Sallie Mae Private Student Loans Review

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

Anna HelhoskiDecember 2, 2020
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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
Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Fixed APR

4.25 - 12.59%

Variable APR

1.25 - 11.35%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Pros & Cons


  • 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.


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

  • Information not available on minimum qualifying credit scores or income.

Compare to Other Lenders

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
College Ave Private Student Loan
Ascent Private Student Loan
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR

4.25 - 12.59%

Fixed APR

3.49 - 12.99%

Fixed APR

3.34 - 14.51%

Variable APR

1.25 - 11.35%

Lowest rates shown include the auto debit discount: Fixed 4.25% - 12.59% APR and Variable 1.25% - 11.35% APR. Interest rates for Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options are higher than interest rates for the Interest Repayment Option. You're charged interest starting at disbursement, while in school, during your separation/grace period, and until the loan is paid in full. The repayment option that is selected will apply during the in-school and separation/grace periods. When you enter principal and interest repayment, Unpaid Interest will be added to your loan's Current Principal. 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 APRs are valid as of 12/15/2020. and assume a $10,000 loan to a freshman with no other Sallie Mae loans. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: 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 and may be suspended during periods of forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. Loan amounts: $1000 up to 100% of the school certified expenses: 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. Repayment term of 5 to 15 years: This repayment example is based on a typical Smart Option Student Loan made to a freshman borrower who chooses a variable rate and the Fixed Repayment Option for a $10,000 loan, with two disbursements, and a 6.99% variable APR. It works out to 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $137.53 and one payment of $113.12, for a Total Loan Cost of $17,754.19. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan.

Variable APR

1.04 - 11.98%

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 12/14/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

Variable APR

2.46 - 12.98%

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Richland State Bank (RSB), 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: Rates are effective as of 01/01/2021 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 2.00% (for undergraduate future income-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: 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student borrowers must have a minimum credit score. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner.

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Min. Credit Score


Min. Credit Score


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 undergraduate private student loans are best for those who want flexibility with repayment. 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 15 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 or $25; whichever is less.

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: 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, including DACA students, 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.

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

  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: 88%

Many lenders are offering relief related to COVID-19. Check this list of private loan relief options to see what this lender offers.

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.

  • 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.

Student loans 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.

Frequently asked questions