BEST OF

17 Best Private Student Loans

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.

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Private student loans are used to pay for college costs, but they originate with a bank, credit union or online lender rather than the federal government.

Private student loans can be a good option if:

  • You have already completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to see if you’re eligible for federal grants, work-study and federal loans.

  • You have already borrowed the maximum in both subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans.

  • You have good credit (a credit score of 690 or above) or a co-signer who does. Most private student loan borrowers have a co-signer.

  • You borrow only what you need.

Below, you can get personalized rates and find NerdWallet's top-ranked private student loans for students, parents, independent students, international students, part-time students and graduate school.

Best Private Student Loans

Our pick for

Private student loan

These lenders charge no origination fees and were among our top scoring providers. Most use a soft credit check to offer preliminary rates.

Ascent Credit-based Student Loan
Check rate

on Ascent's website

Ascent Credit-based Student Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Ascent Credit-based Student Loan

Min. credit score

Varies

Fixed APR

3.89-13.16%

Variable APR

2.52-11.11%
Check rate

on Ascent's website


Variable APR

2.52-11.11%

Key facts

Online lender Ascent offers two private student loan products, one for borrowers who have a co-signer and one for independent students who don't have a co-signer or established credit.

Pros

  • Among the best for payment flexibility.

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

  • Stands out for features that enable faster loan repayment.

Cons

  • Students enrolled less than half-time are not eligible.

  • Co-signer release not available to international students.

Qualifications

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

  • Minimum income: $0 for primary borrower. $24,000 for current and previous year for co-signer.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $200,000 per year with an aggregate loan limit of $200,000.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, 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.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 09/01/2022 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 2.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-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: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.

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Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

Mid-600's

Fixed APR

3.75-13.72%

Variable APR

3.37-13.72%
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website


Variable APR

3.37-13.72%

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.

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

10 to 15 years

Disclaimer

Lowest rates shown include the auto debit. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: The 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. It may be suspended during forbearance or deferment. Interest is charged starting when funds are sent to the school. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. Payments may be required during the grace/separation period depending on the repayment option selected. 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 assume a $10,000 loan to a borrower who attends school for 4 years and has no prior Sallie Mae loans. Advertised APRs are valid as of 09/26/2022. Loan amounts: 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. Examples of typical costs for a $10,000 Smart Option Student Loan with the most common fixed rate, fixed repayment option, 6-month separation period, and two disbursements: For a borrower with no prior loans and a 4-year in-school period, it works out to a 9.63% fixed APR, 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $172.95 and one payment of $121.42, for a Total Loan Cost of $21,977.47. For a borrower with $20,000 in prior loans and a 2-year in-school period, it works out to a 10.07% fixed APR, 27 payments of $25.00, 179 payments of $125.36 and one payment of $49.52 for a total loan cost of $23,163.96. Loans that are subject to a $50 minimum principal and interest payment amount may receive a loan term that is less than 10 years.

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College Ave Private Student Loan
Check rate

on College Ave's website

College Ave Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
College Ave Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

3.22-13.95%

Variable APR

2.49-13.85%
Check rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

2.49-13.85%

Key facts

College Ave Student Loans is an online lender that offers student loans for undergraduates, graduate students and parents, plus student loan refinancing.

Pros

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

  • More flexible repayment options than other lenders.

  • Six-month grace period extension is available.

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 cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

5, 8, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community 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 09/15/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

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Earnest Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Earnest's website

Earnest Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Earnest Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

650

Fixed APR

3.22-13.24%

Variable APR

2.55-11.44%
Check rate

on Earnest's website


Variable APR

2.55-11.44%

Key facts

An option for borrowers who want flexible repayment.

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 Nevada.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 758.

  • 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

Disclaimer

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.47% APR to 13.49% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 2.80% APR to 11.69% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan origination loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

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SoFi Private Student Loan
Check rate

on SoFi's website

SoFi Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
SoFi Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

3.75-13.60%

Variable APR

2.99-12.13%
Check rate

on SoFi's website


Variable APR

2.99-12.13%

Key facts

Best for flexible repayment options and no fees.

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

  • Does not offer bi-weekly payments via autopay.

