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Private Student Loans: Compare SoFi, Sallie Mae and More

NerdWalletAugust 13, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Always borrow federal student loans before private loans. Once you've exhausted federal options, compare offers from multiple private lenders to find the lowest interest rate.

Earnest Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Fixed APR

4.69-12.78%

Variable APR

3.35-11.44%

Min. Credit Score

650

Pros

  • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.
  • No late fees.
  • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

Cons

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • Loans aren't available in Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.
  • Minimum income: $35,000.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to your total cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

  • 5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years
CommonBond Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on CommonBond's website

Fixed APR

5.45-9.74%

Variable APR

3.66-9.64%

Min. Credit Score

660

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.
Read full review

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. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects 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 2.48% effective February 25, 2019.

SoFi Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on SoFi's website

Fixed APR

4.33-11.99%

Variable APR

2.93-11.57%

Min. Credit Score

700

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.
Read full review

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 Fixed Rates: Fixed rates range from 5.05% APR to 11.71% APR (with autopay). Variable Rates: Starting variable rates range from 3.65% to 11.25% 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 1.58% and 9.98%. The current one-month LIBOR rate is 2.27%. 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. Graduate Student Loans Fixed Rates: Fixed rates range from 4.33% APR to 11.99% APR (with autopay). Variable Rates: Starting variable rates range from 2.93% to 11.57% 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 0.86% and 9.76%. The current one-month LIBOR rate is 2.27%. 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. Parent Student Loans Fixed Rates: Fixed rates range from 5.05% APR to 11.71% APR (with autopay). Variable Rates: Starting variable rates range from 3.65% to 11.25% 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 1.58% and 9.98%. The current one-month LIBOR rate is 2.27%. 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. 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 #what is sofis unemployment protection program. 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.

Ascent Private Student Loans
Check Rate

on Ascent's website

Fixed APR

4.22-13.66%

Variable APR

3.71-13.01%

Min. Credit Score

600

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 option, no co-signer or credit history is required.

Cons

  • Fewer repayment term lengths than other lenders for fixed-rate loans.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • Non-co-signed option is only available to college juniors, seniors and graduate students.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose for co-signed option. For non-co-signed option, Ascent emphasizes future earnings over income or credit score.
  • Minimum income: $24,000 for co-signed option.
  • Loan amounts: For co-signed option, $2,000 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, $2,000 to total cost of attendance.
  • Non-co-signed borrowers must maintain 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: 6 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 07/01/2019 and include a 0.25% discount applied when a borrower in repayment elects automatic debit payments via their personal checking account. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details.

Citizens One Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

Fixed APR

4.40-12.19%

Variable APR

3.29-11.62%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Pros

  • International students can qualify with a co-signer.
  • Loyalty discount for existing Citizens Bank customers.

Cons

  • You must be pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Does not disclose.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $100,000

Available Term Lengths

  • 5, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR") published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.26%. Variable interest rates range from 3.29%-11.62% (3.29%-11.47% APR)  and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.40%-12.19% (4.40% - 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens One is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.

SunTrust Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on SunTrust's website

Fixed APR

4.30-11.05%

Variable APR

3.62-10.68%

Min. Credit Score

600

Pros

  • Principal reduction of 2% with proof of graduation.
  • Interest-only payments available for up to 36 months after graduation if you have financial hardship.
  • Interest rate discount for auto-pay is larger than most lenders'.

Cons

  • Loans aren't available to permanent residents of Iowa or Wisconsin.
  • You can't see if you'll qualify and what rate you'll get without a hard credit check.
  • Loans not available to borrowers with student visas.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose.
  • Minimum income: $1+.
  • Loan amounts: $1,001 minimum. $65,000 annual maximum, for a $150,000 aggregate maximum per borrower.

