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11 Best Graduate Student Loan Options of May 2020

Teddy NykielMay 11, 2020

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Graduate students can take out federal direct unsubsidized loans, federal Grad PLUS loans or private student loans.

There are three main types of graduate student loans: federal direct unsubsidized loans, federal graduate PLUS loans and private student loans. Generally, max out federal student loans before taking out private ones.

However, you may qualify for a lower interest rate with a private graduate school loan if you have excellent credit. Before borrowing, get personalized private student loan rate estimates and compare them with federal loan rates.

Check out our top picks for graduate student loans below, as well as additional information about how to choose which is best for you and postpone repayment while you're in grad school.

Summary of Best Graduate Student Loan Options of May 2020

LenderNerdWallet Rating Fixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Best for: All borrowers

4.53 - 6.08%

N/A

None

Read review
Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Best for: Borrowers without credit or a co-signer

7.08 - 7.08%

N/A

None

Read review
MPOWER Private Student Loan

MPOWER Private Student Loan

Best for: Borrowers without credit or a co-signer

7.52 - 13.63%

N/A

N/A

Read review
Ascent Private Student Loan

Ascent Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Ascent's website

Best for: Borrowers without credit or a co-signer

3.98 - 14.92%

3.17 - 13.92%

540

Check Rate

on Ascent's website

Prodigy Private Student Loan

Prodigy Private Student Loan

Best for: Borrowers without credit or a co-signer

N/A

7.52 - 12.00%

N/A

Read review
College Ave Graduate Student Loan

College Ave Graduate Student Loan

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

Best for: Borrowers with good credit or a co-signer

4.39 - 12.99%

1.49 - 11.98%

Mid-600s

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

CommonBond Private Student Loan

CommonBond Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on CommonBond's website

Best for: Borrowers with good credit or a co-signer

5.45 - 9.74%

3.31 - 9.29%

660

Check Rate

on CommonBond's website

RISLA Private Student Loan

RISLA Private Student Loan

Best for: Borrowers with good credit or a co-signer

3.64 - 5.46%

N/A

680

Read review
SoFi Private Student Loan

SoFi Private Student Loan

Best for: Borrowers with good credit or a co-signer

4.73 - 11.46%

2.05 - 10.63%

Does not disclose

Read review
Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Best for: Borrowers with good credit or a co-signer

4.53 - 10.72%

3.39 - 10.09%

Does not disclose

Read review
Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Best for: Borrowers with good credit or a co-signer

4.74 - 11.85%

1.50 - 9.66%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Our pick for

All borrowers

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Fixed APR

4.53 - 6.08%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

None


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Graduate school borrowers qualify for unsubsidized student loans only.

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.

  • Subsidized loans do not collect interest while in school or during deferment.

  • Lower interest rates compared with private lenders.

Cons

  • You pay an origination fee.

Qualifications

  • No credit check or minimum income is needed to borrow.

  • Loan amounts for undergraduates: $5,500 year one, $6,500 year two, $7,500 year three and thereafter, up to a total of $31,000

  • Independent students and graduate students have higher loan limits.

  • Undergraduate interest rate fixed at 4.53%, while grad students get higher 6.08% rate.

Available Term Lengths

10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.

Disclaimer

Read Full Review

Our picks for

Borrowers without credit or a co-signer

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Fixed APR

7.08 - 7.08%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

None


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for graduate students who need to borrow beyond the federal unsubsidized loan limit.

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers compared with private lenders.

  • All borrowers who attend a school authorized to receive federal aid qualify.

Cons

  • May have higher interest rates compared with private lenders.

  • You pay an origination fee.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Grad PLUS loan borrowers must not have adverse credit history.

  • Borrowers with adverse credit history can still receive a grad PLUS loan by enlisting a co-signer without adverse credit history or documenting extenuating circumstances for their credit history.

  • Loan amounts: Total cost of attendance minus other financial aid.

Available Term Lengths

10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.

Disclaimer

Read Full Review

MPOWER Private Student Loan

MPOWER Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

7.52 - 13.63%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

N/A


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for international students and students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status.

