7 best student loans of 2023

 Student loans are a huge burden, both financially and mentally. But these seven lenders offer more flexibility and better interest rates for their private student loans than most to make borrowing a little less daunting.

With the average cost of college currently at $35,551 per year, most students have no choice but to take out student loans. Whether you go to a public or private university in or out of state, you’ll probably need at least a little help. And we’re here to help you get it.

Students might turn to private student loans instead of or in addition to federal student loans to help cover the cost of tuition and boarding. So how do you choose between the many private lenders — including banks, credit unions, and online marketplaces — out there? We’ve compared many of the top lenders to find those with the best rates, repayment terms, range of options, and more.

But enough suspense. Let’s dive into the best private student loans for you.

Best private student loans

  • Best for flexible repayment terms: SoFi
  • Best for low rates: Credible
  • Best for no cosigner: Ascent
  • Best for cosigner: Earnest
  • Best for graduate students: Sallie Mae
  • Best for student loan refinancing: Splash Financial
  • Best for multi-year approval: Citizens Bank

Best for flexible repayment terms: SoFi

  • SoFi logoFixed APR range – 3.99% - 8.24% APR (including auto-pay discount of 0.25%)
  • Variable APR range – 3.99% - 8.24% APR (including auto-pay discount of 0.25%)
  • Fees – None
  • Prepayment penalty – None
  • Minimum – Minimum $1,000
  • Maximum – Full cost of attendance
  • Loan terms – 5, 7, 10, or 15 years
  • Forbearance – Up to 12 months
  • Minimum credit score – 650

SoFi is a peer-to-peer lender offering private student loans for both graduate and undergraduate students. They also provide private and federal student loan refinancing for those who meet citizenship, employment, credit, and income requirements (minimum $5,000).

SoFi stands out for offering more repayment terms than most as well as the option to put membership points toward your loan balance. You have four repayment choices: 

  • Defer monthly payments until six months after you graduate
  • Pay only interest while in school
  • Make fixed monthly payments of $25 while in school
  • Start making regular monthly payments toward the full balance right away

And should you need student loan relief, SoFi provides Unemployment Protection of up to 12 months to qualified borrowers.

There are two discounts available that can help reduce the cost of your loans. The first is a 0.25% interest rate discount when you schedule automatic payments and the second is a 0.125% rate discount for previous SoFi borrowers.

You’ll need at least fair credit to qualify for a private student loan with SoFi, or you can apply with a cosigner for a better chance of approval. We encourage you to check your rate with no effect on your credit. SoFi offers cosigner release after you’ve made 24 consecutive payments toward the principal and interest.

Read our full review.

Best for low rates: Credible

  • Credible logoInterest rate range – starting at 4.49% fixed APR (with autopay)* and 4.49% Var. APR (with autopay)See Terms*
  • Fees – None
  • Prepayment penalty – None
  • Minimum – $1,000
  • Maximum – Full cost of attendance
  • Loan terms – 5 – 20 years
  • Forbearance – Varies by lender
  • Minimum credit score – Varies by lender

Though not a direct lender, Credible is a good place to go if you’re looking for a private student loan. Credible is an aggregator that partners with top lenders including Sallie Mae, Citizens, Ascent, and more to show you many student loan offers in one place. This is an especially great option if you don’t really know where to start because the platform begins by asking you questions to understand your needs, then shows you what you might qualify for.

To compare your options, you’ll fill out a single application to receive offers from up to eight different lenders. This will show you personalized rates you prequalify for to help you easily find the lowest ones. Although you won’t know your final rate until you actually apply to borrow with your chosen lender, this can give you a good idea of what you might pay. Using Credible to shop loans and check your rate does not affect your credit and the application takes just a couple of minutes to complete.

The Credible Best Rate Guarantee means that if you find a lower interest rate with another lender, you may be eligible for a $200 “Best Rate Reward.”

Credible’s partners do not charge origination fees or prepayment penalties. Also, all eight make it easy to apply with a cosigner and offer cosigner release to eligible borrowers.

Read our full review.

Credible Credit Disclosure - To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Credible or our partner lender(s) conduct a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, when you apply for credit, your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies will be requested, which is considered a hard credit pull and will affect your credit.

