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Whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student (or a parent, relative, or other creditworthy individual helping a student pay for college), you can find a student loan designed for your field of study.

Undergraduate student loans

For bachelor’s and associate’s degrees, or a certificate at a degree-granting school

Smart Option Student Loan® for Undergraduate Students

Career training student loans

For professional training or certificate courses (culinary, aviation, technical, etc.) at a non-degree-granting school

Career Training Smart Option Student Loan®

Graduate student loans

For medical, dental, health professional, MBA, and master’s/doctorate degree expenses

Loans for graduate students

Parent loans

For your student’s bachelor’s, associate’s, or graduate degree, or certificate at a degree-granting school

Sallie Mae Parent LoanSM

K-12 student loans

For your child's private education, from kindergarten through high school

K-12 Family Education LoansSM

Types of private student loans

There are private student loans for undergraduates, graduates, students pursuing certificates, dental, medical, and health professions students, as well as loans for graduates studying for the bar exam, or relocating for medical or dental residencies. There are also parent loans, taken out by a parent, relative, or another creditworthy individual (not the student) that can help you pay for college.

Private student loans are issued by a bank or financial institution, (as opposed to federal student loans, which are offered by the government).

What a private student loan can be used for

Private student loans—as well as federal student loans—should be used to pay for your education expenses:

  • Tuition
  • Room and board
  • Fees
  • Books
  • Supplies and equipment
  • Computers and electronics for school
  • Transportation
  • Personal needs at school

Don’t borrow more than you need. Your federal or private student loans shouldn’t be used for vacations, entertainment, or items that aren’t directly needed for your education. Only borrow what you can afford to pay back later.

Eligibility for private student loans

Federal and private student loans use different eligibility criteria.

Federal student loans, offered by the government, are based on your financial and family situation, as provided in your FAFSA.

  • For Subsidized Loans, the US Department of Education pays the interest while the student is in school at least half time, grace (if offered) and authorized deferment periods.
  • For Unsubsidized Loans, the borrower is responsible for paying interest during the in-school or grace periods, or a post-school deferment.

Private student loans, offered by banks and financial institutions, are based on your credit profile. Your credit—and your cosigner’s credit—are evaluated, along with other information provided on your application.

Federal student loans usually have lower interest rates than private student loans and can offer different benefits. You should generally consider them first, and then take out a private student loan if you still need money for college.

How to look for private student loans

There are differences between private student loans. It’s important to find a reputable lender; here are some ways to find the right one:

  • Start with your school to see if they offer a lender list.
  • Confirm that the lender works with your school of choice.
  • Ask others for recommendations on lenders.
  • Make sure you’re looking at the right loan for your education. There may be different loans for undergraduate, graduate, continuing education, or certificate courses.

How to compare private student loans

Once you’ve found a couple of lenders, you can compare their private student loan options to see what each offers:

  • What is the interest rate range?
  • Can you choose a variable or fixed interest rate?
  • Are there hidden student loan fees, like an origination fee?
  • Is there a choice of in-school repayment options (fixed, interest only, or deferred)?
  • Are there benefits that help you lower your interest rate?
  • Is there a program that lets you make more manageable payments (like interest only) for a period of time after you graduate?
  • Do you have access to your FICO® Credit Score?
  • Are there other benefits that make the loan valuable?
  • Is the company reputable, with many years of experience?

Applying for private student loans

You can apply for private student loans directly from each lender’s website. You should apply after you’ve made your school decision and once you know how much you need to borrow, so you won’t have to submit separate student loan applications for schools you’re considering.

There’s no cost to apply for private student loans.

  • You’ll fill out basic personal information and financial information.
  • You’ll be asked to choose the interest rate type and repayment option for your loan.
  • You generally can apply with a creditworthy cosigner during the application process. If your parent is a cosigner, they’ll have to supply their financial information in the student loan application.

Our private student loan application process only takes about 15 minutes to receive a credit result.

Understand the student loan application process

How much should you borrow

In terms of how much you should take out for college, borrow only what you think you can afford to pay back later. Think about your future career and how much you may make in your chosen field. The College Board® suggests that your monthly payments should be no more than 10 – 15% of your starting monthly salary. To help estimate your future income potential, you can visit the US Department of Labor at

The amount of money you can receive from a private student loan varies by lender. If your lender requires “school certification,” your school verifies your enrollment and ensures that you’re not borrowing more than the cost of attendance (including your federal student loans, scholarships, and grants).

The role of credit in private student loans

Private student loans are credit-based. That means that a lender will look at your history of borrowing money and paying it back. Federal student loans, on the other hand, are generally based on financial situation and federal guidelines rather than credit. (Note: The Federal Parent PLUS Loan is credit-based.)

If you don’t have a credit history, you’ll need a cosigner. A cosigner can be a parent, relative, or any other creditworthy individual. Their good credit history can help you get a loan (and sometimes, a better interest rate).

Along with you, a cosigner accepts responsibility for repaying your private student loan. If you keep your loan in good standing, making on-time payments, it can be a great way to build your own credit. If you fall behind or don’t pay back your loan, your cosigner’s credit can suffer if they don’t make payments.

What happens after applying for a private student loan

After you apply for our private student loans, you’ll typically get a credit approval within 15 minutes of applying. You’ll also get notices to review, accept, and e-sign your loan terms.

Your school will have to certify your loan amount before it can be disbursed (paid to the school). Then you’ll get a Final Disclosure spelling out the details.

You have the right to cancel your loan before it’s disbursed (sent) to your school.

Learn what happens after your loan is approved

Managing your private student loans

Starting with your first semester, it’ll be helpful to keep track of both your federal and private student loans. Here are some tips for managing them:

  1. You need to apply for a new loan every year you’re in college.
  2. You must be enrolled in school at least half-time.
  3. Interest accrues on your student loan throughout the life of the loan. Making in-school payments can lower the total cost of your loan.
  4. Once you leave school, whether you graduate or not, you’ll generally have a grace period of six months before you begin to make principal and interest payments.
  5. As you continue to take out federal or private student loans throughout your years in college, keep a list of the lenders, how much you’re borrowing—and don’t forget to borrow responsibly.

Learn about managing your student loans

Questions? Need help applying?

Call us at 877-279-7172

 This information was gathered on August 5, 2016 from

Sallie Mae provides compensation to its partners for their referral of student loan customers.