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6 Standout Student Loan Lenders

Find the right student loan lender for you

Once you've exhausted federal loan options, you may need a private student loan to fill a gap in your financial aid package. Compare rates from these top-rated lenders so you can go back to focusing on your degree.

Excellent for

Private student loans

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

2.99 - 12.99%

Variable APR

0.99 - 11.98%
Check rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

0.99 - 11.98%

Key facts

Best for students who want to make payments while they're still in school.

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 either Firstrust 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 8/9/2021. 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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Ascent Co-signed Student Loan
Check rate

on Ascent's website

Ascent Co-signed Student Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Ascent Co-signed Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

540

Fixed APR

3.26 - 11.42%

Variable APR

1.85 - 9.60%
Check rate

on Ascent's website


Variable APR

1.85 - 9.60%

Key facts

Best for students with a creditworthy co-signer.

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 09/01/2021 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (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. Click here for details. 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 are available for the most creditworthy applicants and may require a cosigner.

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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

2.99 - 12.78%

Variable APR

0.99 - 11.44%
Check rate

on Earnest's website


Variable APR

0.99 - 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

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Discover Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Discover's website

Discover Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Discover Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

3.49 - 12.59%

Variable APR

1.12 - 11.87%
Check rate

on Discover's website


Variable APR

1.12 - 11.87%

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

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 750+.

  • 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

15 years undergraduate, 20 years graduate

Disclaimer

The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.125% as of July 1, 2021. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. 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 Loans interest rates.

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CommonBond Private Student Loan
Check rate

on CommonBond's website

CommonBond Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
CommonBond Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

660

Fixed APR

3.99 - 10.99%

Variable APR

4.13 - 9.64%
Check rate

on CommonBond's website


Variable APR

4.13 - 9.64%

Key facts

Best for students who are already planning to use a co-signer and value customer support.

Pros

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

  • You are assigned a dedicated Money Mentor.

Cons

  • Loans aren't available in Nevada and Mississippi.

  • Co-signer required.

Qualifications

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

  • Minimum income: No set minimum.

  • Loan amounts: $2,000 to the total cost of attendance. Maximum $500,000.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of0.14% effective Dec 1, 2020 and may increase after consummation.

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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

3.50 - 12.60%

Variable APR

1.13 - 11.23%
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website


Variable APR

1.13 - 11.23%

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, if available for the loan. 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 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 07/22/2021. 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 transactions for a $10,000 Smart Option Student Loan with the most common variable 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 6.88% APR, 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $136.17 and one payment of $66.85 for a total loan cost of $18,314.28. Loans that are subject to a $50 minimum principal and interest payment amount may receive a loan term that is less than 10 years. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan.

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See why the lenders make the grade

  • College Ave: More flexible repayment options than other lenders and best for students who want to make payments while they're still in school.

  • Ascent: Best for students who don't have a co-signer, and borrowers can make biweekly payments via autopay.

  • Earnest: Best for borrowers who want to customize their repayment schedule to pay off debt fast.

  • Discover: Best for borrowers who may need wiggle room on payments, or those who didn't graduate.

  • CommonBond: Best for students who are already planning to use a co-signer and value customer support

  • Sallie Mae: Best for part-time students and those who want flexibility with repayment

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.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Standout Student Loan Lenders