosed

  Available to undergraduate, graduate and professional students

  0.50% autopay discount

  A range of financial products geared toward students

  No loan prequalification — a hard credit inquiry is required to see interest rates

  Cosigner release isn’t available until 48 months of on-time, consecutive payments.

  Credit score requirements not specified

What to know With over 2,600 physical branches across the U.S., PNC can be your one-stop solution for all your financial needs — student checking account, savings, student credit cards, loans for students and even free online webinars to boost your financial health. The PNC Solution Loan has zero fees, competitive rates and flexible terms, plus a 0.50 point rate deduction with an autopay discount.

Applying with a creditworthy cosigner typically increases the likelihood of approval. However, you can’t release your cosigner until you’ve made 48 consecutive, on-time payments and met PNC’s income and credit requirements.

Eligibility requirements

Both the student and cosigner (if applicable) must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and meet the required credit, employment and income criteria. The student must submit proof of at least half-time enrollment in an approved degree program.

Although PNC doesn’t offer private loans for international students, it does provide banking services for non-U.S. citizens and residents — you must apply in person for these services if you don’t have a Social Security Number.

Best for part-time students

Loan amounts
  • Minimum: $1,500
  • Maximum: $45,000 per academic year*
*can’t exceed the cost of attendance minus other aid received
Variable APRNot available
Fixed APR4.40% to 8.45% with autopay discount
Terms10 or 15 years
Origination feeNone
Minimum credit score680

  Loans available to non-matriculating students

  Multi-year plan available to save time applying each year

  Income-based repayment plan, with forgiveness after 25 years

  High late fee of 6%

  Interest accrues while in school and capitalizes once you enter repayment (if selecting the deferred repayment plan)

  The lowest rates only apply to Rhode Island residents or students attending a Rhode Island school

What to know Risla doesn’t require a specific enrollment status, making it an ideal choice for part-time students or those attending classes without the goal of earning a degree. Although you can get federal financial aid as a part-time student, you have to meet your school’s specific enrollment requirements. RISLA, on the other hand, offers more flexibility with their private loans for college.

With RISLA, you can get undergraduate, graduate, parent, certificate and refinance loans from $1,500 to $45,000. Another bonus feature is RISLA’s income-based repayment plan, which is typically only available with federal student loans. You can also choose between the immediate repayment plan (in school) or the deferred repayment plan (six months after you leave school).

Eligibility requirements

All RISLA borrowers and cosigners (if applicable) must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and are required to meet credit and income criteria. Students must attend a Title IV degree-granting school or an eligible public or non-profit institution of higher education. RISLA loans are available nationwide, but Rhode Island residents will receive a slightly lower interest rate.

Sallie Mae logo

Best for speedy cosigner release

Loan amounts
  • Minimum: $1,000
  • Maximum: Up to 100% cost of attendance
Variable APR5.37% to 15.70% with auto debit discount
Fixed APR4.15% to 15.49% with auto debit discount
Terms10 to 15 years (20 years for medical and dental school loans)
Origination feeNone
Minimum credit scoreMid-600s

  Cosigner release in 12 months if criteria is met

  Career training student loans available to those taking professional or certificate courses

  Loan options for students attending less than half-time

  Limited choice in repayment term

  No loan prequalification available

  Most undergraduate students require a cosigner

What to know Sallie Mae states that students were four times more likely to receive approval with a creditworthy cosigner than those without one. Fortunately, Sallie Mae offers one of the shortest cosigner release policies: You can take over the loan by yourself after 12 consecutive, on-time payments, so long as you meet the income and credit criteria.

One of the longest-running lenders of the bunch (founded in 1973), Sallie Mae also offers no application and origination fees, has low rates, and provides multi-year funding options and free credit score tracking. One drawback, however, is the borrower’s inability to select the length of their repayment term.

Eligibility requirements

Students must have U.S. citizenship or permanent residency, have sufficient credit history and be pursuing a certificate or degree program to apply for a Sallie Mae loan. International and DACA students can apply with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosigner.

Read our review

SoFi logo

Best for member benefits

Loan amounts
  • Minimum: $1,000
  • Maximum: Up to 100% cost of attendance
Variable APR5.74% - 15.86% with autopay discount
Fixed APR4.19% - 14.83% with autopay discount
Terms5, 7, 10, 15 years
Origination feeNone
Minimum credit scoreNot disclosed

  Excellent member discounts and incentives

  Prequalify without impacting your credit score

  Offers large loan amounts

  Credit score requirements not specified

  Cosigner release takes 24 months

  No loan option for part-time or alternative degree-seeking students

What to know Sofi is a competitive online finance company offering no-fee student loans with a range of member perks. SoFi Member Rewards allow you to earn points for various activities — such as using their app, checking your credit score and setting up direct deposit. You can then redeem points for cash, statement credit on your SoFi credit card or credit against your eligible SoFi loans.