Pros

  • Offers a hard-to-find option: non-co-signed student loans for international and DACA students.

  • Borrowers are assigned a dedicated student loan advisor.

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders offer, and borrowers can access national disaster forbearance as well.

Cons

  • Payment required while in school and during the grace period.

  • Offers only one repayment term: 10 years.

Qualifications

  • MPOWER considers future income potential but does not factor in credit scores.

  • Loan amounts: Minimum $2,001. Maximum loan is $50,000, limited to $25,000 per academic period.

Available Term Lengths

10 years

Disclaimer

Read Full Review
Ascent Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Ascent's website

Ascent Private Student Loan

Ascent Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

3.98 - 14.92%

Variable APR

3.17 - 13.92%

Min. Credit Score

540

Check Rate

on Ascent's website


Variable APR

3.17 - 13.92%

Key facts

An option for graduate students with no credit, income or co-signer

Pros

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders.

  • You can make biweekly payments via autopay.

  • For co-signed option, multiple in-school repayment options are available, including interest-only, flat-fee and deferred.

  • For non-co-signed future-income based option, no co-signer or credit history is required.

Cons

  • Fewer repayment term lengths than other lenders for fixed-rate loans.

  • Non-co-signed future income-based option is available only to college juniors, seniors and graduate students.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose for co-signed option. For non-co-signed future income-based option, Ascent emphasizes future earnings over income or credit score.

  • Minimum income: $24,000 for the co-signed and non-co-signed credit-based option. Income is not considered for the non-co-signed future income-based option.

  • Loan amounts: For co-signed option, $1,000 minimum to $200,000 over the lifetime of a borrower. The amount for each loan period cannot exceed the total cost of attendance. For non-co-signed option, $1,000 to $20,000.

  • Non-co-signed future income-based borrowers must also meet satisfactory academic performance requirements with a 2.5 GPA or higher.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 for cosigned option or 10 or 15 for non-co-signed option

Disclaimer

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Richland State Bank (RSB), Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 05/14/2020 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 2.00% (for undergraduate future income-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentStudentLoans.com/Rates . 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student borrowers must have a minimum credit score. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner.

Read Full Review

Prodigy Private Student Loan

Prodigy Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

7.52 - 12.00%

Min. Credit Score

N/A


Variable APR

7.52 - 12.00%

Key facts

Pros

  • Offers a hard-to-find option: non-co-signed student loans for international students.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • No late fees.

Cons

  • No fixed interest rates.

  • No formal deferment/forbearance options.

  • Not available to borrowers in all 50 states including: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.

Qualifications

  • Prodigy Finance considers future income, rather than current income or credit score.

  • Loan amounts: $15,000 to $220,000.

Available Term Lengths

7, 10, 15 or 20 years

Disclaimer

Read Full Review

Our picks for

Borrowers with good credit or a co-signer

College Ave Graduate Student Loan
Check Rate

on College Ave's website

College Ave Graduate Student Loan

College Ave Graduate Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.39 - 12.99%

Variable APR

1.49 - 11.98%

Min. Credit Score

Mid-600s

Check Rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

1.49 - 11.98%

Key facts

Best for graduate students who'll need extra time before starting repayment.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • International students can qualify with a co-signer.

  • Nine-month grace period is longer than other lenders offer.

Cons

  • You must be at least halfway through your repayment term before you can request a co-signer release.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Mid-700s.

  • Minimum income: $35,000 per year.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

5, 8, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.78% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 54 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $176.21 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $18,266.38. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.Information advertised valid as of 5/18/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

Read Full Review
CommonBond Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on CommonBond's website

CommonBond Private Student Loan

CommonBond Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

5.45 - 9.74%

Variable APR

3.31 - 9.29%

Min. Credit Score

660

Check Rate

on CommonBond's website


Variable APR

3.31 - 9.29%

Key facts

Best for students who are already planning to use a co-signer and value customer support.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • You are assigned a dedicated Money Mentor.

Cons

  • Loans aren't available in Nevada and Mississippi.

  • Co-signer required.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.

  • Minimum income: No set minimum.

