Best Student Loan for Independent Students

How we picked the student loans to evaluate:

NerdWallet reviewed 29 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing. We included the top 10 lenders by market share and the top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets. Some lenders are NerdWallet partners, but this did not influence our selection of the winner.

How we chose the winner:

NerdWallet scored lenders that offer a widely available no-cosigner student loan product for borrowers with no credit for the presence of 40 features across multiple categories. Categories were scored and weighted as follows:

  • 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 - 15%.
  • Flexible payment options, such as grace periods and available forbearance that are longer than standard - 30%.
  • Customer support, such as a detailed website FAQ and in-house customer service - 20%.

Lenders that provide student loans to borrowers in all 50 states were considered. After all calculations and considerations, the financial institution with the most points would be selected as the winner.

How we verified our data:

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.