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Sallie Mae Private Student Loans Review

Sallie Mae offers flexible repayment options and is one of the only lenders serving part-time students.
Aug. 28, 2018
Loans, Student Loans
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.
4.5 NerdWallet rating

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. Sallie Mae offers an interest-only repayment option in school and during the grace period and a rate that is 1% lower than the traditional deferred repayment option. 

Sallie Mae at a glance

  • One of the only lenders to serve part-time students.
  • No personalized interest rate estimates until you apply.
  • Borrowers have option of 12 months of interest-only repayment after finishing school.
Reviewed loanPrivate undergraduate student loan
Loan terms5 to 15 years
Loan amounts$1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
Grace period6 months
Co-signer release availableYes, after 12 full, on-time payments
Related productsGraduate student loans; student loans for parents; medical school loans; law school loans; bar loans; medical and dental residency loans

How Sallie Mae private student loans score

NerdWallet student loan experts evaluate more than 50 data points across five categories. Here’s how Sallie Mae compares with other private student loan lenders.

Enables faster repayment:
Lenders score highly if they offer a variety of term lengths and make extra payments easy.

Discloses requirements, limits costs:
Below average
Lenders score highly if they limit fees and interest rates, are transparent about their underwriting criteria and allow borrowers to get personalized rate estimates before applying for the loan.

Serves range of borrowers:
Above average
Lenders score highly if they cater to customers in varying locations, in different financial situations, and with varying citizenship statuses.

Offers payment flexibility:
Lenders score highly if they offer longer than 12-month forbearance periods, in-school and military deferment, and any other flexible repayment policies that help borrowers during tough times.

Supports customers:
Above average
Lenders score highly if they assign borrowers an advisor, offer multiple ways to get in touch, and have in-house customer service. Websites should display full APR ranges, fees and forbearance policies.

How Sallie Mae could improve

Sallie Mae could improve by offering additional programs such as:

Sallie Mae private student loan details

  • Get a personalized rate before applying: No.
  • Application or origination fee: None.
  • Prepayment penalty: No.
  • Late fees: Yes.

Compare Sallie Mae’s range of interest rates with 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 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.
  • Must attend a Title IV-accredited school: Borrowers must attend a degree-granting institution.
  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: 60%

In-school repayment options:

  • Immediate repayment: Make full payments as soon as the loan is disbursed, while you’re still in school.
  • Deferred payments: 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

  • 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.
  • Are loans discharged in the event of death/disability of borrower? If the student dies or becomes permanently and totally disabled, Sallie Mae will waive all remaining payments on the loan.

Repayment preferences

  • 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 student loan options first. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to apply.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s FAFSA Guide

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.

If you’re ready to borrow with Sallie Mae, you can apply on Sallie Mae’s website.


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.

5 stars out of 5 — Among the very best for consumer-friendly features

4.5 stars out of 5 — Excellent; offers most consumer-friendly features

4 stars out of 5 — Very good; offers many consumer-friendly features

3.5 stars out of 5 — Good; may not offer something important to you

3 stars out of 5 — Fair; missing important consumer-friendly features

2.5 stars out of 5 — Poor; proceed with great caution