  • Loan amounts: $2,000 to the total cost of attendance. Maximum $500,000.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The Annual Percentage Rates (APR) shown reflect the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.14% effective August 25, 2019.

Read Full Review

RISLA Private Student Loan

RISLA Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

3.64 - 5.46%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

680


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for students who may need wiggle room on payments in the future.

Pros

  • Income-based repayment plan available, with forgiveness after 25 years.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Partial loan forgiveness for eligible internships; interest forgiveness for qualifying nurses.

Cons

  • Fewer repayment terms available than other lenders.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 768.

  • Minimum income: $40,000.

  • Loan amounts: $1,500 to $45,000.

Available Term Lengths

10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Read Full Review

SoFi Private Student Loan

SoFi Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.73 - 11.46%

Variable APR

2.05 - 10.63%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose


Variable APR

2.05 - 10.63%

Key facts

SoFI offers grad students networking opportunities and several options to start repayment while in school.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Multiple in-school repayment options available, including interest-only and flat-fee, and deferred for undergrad and grad students.

  • Additional perks like career planning, job search assistance and entrepreneurship support available.

Cons

  • Must be a U.S. citizen.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 700+.

  • Minimum income: No minimum.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 minimum.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Undergraduate Student Loans Interest Rates: Eligibility and Important Details APR Rates shown are effective as of 4/13/2020 and include the 0.25% autopay discount and assume a single disbursement. If approved for a loan, the rates and terms offered will depend on things like creditworthiness, the length of the loan, and other factors, and will fall within the range of rates available by applicable loan term—check out our APR examples and terms. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Want to learn more? Check out our eligibility criteria. SoFi reserves the right to change interest rates at any time without notice, changes would only apply to applications begun after the effective date of the change. Fixed Rates: Fixed rates range from 4.73% APR to 11.46% APR (with autopay). Variable Rates: Starting variable rates range from 2.05% APR – 10.63% APR APR (with autopay), and will never exceed 13.95% (sometimes lower in certain states as required by law). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin of between 1.12% – 10.70%. The current one-month LIBOR rate is 0.93%. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Autopay Discount. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make your scheduled monthly payments by an automatic monthly deduction (ACH) 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. The discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the interest savings are applied to the principal loan balance, which may help pay the loan down faster. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. Still have questions? Our FAQs have answers. Credit Pulls. To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms you are pre-qualified for, subject to the verification of the information you have submitted as part of your application. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan and may impact your credit score. Unemployment Protection.If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you may apply for Unemployment Protection. If you qualify, SoFi will suspend your monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during your forbearance period. Interest will continue to accrue and will be added to your principal balance at the end of each forbearance period, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Benefits are offered in up to three month increments, and capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. To be eligible for this assistance, you must provide proof that you have applied for and are eligible for unemployment compensation, and you must actively work with SoFi Career Services to look for new employment. If the loan is cosigned, the unemployment protection applies where both the borrower and cosigner lose their job and meet conditions. Learn more about SoFi’s Unemployment Protection here . Negative Amortization. Interest begins accruing on the first disbursement date, but some repayment options do not require full principal or interest payments until the end of the deferment period. Any unpaid interest that has accrued and remains unpaid at the end of the deferment period will be added to the principal balance at the end of the deferment period. Thereafter, interest will accrue on this new principal balance. This is known as negative amortization. You can help avoid negative amortization by making extra payments on your loan during the deferment period. Check out our APR examples and terms. Still have questions? Our FAQs have answers. Important Information About Federal Repayment Options. SoFi Private Student Loans do not have the same repayment options that federal loan programs offer, such as Income-Based Repayment or Income-Contingent Repayment, or PAYE or REPAYE. In addition, federal student loans offer deferment and forbearance options that are not available for SoFi Lending Corp. Private Student Loan borrowers. Find out more about federal repayment options here. Graduate Student Loans Interest Rates: Eligibility and Important Details APR Rates shown are effective as of 4/13/2020 and include the 0.25% autopay discount and assume a single disbursement. If approved for a loan, the rates and terms offered will depend on things like creditworthiness, the loan term, and other factors, and will fall within the range of rates available by applicable loan term—check out our APR examples and terms. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Want to learn more? Check out our eligibility criteria. SoFi reserves the right to change interest rates at any time without notice, changes would only apply to applications begun after the effective date of the change. Fixed Rates: Fixed rates range from 4.51% APR to 11.76% APR (with autopay). Variable Rates: Starting variable rates range from 1.83% APR – 11.00% APR (with autopay), and will never exceed 13.95% (sometimes lower in certain states as required by law). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin of between 0.90% and 10.48%. The current one-month LIBOR rate is 0.93%. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Autopay Discount. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make your scheduled monthly payments by an automatic monthly deduction (ACH) 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. The discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal loan balance and is intended to help pay the loan down faster. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. Still have questions? Our FAQs have answers. Credit Pulls. To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms you are pre-qualified for, subject to the verification of the information you have submitted as part of your application. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan and may impact your credit score. Unemployment Protection. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you may apply for Unemployment Protection. If you qualify, SoFi will suspend your monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during your forbearance period. Interest will continue to accrue and will be added to your principal balance at the end of each forbearance period, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Benefits are offered in up to three month increments, and capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. To be eligible for this assistance, you must provide proof that you have applied for and are eligible for unemployment compensation, and you must actively work with SoFi Career Services to look for new employment. If the loan is cosigned, the unemployment protection applies where both the borrower and cosigner lose their job and meet conditions. Learn more about SoFi’s Unemployment Protection here . Negative Amortization. Interest begins accruing on the first disbursement date, but some repayment options do not require full principal or interest payments until the end of the deferment period. Any unpaid interest that has accrued and remains unpaid at the end of the deferment period will be added to the principal balance at the end of the deferment period. Thereafter, interest will accrue on this new principal balance. This is known as negative amortization. You can help avoid negative amortization by making extra payments on your loan during the deferment period. Check out our APR examples and terms. Still have questions? Our FAQs have answers. Important Information About Federal Repayment Options. SoFi Private Student Loans do not have the same repayment options that federal loan programs offer, such as Income-Based Repayment or Income-Contingent Repayment, or PAYE or REPAYE. In addition, federal student loans offer deferment and forbearance options that are not available for SoFi Lending Corp. Private Student Loan borrowers. Find out more about federal repayment options here. MBA & Law Student Loans Interest Rates: Eligibility and Important Details APR Rates shown are effective as of 4/13/2020 and include the 0.25% autopay discount and assume a single disbursement. If approved for a loan, the rates and terms offered will depend on things like creditworthiness, the loan term, and other factors, and will fall within the range of rates available by applicable loan term—check out our APR examples and terms. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Want to learn more? Check out our eligibility criteria. SoFi reserves the right to change interest rates at any time without notice, changes would only apply to applications begun after the effective date of the change. Fixed Rates: Fixed rates range from 4.41% APR to 11.67% APR (with autopay). Variable Rates: Starting variable rates range from 1.73% APR – 10.90% APR (with autopay), and will never exceed 13.95% (sometimes lower in certain states as required by law). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin of between 0.80% and 10.38%. The current one-month LIBOR rate is 0.93%. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Autopay Discount. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make your scheduled monthly payments by an automatic monthly deduction (ACH) 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. The discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal loan balance and is intended to help pay the loan down faster. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. Still have questions? Our FAQs have answers. Credit Pulls. To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms you are pre-qualified for, subject to the verification of the information you have submitted as part of your application. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan and may impact your credit score. Unemployment Protection. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you may apply for Unemployment Protection. If you qualify, SoFi will suspend your monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during your forbearance period. Interest will continue to accrue and will be added to your principal balance at the end of each forbearance period, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Benefits are offered in up to three month increments, and capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. To be eligible for this assistance, you must provide proof that you have applied for and are eligible for unemployment compensation, and you must actively work with SoFi Career Services to look for new employment. If the loan is cosigned, the unemployment protection applies where both the borrower and cosigner lose their job and meet conditions. Learn more about SoFi’s Unemployment Protection here . Negative Amortization. Interest begins accruing on the first disbursement date, but some repayment options do not require full principal or interest payments until the end of the deferment period. Any unpaid interest that has accrued and remains unpaid at the end of the deferment period will be added to the principal balance at the end of the deferment period. Thereafter, interest will accrue on this new principal balance. This is known as negative amortization. You can help avoid negative amortization by making extra payments on your loan during the deferment period. Check out our APR examples and terms. Still have questions? Our FAQs have answers. Important Information About Federal Repayment Options. SoFi Private Student Loans do not have the same repayment options that federal loan programs offer, such as Income-Based Repayment or Income-Contingent Repayment, or PAYE or REPAYE. In addition, federal student loans offer deferment and forbearance options that are not available for SoFi Lending Corp. Private Student Loan borrowers. Find out more about federal repayment options here. Parent Student Loans Interest Rates: Eligibility and Important Details APR Rates shown are effective as of 4/13/2020 and include the 0.25% autopay discount and assumes a single disbursement. If approved for a loan, the rates and terms offered will depend on things like creditworthiness, the length of the loan, and other factors, and will fall within the range of rates available by applicable loan term—check out our APR examples and terms. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Want to learn more? Check out our eligibility criteria. SoFi reserves the right to change interest rates at any time without notice, changes would only apply to applications begun after the effective date of the change. Fixed Rates: Fixed rates range from 4.73% APR to 11.46% APR (with autopay). Variable Rates: Starting variable rates range from 2.05% APR – 10.63% APR (with autopay), and will never exceed 13.95% (sometimes lower in certain states as required by law). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin of between 1.12% and 9.70%. The current one-month LIBOR rate is 0.93%. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Autopay Discount. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make your scheduled monthly payments by an automatic monthly deduction (ACH) 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. The discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the interest savings are applied to the principal loan balance, which may help pay the loan down faster. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. Still have questions? Our FAQs have answers. Credit Pulls. To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms you are pre-qualified for, subject to the verification of the information you have submitted as part of your application. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan and may impact your credit score. Unemployment Protection.If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you may apply for Unemployment Protection. If you qualify, SoFi will suspend your monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during your forbearance period. Interest will continue to accrue and will be added to your principal balance at the end of each forbearance period, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Benefits are offered in up to three month increments, and capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. To be eligible for this assistance, you must provide proof that you have applied for and are eligible for unemployment compensation, and you must actively work with SoFi Career Services to look for new employment. If the loan is cosigned, the unemployment protection applies where both the borrower and cosigner lose their job and meet conditions. Learn more about SoFi’s Unemployment Protection here . Negative Amortization. Interest begins accruing on the first disbursement date, but some repayment options do not require full principal or interest payments until the end of the deferment period. Any unpaid interest that has accrued and remains unpaid at the end of the deferment period will be added to the principal balance at the end of the deferment period. Thereafter, interest will accrue on this new principal balance. This is known as negative amortization. You can help avoid negative amortization by making extra payments on your loan during the deferment period. Check out our APR examples and terms. Still have questions? Our FAQs have answers. Important Information About Federal Repayment Options.SoFi Private Student Loans do not have the same repayment options that federal loan programs offer, such as Income-Based Repayment or Income-Contingent Repayment, or PAYE or REPAYE. In addition, federal student loans offer deferment and forbearance options that are not available for SoFi Lending Corp. Private Student Loan borrowers. Find out more about federal repayment options here.