Members can also enjoy financial planning, a 0.25 point interest rate deduction with autopay and an additional 0.25 point discount for subsequent loans.

Eligibility requirements

SoFi loans are available to U.S. citizens, permanent residents and DACA students. Students must be enrolled in an eligible bachelor’s, graduate or professional degree program — students pursuing an associate degree are ineligible. Borrowers, including cosigners, must meet SoFi’s income and credit requirements.

* Interest Rates: Eligibility and Important Details. Fixed rates range from 4.19% APR to 14.83% APR with 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates range from 5.74% APR to 15.86% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates are capped at 17.95%. SoFi rate ranges are current as of 6/20/24 and are subject to change at any time. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term and type of repayment option you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer (if applicable) and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. Check out our eligibility criteria at Eligibility Criteria | SoFi. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. 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. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.

The latest on private student loan interest rates

Student loan interest rates can fluctuate based on market conditions and inflation. The government determines the interest rate for federal student loans each year, based on the bond market. In contrast, private lenders can set whatever rate they want — although they typically remain competitive with the overall student loan environment.

When the cost of living increases, student loan rates tend to follow. With federal rates on the rise,some highly-rated student loan companies have also increased their rates.

It’s crucial to shop around to secure the most competitive rate between private student loan lenders. Keep up with your bills and maintain low credit card balances to increase your credit score, which can help unlock lower interest rates.

Private vs. Federal loans

Private student loansFederal student loans
Credit checkRequired for most lendersNot required, but a credit history review is needed for grad PLUS and parent PLUS loans
Cosigner92% of undergraduates used a cosigner during the 2021-2022 academic year, our data says, although not all lenders require oneNot always required, though you could need an "endorser" for parent or grad PLUS loans
Interest ratesFixed and variable APRs (depending on your creditworthiness) Range of rates from our featured lenders:
  • Variable: 3.99% to 16.72%
  • Fixed: 3.99% to 15.99%
Fixed rates set by the Department of Education (plus origination fees) Rates for 2023/2024 school year:
  • Undergraduate: 5.50%
  • Graduate: 7.05%
  • PLUS: 8.05%
Origination feeNot typically charged by top-rated lendersFees for loans issued between Oct. 2020 to Oct. 2024:
Annual borrowing limitUp to 100% of cost of attendance$5,500 to $12,500 (for undergraduates)
Repayment flexibilityIn-school deferment and short-term economic hardship forbearance could be available (a few lenders offer unemployment protection and income-based repayment plans)
  • Change repayment plans at any time
  • Variety of deferment and forbearance options
  • Income-driven repayment plans available
Forgiveness programsNot usually offered by lenders, though state and employer-run loan repayment assistance programs could be helpfulMany federal student loan forgiveness programs are available, plus additional ways to discharge your debt

Private student loans

Student loan companies set their own interest rates, often giving you a choice between a fixed or variable rate. Private lenders examine your financial credentials, such as your credit score and annual income. You might need to apply with a cosigner if you can’t qualify independently.

Borrowers generally have more flexibility with private student loans. Instead of being assigned a fixed-rate federal loan with a standard 10-year term, you might opt for a variable rate and a shorter or longer repayment plan.

Private education debt also tends to have a higher borrowing limit, allowing you to cover any gaps in your school’s cost of attendance. That said, it’s wise to only borrow what you need — and what you can afford to repay. Estimate your potential monthly dues using today’s rates and a student loan repayment calculator.

Federal student loans

The Department of Education issues federal student loans, with Congress determining the fixed interest rate each year. You won’t need to pass a credit check to qualify for most federal student loans, although PLUS loans require a review of your credit report to look for adverse credit history.

Federal loans are also eligible for a variety of repayment plans, such as income-driven repayment, deferment and forbearance, and various student loan forgiveness programs. However, you can’t borrow an infinite amount of federal loans — once you reach the federal student loan limit, you’ll need to consider additional ways to cover any remaining expenses.

How to maximize federal and free financial aid

Because federal student loans carry such wide-ranging repayment flexibility, it’s recommended to max out your federal loan allotment before resorting to a private student loan.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the gateway to federal loans and other aid programs. After completing the FAFSA, you’ll be eligible to accept loans offered by your school — but only up to the annual limit. Be sure to look for work-study opportunities and other grants listed on your financial aid award letter.

How do private student loans work?

For private student loans, you typically shop around with banks, credit unions and online lenders to find the best overall loan offer. Unlike federal loans, private loans are credit-based, so your eligibility and terms depend on your credit history. If you’re a student with a thin or poor credit file, you could improve your application by adding a creditworthy cosigner.