Qualifications

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

  • Minimum income: No minimum.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 minimum.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Fixed rates from 3.75% to 13.35% annual percentage rate ("APR") (with autopay), variable rates from 2.99% to 12.13% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.50% to 13.35% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 3.69% to 12.13% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 13.60% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 3.09% to 12.13% APR (with autopay). 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. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 09/02/2022.

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Custom Choice Loan, Powered by Cognition
Check rate

on Cognition's website

Custom Choice Loan, Powered by Cognition

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Custom Choice Loan, Powered by Cognition

Min. credit score

Varies

Fixed APR

3.65-12.46%

Variable APR

3.38-12.18%
Check rate

on Cognition's website


Variable APR

3.38-12.18%

Key facts

Best for students at four-year universities who are confident they can take advantage of the 2% Grad Reward.

Pros

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

  • No late fees.

  • Principal reduction of 2% if you graduate.

  • Stands out for features that enable faster loan repayment.

Cons

  • Doesn't apply extra payments to the principal balance by default.

  • Forbearance program is less generous than others.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 747.

  • Minimum income: No minimum, but borrowers must demonstrate positive income.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to $99,999.

Available Term Lengths

7, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Before applying for a private student loan, Citizens and Cognition Financial recommend comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. The Custom Choice Loan® is made by Citizens (“Lender”). All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to Lender’s underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions and other terms and conditions apply. LENDER AND COGNITION FINANCIAL CORPORATION EACH RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. TERMS, CONDITIONS AND RATES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. 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 expected number of years in deferment, (4) the requested loan amount and (5) 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 as of 09/01/2022. The variable interest rate for each calendar month is calculated by adding the 30-Day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) index , or a replacement index if the SOFR index is no longer available , plus a fixed margin assigned to each loan. The SOFR index is published on the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York . The current SOFR index is 2.23% as of 09/01/2022. The variable interest rate will increase or decrease if the SOFR 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. APRs assume a $10,000 loan with one disbursement. The high APRs assume a 15-year term with the Full Deferment option, a 31 month deferment period, and a six-month grace period before entering repayment. The low APRs assume a 7-year term, and the Immediate Repayment option with payments beginning 30-60 days after the disbursement via auto pay. Auto pay yields a 0.25% interest rate reduction which is applied after the Servicer validates your bank account information and will continue until (1) three automatic deductions are returned for insufficient funds during the life of the loan (after which the discount cannot be reinstated) or (2) automatic deduction of payments is canceled. The auto pay discount is not available when reduced payments are being made or when the loan is in a deferment or forbearance, even if payments are being made.Custom Choice Loan® is a registered trademark of Cognition Financial Corporation.Citizens is a brand name of Citizens Bank, N.A. Member FDIC.

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Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Education Loan Finance's website

Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

680

Fixed APR

3.20-11.99%

Variable APR

1.88-11.80%
Check rate

on Education Loan Finance's website


Variable APR

1.88-11.80%

Key facts

Best for borrowers with a significant funding gap.

Pros

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

  • You are assigned a student loan advisor.

Cons

  • Minimum loan amount is larger than other private lenders.

  • No co-signer release available.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Not available.

  • Minimum income: $35,000.

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

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10 or 15 years.

Read Full Review
Funding U Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Funding U's website

Funding U Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Funding U Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

7.49-12.99%

Variable APR

N/A
Check rate

on Funding U's website


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for high-achieving independent students enrolled in four-year programs who have small funding gaps.

Pros

  • You don't need a co-signer or credit history to get a loan.

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

Cons

  • Loans aren't available in 14 states.

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

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 650.

  • Minimum income: No minimum, but borrowers must demonstrate they can pay $20 per month toward their loan.

  • Loan amounts: $3,001 up to $10,000.

Available Term Lengths

10 years

Read Full Review
LendKey Private Student Loan
Check rate

on LendKey's website

LendKey Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
LendKey Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

660

Fixed APR

3.99-8.49%

Variable APR

3.62-9.59%
Check rate

on LendKey's website


Variable APR

3.62-9.59%

Key facts

Best for students who value working with a community bank or credit union.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 18 months is longer than many lenders offer.