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Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.53 - 10.72%

Variable APR

3.39 - 10.09%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose


Variable APR

3.39 - 10.09%

Key facts

Best for existing Wells Fargo customers and those enrolled less than half-time.

Pros

  • You are assigned a dedicated student loan advisor.

  • One of the few lenders to offer loans to borrowers enrolled less than half-time.

  • More payment reduction options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.

Cons

  • Shorter length of hardship forbearance than most other lenders.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.

  • Minimum income: No minimum.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $120,000

Available Term Lengths

15 years

Disclaimer

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Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.74 - 11.85%

Variable APR

1.50 - 9.66%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website


Variable APR

1.50 - 9.66%

Key facts

Best for part-time students and those who want flexibility with repayment.

Pros

  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.

  • Borrowers can access online tutoring and free credit score tracking.

  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, can apply with a U.S. co-signer.

Cons

  • You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Information not available on minimum qualifying credit scores or income.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Does not disclose.

  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.

Available Term Lengths

5 to 15 years

Disclaimer

Lowest rates shown include the auto debit discount: Fixed 4.74% - 11.85% APR and Variable 1.50% - 9.66% APR. Interest rates for Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options are higher than interest rates for the Interest Repayment Option. You're charged interest starting at disbursement, while in school, during your separation/grace period, and until the loan is paid in full. The repayment option that is selected will apply during the in-school and separation/grace periods. When you enter principal and interest repayment, Unpaid Interest will be added to your loan's Current Principal. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan. Advertised variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised APRs are valid as of 4/27/2020 and assume a $10,000 loan to a freshman with no other Sallie Mae loans. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: Borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction benefit. This benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month and may be suspended during periods of forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. Loan amounts: $1000 up to 100% of the school certified expenses: Loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received as certified by the school. Sallie Mae reserves the right to approve a lower loan amount than the school-certified amount. Repayment term of 5 to 15 years: This repayment example is based on a typical Smart Option Student Loan made to a freshman borrower who chooses a fixed rate and the Fixed Repayment Option for a $10,000 loan, with two disbursements, and a 8.44% fixed APR. It works out to 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $156.04 and one payment of $118.97, for a Total Loan Cost of $19,962.73.

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Which type of graduate student loan is best for you?

The best graduate school loan for you will likely be a federal student loan. These loans offer protections like income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs that private loans lack. Those benefits can come in handy depending on how much you owe — the average graduate student debt is $82,000, including undergraduate loans — and your career plans.

That future profession should also play a part in helping you decide which graduate loan is right for you. Higher earners may be more comfortable taking on private graduate school loans:

Use private student loans for graduate school if you don't need access to federal benefits and if you have excellent credit or a co-signer who does. If you plan to use a co-signer, look for a lender that offers a co-signer release program. Compare your options above or on NerdWallet’s private student loan page to find the lowest rate you qualify for.

Federal direct grad PLUS loans vs. unsubsidized loans

Borrowers can choose from two types of federal student loans for graduate school: grad PLUS loans and unsubsidized direct loans.

  • Federal direct unsubsidized loans limit the amount you can borrow to $20,500 annually and $138,500 overall, including undergraduate loans. But these loans have lower interest rates and fees than PLUS loans, so opt for unsubsidized loans before graduate PLUS loans.
  • Federal grad PLUS loans have higher interest rates and fees than direct unsubsidized loans, but you can borrow more money in PLUS loans — up to your total cost of attendance, minus other aid received. Use grad PLUS loans if you’ve maxed out your federal direct unsubsidized loans and still want to use federal loans to pay for graduate school.

How to defer student loans while in grad school

You can often postpone payments on undergraduate and graduate school loans while you’re enrolled in school at least half-time through a process called deferment. However, if you can afford to make full or interest-only payments during graduate school, you should. Interest will accrue on all student loans for graduate school — federal and private — during deferment, increasing the total amount you’ll pay over time.

If your graduate school loans are federal, your loan servicer may put them into deferment automatically, or you can call the servicer and/or your school’s financial aid office to request a deferment. For private graduate student loans, contact your lender or servicer to ask about in-school deferment. Many, but not all, private student lenders offer this feature; look for lenders that do when comparing graduate school loans.

Last updated on May 11, 2020

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Graduate Student Loan Options of May 2020

Frequently asked questions

Most students should max out federal student loans for graduate school before considering other options. But if you have excellent credit, a private student loan may be cheaper in the long run.

Grad students can get up to $20,500 annually and $138,500 overall in unsubsidized federal loans. Federal PLUS loans and private loans can cover up to your cost of attendance minus other aid received.

Interest rates and loan fees are higher with grad PLUS loans. But you can also borrow more with these loans — up to your cost of attendance — compared to other federal options.

Complete the FAFSA to qualify for all federal aid, including unsubsidized loans and graduate PLUS loans. If you want a private student loan for grad school, apply directly with the lender.