Sallie Mae Private Student Loans Review

Sallie Mae offers flexible repayment options and is one of the only lenders serving part-time students.
By Cecilia Clark 

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Our Take


NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line:

Sallie Mae was originally founded in 1973 as a federally guaranteed student loan program. Today it makes private student loans, but it stopped servicing federal loans in 2014. Its private loan is best for part-time students and those who want flexibility with repayment.

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Min. credit score
Fixed APR
Variable APR
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Pros & Cons


  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.

  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, can apply with a U.S. co-signer.


  • You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Compare to Other Lenders

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
NerdWallet rating 
College Ave Private Student Loan
NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score


Min. credit score


Fixed APR


Fixed APR


Variable APR


Variable APR


Full Review

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 private student loans are best for those who want to be rewarded for making payments while in school. 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:

Sallie Mae private student loan details

  • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: No.

  • Loan terms: 5 to 20 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 if a payment has not been received within 15 days. The fee won't exceed $25. The fee is not capitalized and is assessed on the 16th day of delinquency.

Compare Sallie Mae's range of interest rates with other private student 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: mid-600's.

  • Minimum income: No income minimum.

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 749.

  • Typical income of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Did not disclose.

  • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Applicants can't have an open bankruptcy.


  • 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.

  • DACA borrowers: Yes, with a citizen or resident co-signer.

  • 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.

  • Loan can be used for past due tuition: Yes, for existing balances used to pay for an enrollment period within the past 365 days.

  • Types of schools served: Borrowers must attend a degree-granting institution.

  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: 80%

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.

  • Income-based repayment option: No.

  • 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.

  • Loan discharge if co-signer dies or becomes disabled: No.

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.

Before applying 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.

If you aren’t eligible for a Sallie Mae student loan

If Sallie Mae denies your student loan application, the lender will let you know why. Depending on the reason, you may want to consider other lenders or, if you haven’t already, try applying with a co-signer.

If you don’t have access to a co-signer — or still aren’t eligible with one — consider lenders that don’t require co-signers or specialize in bad or no credit student loans.


Our survey of more than 29 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing includes the top 10 lenders by market share and top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.

We consider 40 features and data points for each financial institution. Depending on the category, these include the availability of biweekly payments through autopay, minimum credit score and income requirement disclosures, availability to borrowers in all states, extended grace periods and in-house customer service.

The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Frequently asked questions