Available Term Lengths

  • 7, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer: Summer Savings: Rates shown for the Custom Choice Loan include the summer savings rate discount of 0.50% (see Summer Savings details below).Summer Savings offer valid for new Custom Choice Loans for which applications are submitted for a credit decision between 12:00:00am EST on June 1, 2019 and 11:59:59pm EST on August 31, 2019. A 0.50% interest rate reduction will be included in the loan options presented to an applicant during the online application process, upon passing the initial credit review. The interest rate reduction will be applied as of the first disbursement date and will be effective for the life of the loan. Click here to learn more. Interest rates and APRs (Annual Percentage Rates) depend upon (1) the student’s and cosigner’s (if applicable) credit histories, (2) the repayment option and repayment term selected, (3) the requested loan amount and (4) other information provided on the online loan application. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate applicable to your loan. Rates and terms are effective for applications received after on or after 08/01/2019. The variable interest rate for each calendar month is calculated by adding the current index (One-month LIBOR index) to your margin. LIBOR stands for London Interbank Offered Rate. The One-month LIBOR is published in the "Money Rates" section of the Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition). The One-month LIBOR index is captured on the 25th day of the immediately preceding calendar month (or if the 25th is not a business day, the next business day thereafter), and is rounded up to the nearest 1/8th of one percent. The current One-month LIBOR index is 2.375% on 08/01/2019. The variable interest rate will increase or decrease if the One-month LIBOR index changes or if a new index is chosen. The applicable index or margin for variable rate loans may change over time and result in a different APR than shown. The fixed rate assigned to a loan will never change except as required by law or if you request and qualify for the auto pay discount. APR Assumptions: APRs assume a $10,000 loan with two-disbursements and the summer savings rate discount of 0.50% (applicable to applications submitted for a credit decision between 12:00:00am EST on June 1, 2019 and 11:59:59pm EST on August 31, 2019). The high APRs assume a 15-year term with deferred principal payments. The low APRs assume a 7-year term and no deferment. For loan details, repayment examples and additional disclosure statements visit: https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student- loans/private/custom-choice-loan?referrer_link=NERDWALLET

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Fixed APR

4.74-11.35%

Variable APR

3.37-10.75%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

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 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.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 748.
  • 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% - 11.35% APR and Variable 3.37% - 10.75% 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 08/02/2019 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. The rate reduction 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. This benefit 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.

College Ave Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on College Ave's website

Fixed APR

4.72-12.94%

Variable APR

3.96-11.98%

Min. Credit Score

Mid-600s

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.
  • More flexible repayment options than other lenders.

Cons

  • No formal forbearance options.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Mid-700s.
  • Minimum income: $35,000 per year.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $80,000.

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. 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 7/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

Discover Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Discover's website

Fixed APR

4.74-12.49%

Variable APR

3.37-11.87%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.
  • No origination or late fees.

Cons

  • Only one repayment term: 15 years.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 660+.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to your total cost of attendance, minus other financial aid.

Available Term Lengths

  • 15 years

Disclaimer: The interest rate ranges represent the lowest interest rate offered on the Discover Undergraduate Loan and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including Undergraduate, Graduate, Health Professions, Law and MBA Loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable Margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 2.50% as of July 1, 2019. Discover Student Loans will adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the "interest rate change date"), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Please click here for more information about interest rates.

Summary of Private Student Loans: Compare SoFi, Sallie Mae and More

LenderFixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
Earnest Private Student Loan

Earnest Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

4.69-12.78%

3.35-11.44%

650

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

CommonBond Private Student Loan

CommonBond Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on CommonBond's website

5.45-9.74%

3.66-9.64%

660

Check Rate

on CommonBond's website

SoFi Private Student Loan

SoFi Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on SoFi's website

4.33-11.99%

2.93-11.57%

700

Check Rate

on SoFi's website

Ascent Private Student Loans

Ascent Private Student Loans

Check Rate

on Ascent's website

4.22-13.66%

3.71-13.01%

600

Check Rate

on Ascent's website

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

4.40-12.19%

3.29-11.62%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

SunTrust Private Student Loan

SunTrust Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on SunTrust's website

4.30-11.05%

3.62-10.68%

600

Check Rate

on SunTrust's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

4.74-11.35%

3.37-10.75%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

College Ave Private Student Loan

College Ave Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

4.72-12.94%

3.96-11.98%

Mid-600s

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

Discover Private Student Loan

Discover Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Discover's website

4.74-12.49%

3.37-11.87%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Discover's website

LenderFixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
Earnest Private Student Loan

Earnest Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

4.69-12.78%

3.35-11.44%

650

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

CommonBond Private Student Loan

CommonBond Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on CommonBond's website