Cons

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

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

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 748.

  • Minimum income: $24,000 per year.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to cost of attendance, minus other aid received.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years.

Read Full Review

Our pick for

Private student loans

Discover Undergraduate and Graduate Student Loans
Check rate

on Discover's website

Discover Undergraduate and Graduate Student Loans

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Discover Undergraduate and Graduate Student Loans

Min. credit score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

5.49-14.99%

Variable APR

2.99-13.99%
Check rate

on Discover's website


Variable APR

2.99-13.99%

Key facts

Best for students who may need wiggle room on payments.

Pros

  • Among the best for payment flexibility.

  • No late fees.

Cons

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

Qualifications

  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 minimum. Borrow up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance — including tuition, housing, book and more — minus financial aid. Aggregate loan limits apply.

Available Term Lengths

Visit Lender Website

Disclaimer

The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan unless you are no longer eligible for one or more discounts. The variable interest rate and corresponding APR may increase over the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month CME Term SOFR index plus the applicable margin percentage less any applicable discounts. The 3-Month CME Term SOFR index value for variable interest rate loans is 2.00% as of July 1st, 2022. 3-Month CME Term SOFR is administered by CME Group and is published by CME Group on its website (cmegroup.com/termsofr). Discover Student Loans may adjust the variable interest rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (each an “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month CME Term SOFR rate available for the day that is 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125), or 0%, whichever is greater. This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. If the 3-Month CME Term SOFR rate is less than zero percent, then the index will be deemed to be zero percent (as stated in the promissory note) for purposes of calculating your interest rate. Your variable interest rate (index + margin – applicable discounts) will not exceed 18%. Our lowest APRs are only available to applicants with the best credit. The APR will be determined after an application is submitted. It will be based on credit history, the selected repayment option and other factors, including a cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). If a student does not have an established credit history, the student may find it difficult to qualify for a private student loan on their own or receive the lowest advertised rate. Learn more about Discover Student Loan rates at DiscoverStudentLoans.com.

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Our pick for

No co-signer

Federal student loans don't require a co-signer; neither do these lenders.

Funding U Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Funding U's website

Funding U Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Funding U Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

7.49-12.99%

Variable APR

N/A
Check rate

on Funding U's website


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for high-achieving independent students enrolled in four-year programs who have small funding gaps.

Pros

  • You don't need a co-signer or credit history to get a loan.

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

Cons

  • Loans aren't available in 14 states.

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

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 650.

  • Minimum income: No minimum, but borrowers must demonstrate they can pay $20 per month toward their loan.

  • Loan amounts: $3,001 up to $10,000.

Available Term Lengths

10 years

Read Full Review
Ascent Independent Student Loan
Check rate

on Ascent's website

Ascent Independent Student Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Ascent Independent Student Loan

Min. credit score

Varies

Fixed APR

8.69-14.75%

Variable APR

7.09-12.87%
Check rate

on Ascent's website


Variable APR

7.09-12.87%

Key facts

Best for independent students with strong credit or upperclassmen with good grades.

Pros

  • Among the best for payment flexibility.

  • Grace period of 9 months is longer than most lenders.

Cons

  • International students are not eligible.

  • Freshmen, sophomores and those enrolled less than half-time are not eligible for future-income based loan.

Qualifications

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

  • Minimum income: $24,000 per year for credit-based loan. No minimum for future-income based loan.

  • Loan amounts: $2,001 to $200,000 per year with an aggregate loan limit of $200,000 for credit-based loan. $2,001 to $20,000 per year for future-income based loan.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, 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.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 09/01/2022 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 2.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-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: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.

Read Full Review

Our pick for

International students

Ascent requires a co-signer; MPOWER does not.

MPOWER Private Student Loan
Check rate

on MPOWER's website

MPOWER Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
MPOWER Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

N/A

Fixed APR

8.89-14.98%

Variable APR

N/A
Check rate

on MPOWER's website


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.

  • Borrowers can request forbearance of up to 24 months, which is longer than many lenders offer.

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 $100,000, limited to $25,000 per academic period.