Once you’ve gained approval, your lender will certify the funding amount with your college or university. You may be allowed to borrow up to 100% of your cost of attendance minus other financial aid you expect to receive. The funds are usually disbursed directly to the school, with any excess amount credited to you later.

Your private lender may have a loan servicer that manages the repayment of your debt. Keep in mind that private loans have fewer safeguards if you run into trouble after leaving school, so consider them as a supplement to federal loans, rather than a substitute.

Pros and cons of private student loans

Private student loans can help with additional expenses not covered by financial aid. However, it’s worth weighing the pros and cons before taking on more debt.


  Borrowers with robust credit might find rates lower than the standard federal rate

  Higher loan amounts — typically up to 100% of the cost of attendance

  Access to variable interest rates

  Often doesn’t include an origination fee

  Quick application process

  A range of unique perks and benefits, which might include: rate match guarantee, multi-year borrowing, member and loyalty rewards, part-time enrollment options, loans for non-matriculating students

  No federal loan interest subsidies (i.e., subsidized loans)

  Unpredictability if you choose a variable interest rate

  Long-term financial burden for cosigners (not all lenders offer cosigner release)

  Fewer hardship protections than federal loans

  Limited student loan forgiveness programs

  May be quicker trigger to delinquency and default if you fall behind on payments

  Loans might not discharge upon the borrower’s disability or death

  Income-based repayment plans usually aren’t offered

  Usually have shorter repayment terms

Find and compare private student loans

The FAFSA is the gateway toward federal loans, but finding a private student loan might require more legwork.

Here are some ways to jumpstart your research:

  • Talk to your school’s financial aid office about its potential list of approved lenders
  • Ask family members, friends and classmates for lender recommendations
  • Utilize free resources like LendingTree to view lender reviews and details (See the chart at the top of this page, for example)

Along the way, confirm that your preferred loan suits your purposes and that your school will approve the lender. Ultimately, your school will have the final say in certifying your loan.

Many will let you confirm your eligibility and check your rates online without impacting your credit score. By shopping around, you can find the best loan for you, reducing the long-term costs of borrowing.

The following factors can help you compare student loan lenders:

  • Fixed and variable APRs
  • Rate discounts
  • Fees for application, origination and prepayment
  • In-school repayment options
  • Choice of repayment terms
  • Cosigner release policy
  • Guaranteed protections, such as economic hardship forbearance
  • Other perks, such as credit score tracking
  • Lender ratings and customer service track records

How to get a private student loan

1. Shop for private student loans

  • Check interest rates and terms online and with your local financial institutions
  • Consider adding a cosigner to unlock better rates
  • Weigh secondary features, such as unemployment protections or special discounts
  • “Test-drive” the customer service teams of your potential lenders with any questions you have

2. Choose a loan and apply

  • If you prequalify, you will still need to officially apply for a private student loan
  • Supply personal and financial information for yourself and your cosigner (if you have one)
  • Select a fixed or variable interest rate and the length of loan term
  • Your lender will work with your school to certify the loan amount
  • The funds will ideally disburse before the start of your next academic term

3. Don’t forget about next year

  • Start the financial aid process early for your next year of school
  • Apply for “gift aid” such as scholarships and grants to lessen future borrowing
  • Consider private lenders offer multi-year approval to streamline ensuing applications

Alternatives to private student loans

While private student loans help many students and their families afford college, this route may not suit everyone.

If you want to avoid student loans entirely (or at least limit them), here are some alternative funding options:

  • Exhaust all federal options: Review your financial aid award letter to ensure you’ve maxed out all available financial assistance. If in doubt, reach out to your financial advisor. Often certain loans or programs are overlooked, such as work-study opportunities or unsubsidized federal loans.
  • Boost your savings account: It’s never too late to sock away money into a high-yield savings account. You can also open a 529 college savings account and encourage friends and family to donate funds via Gift of College or Ugift.
  • Consider community college: Attending community college first could potentially reduce your total student loan debt by thousands of dollars. Alternatively, you can apply to a low-cost university to save on tuition costs. You can always transfer to your dream school at a later date.
  • Look into a ‘no loan’ college: Many schools are trying to make education more affordable and accessible to all. Check out our list of 56 ‘no loan’ colleges to potentially eliminate your need for student loans.
  • Apply for grants and scholarships: Researching grants and scholarships can take time and effort, but receiving extra funds you don’t need to repay is worth it. There’s something for everyone, including full-ride scholarships, grants and scholarships for women, scholarships for Latino and Hispanic students and more.
  • Increase your income: Juggling college classes and a job can be a lot to manage, but even a few hours of work can make a difference. Look for a college job that pays well with flexible hours, or consider starting your own side hustle.
  • Trim your budget: Create a detailed budget outlining your monthly habits. Do you really need that fancy latte? Even if it seems inexpensive, remember that every little bit helps.

