Bottom line: Best for part-time students and those who want flexibility with repayment.
|Reviewed loan||Private undergraduate student loan|
|Loan terms||5 to 15 years|
|Loan amounts||$1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance|
|Grace period||6 months|
|Co-signer release available||Yes, after 12 full, on-time payments|
|Related products||Graduate student loans; student loans for parents; medical school loans; law school loans; bar loans; medical and dental residency loans|
Pros & Cons
- 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.
• You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
• Does not disclose minimum qualifying credit scores or income.
Sallie Mae, originally founded in 1973 as a federally guaranteed student loan program, split into two powerhouse entities in 2014: Sallie Mae Bank, a consumer banking business, and Navient, the largest federal student loans servicer.
Sallie Mae’s undergraduate private student loans are best for those who want flexibility with repayment. For example, Sallie Mae offers lower interest rates to borrowers who make monthly $25 payments or interest-only payments while in school.
Sallie Mae at a glance
- One of the few lenders to serve part-time students.
- No personalized interest rate estimates until you apply.
- Borrowers have the option of making interest-only payments for 12 months after finishing school.
How Sallie Mae could improve
Sallie Mae could improve by offering additional programs such as:
- More than 12 months of forbearance.
- Personalized rate estimates without affecting credit.
- Biweekly student loan payments via autopay.
Sallie Mae private student loan details
- Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: No.
- Loan terms: 5 to 15 years.
- Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance.
- Application or origination fee: None.
- Prepayment penalty: No.
- Late fees: Yes. 5% of the past due amount or $25; whichever is less.
Compare Sallie Mae’s range of interest rates with other private student loan lenders. Your actual rate will depend on factors including your — or your co-signer’s — credit history and financial situation. To see what rate Sallie Mae will offer you, apply on its website.
- Minimum credit score: Did not disclose.
- Minimum income: Did not disclose.
- Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 748.
- Typical income of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.
- Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Did not disclose.
- Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Did not disclose.
- Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or a non-U.S. citizen, including DACA students, with a creditworthy co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- Location: Available to borrowers in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
- Must be enrolled half-time or more: No. Available to borrowers attending school part-time.
- Types of schools served: Borrowers must attend a degree-granting institution.
- Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: 90%
In-school repayment options:
- Immediate repayment: Make full payments as soon as the loan is disbursed, while you’re still in school.
- Deferred repayment: Don’t make any payments while you’re in school.
- Fixed repayment: Pay $25 every month while enrolled in school and during the grace period. Your interest rate will be 0.5% lower than with the deferred repayment option.
- Interest-only repayment: Pay interest every month you’re in school and during the grace period. Your interest rate will be 1% lower than with the deferred repayment option.
Post-school repayment options
- Grace period: 6 months.
- In-school deferment: Yes, borrowers can request to defer payments when returning to school or going to graduate school for up to 48 months.
- Military deferment: Yes, but a borrower must contact the military customer service representative team for more information. Your interest rate is capped at 6% during eligible periods of military service.
- Internship, residency or fellowship deferment: Borrowers can defer payments in 12-month increments for up to 60 months during residency.
- Postgrad interest-only payments: Borrowers may request to make 12 monthly interest-only payments after finishing school with the Graduated Repayment Period option.
- Forbearance: Borrowers are eligible for 12 months of forbearance, in three-month increments, over the life of the loan. Borrowers must pay $50 per loan, with a maximum of $150 per account, to get forbearance.
- Co-signer release available: Yes, after 12 on-time payments.
- Death or disability discharge available: If the student dies or becomes permanently and totally disabled, Sallie Mae will waive all remaining payments on the loan. This applies to the primary borrower only.
- Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.
- Allows biweekly payments via autopay: No.
- Loan servicer: Sallie Mae.
- In-house customer service team: Yes.
- Process for escalating concerns: Yes.
- Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: No.
- Average time from application to approval: 15 minutes.
- Online tutoring: Borrowers can access Study Starter, which offers up to 120 minutes of live, online tutoring or step-by-step textbook problem solutions from Chegg.
- Credit score tracking: Free quarterly FICO credit scores.
How to apply for a Sallie Mae student loan
Before taking out a Sallie Mae student loan or any other private student loan, exhaust your federal loan options first. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to apply.
Compare your private student loan options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, look at lenders’ repayment alternatives and the flexibility they offer to borrowers who struggle to make payments.
Student loan ratings methodology
NerdWallet believes the best student loan is one you can repay at the lowest interest rate you can get. That’s why NerdWallet’s student loan ratings reward lenders that offer a variety of loan terms, limit their fees and penalties, and extend borrowers multiple options to avoid default. Points are also awarded for soft credit checks, underwriting transparency and other consumer-friendly features. Use these ratings as a guide, but we encourage you to shop around for the lowest interest rate you can qualify for. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for its reviews. Read our editorial guidelines.
— Among the very best for consumer-friendly features
— Excellent; offers most consumer-friendly features
— Very good; offers many consumer-friendly features
— Good; may not offer something important to you
— Fair; missing important consumer-friendly features
— Poor; proceed with great caution