Available Term Lengths

10 years

Read Full Review
Ascent Credit-based Student Loan
Check rate

on Ascent's website

Ascent Credit-based Student Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Ascent Credit-based Student Loan

Min. credit score

Varies

Fixed APR

3.89-13.16%

Variable APR

2.52-11.11%
Check rate

on Ascent's website


Variable APR

2.52-11.11%

Key facts

Online lender Ascent offers two private student loan products, one for borrowers who have a co-signer and one for independent students who don't have a co-signer or established credit.

Pros

  • Among the best for payment flexibility.

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

  • Stands out for features that enable faster loan repayment.

Cons

  • Students enrolled less than half-time are not eligible.

  • Co-signer release not available to international students.

Qualifications

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

  • Minimum income: $0 for primary borrower. $24,000 for current and previous year for co-signer.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $200,000 per year with an aggregate loan limit of $200,000.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, 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.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 09/01/2022 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 2.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-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: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.

Read Full Review

Our pick for

Parent loan

ISL Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
ISL Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

670

Fixed APR

3.19-7.40%

Variable APR

1.24-6.08%

Variable APR

1.24-6.08%

Key facts

Best for low-interest loans with consumer-friendly features, like a generous forbearance policy.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders offer.

  • No late fees.

Cons

  • 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 or co-signers: 759.

  • Minimum income: No minimum income.

  • Loan amounts: $1,001 or $2,001, based on residency and school location, up to cost of attendance minus other aid received.

Available Term Lengths

10 or 15

Read Full Review

Our pick for

Part-time students

Not all lenders consider students enrolled less than half-time.

Advantage Education Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Advantage Education Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

3.75-6.99%

Variable APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for nontraditional or part-time students.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 24 months is twice as long as most lenders.

  • Loans are available if you’re enrolled less than half time.

Cons

  • Loans may not be available depending on where you live or go to school.

  • Fewer repayment terms than other lenders offer.

  • 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: Does not disclose.

  • Minimum income: Does not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: Minimum $1,000. Maximum depends on creditworthiness and debt-to-income ratio.

Available Term Lengths

10 years

Read Full Review
College Ave Private Student Loan
Check rate

on College Ave's website

College Ave Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
College Ave Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

3.22-13.95%

Variable APR

2.49-13.85%
Check rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

2.49-13.85%

Key facts

College Ave Student Loans is an online lender that offers student loans for undergraduates, graduate students and parents, plus student loan refinancing.

Pros

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

  • More flexible repayment options than other lenders.

  • Six-month grace period extension is available.

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 cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

5, 8, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community 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 09/15/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

Read Full Review

Our pick for

Income share agreement

Income share agreements give you money to finish school in return for part of your pay later.

Stride Funding Income Share Agreement
Check rate

on Stride's website

Stride Funding Income Share Agreement

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Stride Funding Income Share Agreement

Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A
Check rate

on Stride's website


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for health care and STEM students who’ll pay less than with a private student loan.

Pros

  • Payments aren’t due if you’re unemployed.

  • Lending decisions are not based on your credit score.

  • You receive free career services, including job placement support.

Cons

  • There’s no discount for paying off your agreement early like some lenders offer.

  • Funding may not be available based on your school or major.

  • Not available in South Carolina.

Qualifications

  • Eligibility is based on factors like academic program and projected salary, not credit score.

  • Loan amounts: $3,000 to $25,000 annually; $50,000 lifetime maximum.

  • Payment cap: Two times the amount borrowed.

  • Income share percentages: Typically 6% to 9%; lifetime max is 20%.

Available Term Lengths

5 years, but can extend to up to 10 years.

Read Full Review

Our pick for

Graduate school

Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan
Check rate

on Ascent's website

Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan

Min. credit score

Mid-500s

Fixed APR

3.97-14.75%

Variable APR

2.55-12.87%
Check rate

on Ascent's website


Variable APR

2.55-12.87%

Key facts

Best for graduate students who want flexible payment options.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders offer.

  • Grace period of 9 months is longer than many lenders offer.

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

Cons

  • You must be enrolled at least half-time to qualify.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Not available.

  • Minimum income: Not available.

  • Loan amounts: up to $200,000.

Available Term Lengths

7, 10, 12 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, 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.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 09/01/2022 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 2.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-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: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.