5.45-9.74%

3.66-9.64%

660

Check Rate

on CommonBond's website

SoFi Private Student Loan

SoFi Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on SoFi's website

4.33-11.99%

2.93-11.57%

700

Check Rate

on SoFi's website

Ascent Private Student Loans

Ascent Private Student Loans

Check Rate

on Ascent's website

4.22-13.66%

3.71-13.01%

600

Check Rate

on Ascent's website

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

4.40-12.19%

3.29-11.62%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

SunTrust Private Student Loan

SunTrust Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on SunTrust's website

4.30-11.05%

3.62-10.68%

600

Check Rate

on SunTrust's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

4.74-11.35%

3.37-10.75%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

College Ave Private Student Loan

College Ave Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

4.72-12.94%

3.96-11.98%

Mid-600s

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

Discover Private Student Loan

Discover Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Discover's website

4.74-12.49%

3.37-11.87%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Discover's website


How do private student loans and federal student loans differ?

You apply for a federal student loan by submitting a FAFSA. Taking on a federal loan means you’re borrowing a loan funded by the government. You apply for a private student loan through a bank, credit union or online lender.

Federal student loans offer borrowers protections and alternative repayment options that private loans may not, such as income-based repayment and forgiveness programs. Federal student loans also have flat interest rates set by Congress, while the interest rate on a private student loan depends on your or your co-signer’s credit. Without a credit score of at least 690, you'll likely pay a higher interest rate for a private loan than you would for a federal loan.

» MORE: How to get a student loan

How do I choose a private student loan?

Compare offers from multiple lenders including banks, credit unions and online lenders to find the lowest interest rate. Depending on the lender, you may be able to choose a fixed or a variable interest rate. A fixed rate stays the same throughout the life of a loan. A variable rate may start out lower than a fixed rate, but could increase or decrease over time depending on economic conditions.

Consider any borrower protections your private lender offers, including deferment and forbearance, as well as repayment options. You may also have the option to choose your loan term, which means you could pay off your loan faster and with less interest by making higher payments or pay lower amounts with more interest over a longer period of time.

How do I qualify for a private student loan?

Each lender will have its own requirements for taking out a loan. With most loans, credit score and income are taken into account. Higher scores and incomes tend to get the best rates or higher borrowing amounts. However, since undergraduate borrowers are less likely to have established credit or an income, lenders will usually require students to apply with a co-signer. Some lenders who have loans for borrowers without a co-signer will consider career and income potential.

Lenders will often require you to attend a Title IV school, which means your school processes federal student aid. Some lenders don't offer loans in certain states.

Can I get a private student loan with bad credit?

You’ll have a hard time finding a private student loan from a bank, credit union or online lender if you have bad credit. Federal student loans don’t require borrowers to demonstrate creditworthiness, so they’ll be your best option. If you’ve already hit your limit on federal loans, you may be able to get a private student loan if you apply with a co-signer who has solid credit — typically scores in the high 600s or better.

» MORE: Student loans for borrowers with bad or no credit

Will I need a co-signer for a private student loan?

If you have no income and either no credit or bad credit, you’ll need a co-signer to get a private student loan. Without bills in your name, such as a credit card, car loan or utility, you have no way to demonstrate that you can pay bills on time. Your co-signer will need to have a steady income as well as good to excellent credit scores, typically at least in the high 600s. Signing with a co-signer means they’re on the hook for your loan bill if you can’t pay.

Some lenders offer loans exclusively for student borrowers that don't take credit into consideration. Instead, these lenders look at the school you’re attending as well as your income and career potential to determine the amount you can borrow and at what rate.

» MORE: How to get a student loan without co-signer

How do I apply for a private student loan?

Each lender will have its own application requirements. You’ll usually need to provide documents that prove citizenship, identity and income along with school attendance and cost information or a financial aid award letter from your college.

As part of underwriting, you or your co-signer will need to show you have a credit score in the high 600s or higher, as well as cash flow to make loan payments. They’ll also look at your or your co-signer’s debt-to-income ratio to make sure you have the funds to pay a student loan bill in addition to any other bills in your name.

Find the best student loan for you

Last updated on August 13, 2019

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Private Student Loans: Compare SoFi, Sallie Mae and More