To get an idea of what you repayment will look like, try punching the details of your loans into our student loan repayment calculator:

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We selected 10 private student lenders which stood out for their range of products, easy application process and competitive rates. By compiling detailed information on rates, terms, loan amounts and basic eligibility requirements, we hope you can make a sound decision to address your immediate financial needs.

Here’s the criteria we assessed to choose the best private student loans:

  • Eligibility with a credit score as low as 650
  • Flexible loan amounts that can cover up to your school’s full cost of attendance
  • No origination fees
  • Autopay or auto debit discounts

Frequently asked questions

To qualify for a private loan, you’ll need to attend an eligible school and meet the lender’s age, education or citizenship requirements, as well as credit and income criteria. Undergraduate students usually need to apply with a creditworthy cosigner.


Many lenders let you check your rates with an online prequalification that won’t impact your credit (as opposed to a more in-depth hard credit inquiry). Compare offers from a few different lenders to find the lowest rate for your private student loan.


Information usually needed to get a private student loan


  • Credit history
  • Valid ID
  • Social Security number
  • Employment and income verification
  • Tax documents
  • Bank account and asset details
  • Debt or payment obligations


If you have a cosigner, they will likely need to submit this information too.

Most private lenders require a minimum credit score before approving you for a private student loan. If you have limited or bad credit, you can boost your chances of qualifying by applying with a cosigner. Even if you can qualify on your own, adding a creditworthy cosigner to your application could help secure better rates.


Note that your cosigner will hold equal responsibility for the loan, and their credit will suffer if your loan falls into delinquency or defaults. Some lenders allow you to release your cosigner after a certain period of on-time payments.


For more information on this, check out our guide to student loans for bad credit.

Historically, about 9 out of 10 private student loans are borrowed with cosigners — creditworthy individuals who agree to repay the debt if the primary borrower falls behind. That’s because teens and 20-somethings often don’t have an adequate credit history to meet the underwriting standards of banks, credit unions and online-only lenders.


Even if you’re a rare case who could qualify on your own, including a cosigner could potentially lower your interest rate. Make sure you and your cosigner understand the legal obligations of repayment before deciding to team up.


And if you prefer to apply alone, check out student loans without cosigner requirements.

Each lender sets its own minimum and maximum borrowing amounts. However, just because you can borrow up to your remaining cost of attendance doesn’t mean you should.


Your loan balance, interest rate and loan term (definitions below) can dramatically impact the overall costs of a private student loan.



When you take out a student loan, your balance is the amount you borrowed. As interest accumulates, your loan balance grows. You might have several student loan balances, depending on how many loans you took out.


Interest rate

When you borrow a student loan, you agree to pay back your borrowed amount, plus interest. With the exception of federal subsidized loans, interest starts racking up from day one.

Private student loans can come with fixed or variable interest rates. Variable rates often start lower than fixed ones, but they can drastically increase over time.


Loan term

The term is the number of years it takes to repay your loan. Private loans are not eligible for federal repayment plans. Most private lenders let you choose a term of five to 20 years, though some have longer or shorter terms available.

Use the following questions to determine how much private funds you should borrow:


QuestionWhere to find the answer
How much do I need to borrow?Estimate higher education costs using tools like the College Scorecard (or your financial aid award letter, if you have one)
How much will my student loan cost?Plug potential borrowing scenarios into student loan calculators
Can I afford to borrow that much?Utilize free resources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics to project your postgraduate wages

After applying for a private student loan, you should receive a formal approval or denial within days, sometimes hours. More likely, a customer service representative from your potential lender will follow up to provide a status update or request additional documentation.


  • If your application is rejected, the lender may describe ways to improve your chances, perhaps by including a cosigner.
  • If your application is approved, the lender will share forms to complete, and will contact your school to certify the loan amount.


If time is of the essence — perhaps your next semester or academic term is fast approaching — consult the preferred lenders on your list about how quickly you can expect an answer on your application. You might also consider emergency student loans for immediate financial needs.

U.S. law sets the federal student loan interest rates, which Congress then passes. The annual federal loan rates are based on 10-year Treasury notes plus a fixed increase. Each loan type has a predetermined loan cap in an effort to make interest rates reasonable for all borrowers. Furthermore, regardless of your credit score, everyone receives the same rate with federal student loans.


In contrast, private lenders utilize their own lending models to determine student loan interest rates.


A lender may consider the following factors when calculating your rate:

  • Your credit score
  • Your income (or job offer)
  • Your student loan terms
  • Your field of study
  • Current market trends