Read Full Review
College Ave Graduate Student Loan
Check rate

on College Ave's website

College Ave Graduate Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
College Ave Graduate Student Loan

Min. credit score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

3.99-11.98%

Variable APR

2.49-10.97%
Check rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

2.49-10.97%

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 Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community 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 s 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 09/15/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

Read Full Review

Learn more about private student loans

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 from the government. You apply for a private student loan through a bank, credit union or online lender.

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. Federal loans charge origination fees; private loans typically do not.

Federal student loans offer borrowers protections and alternative repayment options that private loans usually don't, such as income-based repayment and forgiveness programs. The current interest-free loan forbearance does not include private student loans; any future forgiveness offer is unlikely to include them.

How do I choose a private student loan online?

Compare offers from multiple lenders including banks, credit unions, online companies and state-based 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 for students, 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.

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.

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.

Current student loan interest rates

The NerdWallet team of student loans experts analyzed reported rates from 33 lenders over a period of 39 months. We considered four variables — average maximum fixed rates, average minimum fixed rates, average maximum variable rates and average minimum variable rates — for each lender on a month-over-month basis.

The average rates as of September 1, 2022, are:

  • Minimum fixed interest rate  - 3.87%.

  • Maximum fixed interest rate - 12.60%.

  • Minimum variable interest rate - 2.36%.

  • Maximum variable interest rate - 11.86%.

While average minimum rates have trended downward over time, average maximum rates show an upward trend. The reported rates represent lenders' advertised ranges. It's best to prequalify with multiple lenders to ensure you accept the best rate available to you.

Lenders typically offer the lowest rates to those with the strongest financial profiles. Based on our analysis, less than 30% of borrowers are offered the lowest rate. That percentage includes companies that offer all borrowers the same rate. Excluding those companies, less than 18% of borrowers are offered the lowest rate.

The median offered fixed interest rate over the past year was 6.01%.

Use this chart and data to gauge how your student loan offers measure against typical interest rate ranges.

How exactly do student loan interest rates work?

Learn more about how student loan interest rates are determined, including a history of rate changes through the years. Private student loan interest rates can sometimes be lower than federal rates, but approval for the lowest rates requires excellent credit. If you have good credit, you may be able to refinance existing student loans to get a lower rate.

Find the best student loan companies for:

Options for independent students

Remove parents from your student loans quickly

College loans in a parent's name

Lenders that don't require a full-time class load

Funding without a credit score requirement

Most lenders require a U.S. co-signer

PLUS loans, co-signer and other options

Sallie Mae study: Less than half of families with college-bound students feel confident about paying for college.

Among families with college-bound students, 47% think they’ll need to borrow to finance a college education, according to Sallie Mae’s 2022 College Confidence study. Yet just under half of those families identified federal direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans as aid that needs to be repaid, underlining the importance of learning the obligations of the debt you’ve been offered before accepting it.

Additionally, those families with college-bound students aren’t clear on the purpose of the FAFSA; 34% don’t know why someone would submit the FAFSA, and 44% don’t know that it’s for everyone, regardless of income level. If you or your child are considering going to college, familiarize yourself with all of the options available to you to fund that education –– and submit the FAFSA to be considered for the most aid possible.

NerdWallet study: College-bound grads could exit with nearly $40K of student loan debt

A 2022 high school graduate who will depend on student loans to pay for college could expect to borrow $39,500 for their bachelor’s degree, according to a new NerdWallet analysis. The share of parents taking out federal parent PLUS loans to help cover the costs of their children's college education has also grown significantly.

For more details, and to learn a number of ways to cut down on the amount borrowed for a bachelor's degree before, during and after college, see the full study here.

STUDENT LOAN RATINGS METHODOLOGY

Our survey of more than 29 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing includes the top 10 lenders by market share and top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.

We consider 40 features and data points for each financial institution. Depending on the category, these include the availability of biweekly payments through autopay, minimum credit score and income requirement disclosures, availability to borrowers in all states, extended grace periods and in-house customer service.

The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

Last updated on September 1, 2022

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Private Student Loans

Frequently asked questions