Best Student Loan for Independent Students
NerdWallet reviewed 34 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing. We included the top 10 lenders by market share, the top 10 lenders by online search volume and those that serve specialty or nontraditional markets. Some lenders are NerdWallet partners, but this did not influence our selection of the winner.
How we picked the student loans to evaluate:
NerdWallet scored lenders that offer a widely available no-cosigner student loan product for borrowers with no credit for the presence of 36 features across multiple categories. Categories were scored and weighted as follows:
How we chose the winner:
- Features that enable faster repayment, such as availability of extra payments or biweekly payments via autopay - 15%.
- Disclosure of rates, fees and underwriting requirements, such as minimum credit scores and income standards - 20%.
- Availability to a wide range of borrowers, such as part-time and independent students - 20%.
- Flexible payment options, such as grace periods and available forbearance that are longer than standard - 25%.
- Customer support, such as a detailed website FAQ and in-house customer service - 20%.
After those calculations, the financial institution with the most points would be selected as the winner.
NerdWallet writers and editors sent a comprehensive list of more than 50 questions to all lenders we reviewed. We cross-checked fees, rates, policies and other key features on each financial institution’s website. If a lender’s website was missing information, we contacted a representative directly for confirmation. At least three members of our staff verified the scores and ratings we gave to lenders.