Best for no cosigner: Ascent Loans

  • Ascent logoFixed APR range – 4.62% - 14.99% (including 0.25% autopay discount)
  • Variable APR range – 5.86% - 14.14% (including 0.25% autopay discount)
  • Fees – None
  • Prepayment penalty – None
  • Minimum – $2,001
  • Maximum – $200,000 ($20,000 for Non-Cosigned Outcomes-Based loans)
  • Loan terms – 5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years
  • Forbearance – Up to 24 months
  • Minimum credit score – Varies

Ascent is a unique private lender for those looking to avoid using a cosigner. They specifically cater to those who want to apply on their own by offering a couple of ways to qualify. There are two types of non-cosigned loans from this lender: credit-based loans and outcomes-based loans. You’ll need at least two years of credit history and an income of $24,000 or more to qualify for a credit-based loan, but you may be eligible for an outcomes-based loan without any credit at all.

Ascent’s outcomes-based private student loans take your future income, not your current income, into consideration. When you apply for this loan, Ascent looks at your GPA, anticipated graduation date, school, program, and more to determine your eligibility. The better your grades and higher-paying your career path, the better your chances. You must be a junior or senior attending school full-time to qualify. 

Interest rates are higher for non-cosigned loans, but there are discounts available. These include a 0.25% autopay discount and a 1% cash-back graduation reward.

While in school, you can pay $25 each month or make interest payments only. Alternatively, you can defer payments for up to nine months after you graduate. You may qualify for up to 24 months of Temporary Hardship Forbearance if you find yourself unable to make payments.

Read our full review

Ascent Disclosure: Ascent's undergraduate and graduate 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 3/1/2023 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. 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 require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.

Best for cosigner: Earnest

  • Earnest logoFixed APR range – 4.96% - 8.99% APR (includes 0.25% autopay discount)
  • Variable APR range – 4.99% - 8.94% APR (includes 0.25% autopay discount)
  • Fees – None
  • Prepayment penalty – None
  • Minimum – $1,000
  • Maximum – Full cost of attendance
  • Loan terms – 5 – 20 years
  • Forbearance – Determined on a case-by-case basis
  • Minimum credit score – 650

If you already know you want or need to apply for private student loans with a cosigner, Earnest has excellent cosigned loans. Earnest is a direct lender offering private student loans with low rates and forgiving terms to make repayment easier for student borrowers. 

Applicants must have a credit score of at least 650, an income of at least $35,000, and U.S citizenship to qualify. These might be difficult requirements for a college student to meet, which is why Earnest encourages cosigners. In fact, 66% of Earnest borrowers use a cosigner. However, Earnest does not offer cosigner release, but you may qualify to refinance with this lender under only your name when you graduate.

If you have a great cosigner willing to help you out, Earnest will make it easier for you to hold up your end of the bargain with alternatives to the standard repayment plan. In addition to four different repayment options, they give all borrowers a nine-month grace period after graduation before monthly payments are due and the option to skip a payment once a year if needed. You may also qualify for one of the following assistance programs:

  • Rate Reduction Program – decreased rates and monthly payments for six months
  • Extended Term Program – loan term extension of up to 30 years to reduce payments

Earnest also has more generous loan forgiveness and discharge policies than most.

Read our full review

Earnest SLR Disclosure - Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 5.21% APR to 9.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 5.24% APR to 9.19% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 9.13% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.21%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.24%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account.

Best for graduate students: Sallie Mae

  • Sallie Mae logoFixed APR range – 4.25% – 12.92% (for graduate loans, including 0.25% auto debit discount)
  • Variable APR range – 3.87% – 13.50% (for graduate loans, including 0.25% auto debit discount)
  • Fees – None
  • Prepayment penalty – None
  • Minimum – $1,000
  • Maximum – Full cost of attendance
  • Loan terms – Up to 15 years
  • Forbearance – Determined on a case-by-case basis
  • Minimum credit score – 650

Sallie Mae offers a variety of different loans for both undergraduate and graduate students, but this lender is especially great for graduate private student loans. Let’s get into what makes this option different than others for higher education. 

First, Sallie Mae offers 100% coverage for all of your tuition and living expenses from classes to travel with no cap. After graduating, you can defer payments up to 48 months if you’re going right from school to a fellowship or internship. And unlike most loans of this type, you do not need to be enrolled full-time or even half-time to qualify to borrow.

You’ll have a 94% chance of being approved if you’ve already had a Sallie Mae student loan and you apply for a new one with a cosigner. And if you do use a cosigner, you may be eligible to release them after just 12 consecutive monthly payments made on time.

You can either defer your payments for six months after you graduate, make fixed monthly payments of $25 while you’re in school, or pay just the interest while you’re in school and during the six-month grace period after graduation. While Sallie Mae’s interest rates are a little higher than some, you can get a 0.25% rate discount for setting up automatic payments.

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