Private student loans to suit your needs

Cover up to 100% of your school-certified costsfootnote 1 with a private student loan offering great competitive rates

Choose the private student loan

that's right for your education

See what makes us the leading private student loan lender

Sallie Mae was a fairly simple process when applying for my loan, and the automatic payments I set up has yielded a smooth payback process.

Kelly J.

I used Sallie Mae when my son reached his maximum loan amount from Federal Student loans. It's a great alternative for students and parents when other avenues are closed. I am grateful and I appreciate that Sallie Mae was able to assist us.

Paula S.

I needed extra financial help for additional college courses and I turned to Sallie Mae when I was informed I reached my limit on funds available from government student loans. The online application process was easy, straight forward and the approval turn around time was quick. Thank you!

Matthew S.

Differences between federal loans vs private loans

Federal Direct Subsidized & Unsubsidized Student Loansfootnote 2

Private student loans

FAFSA® required to apply

Requires applying directly with bank or credit union

Considers credit history

Often allows borrowing up to cost of attendance (COA) less financial aid received

Cosigners may help increase chances of approval

Made to students based on financial need

(Direct Subsidized Loans only)

Allows change in repayment plan after borrowing

Frequently asked questions about private student loans

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

There are private college loans for students in undergraduate, graduate, certificate, dental, medical, and health profession programs. Sallie Mae® also offers private student loans for graduates studying for the bar exam, or relocating for medical and dental residencies. 

Whether you're studying online or on campus, private school loans—as well as federal student loans—for college and grad school can be used to pay for education expenses included in your school's cost of attendance, which for full-time and half-time students may include:

  • Tuition
  • Room and board
  • Fees
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Transportation
  • Computer for school

Borrow what you need for the entire school year. You can apply once with a single credit check for the funds you need for both semesters. Interest won't be charged on funds needed for the second semester until those funds are sent to the school.

Get more expert advice on what you can and cannot use your student loan money for. 

Federal and private loans for college use different eligibility criteria. 

Federal student loans are offered by the government. You can fill out the FAFSA to determine eligibility. 

  • 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 for the full loan term, including while in-school or during grace periods or a post-school deferment.

Private student loans, offered by banks and financial institutions, are based on your creditworthiness. Your credit—and your cosigner’s credit—are evaluated, along with other information provided on your application. Applying for a private student loan with a creditworthy cosigner may increase your chances for approval and may help get you a better rate.

You should generally consider federal student loans first, and then take out private loans for school if you still need money for college.

There are differences between private loans for college. It’s important to find a reputable student loan 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 they've used for their student loans.
  • Make sure you’re looking at the right private student loan for your education. There may be different loans for undergraduate, graduate, continuing education, or certificate courses.

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 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 they give you access to your FICO® Credit Score?
  • Are there other benefits that make their particular student loans valuable?
  • Is the company reputable, with many years of experience?

You can apply for private college 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.

You should wait and figure out your total financial need before applying for a private student loan. If you submitted the FAFSA®, your financial aid award letter should give you a good idea of whether or not you’ll need a private student loan to help pay for school.

If you’re considering applying for a private student loan, start your application with enough time to ensure you get the money by your school’s tuition payment deadline.   

There's typically no fee to apply for private student loans, but there are a few things you should know before you apply for 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 you apply with 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 in many cases.

Understand the student loan application process

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. 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 education 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).

Private loans for students 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: A credit check is conducted for the Federal PLUS Loan.)

If you don’t have a credit history, you may need a cosigner. A cosigner can be a parent, relative, or any other creditworthy individual. Their good credit history may help you get student loans for college.

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 credit and your cosigner's credit can suffer if payments aren't made on time.

After you've submitted your student loan application, you’ll typically get a credit decision. Once approved, 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 private student loan as described in the Final Disclosure before it’s disbursed (sent) to your school.

Learn what happens after your loan is approved

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 student loans and debt:

  1. You may apply for a new loan every year that you’re a student.
  2. You may need to 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 may 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

While criteria for lending to international students may vary by lender, when applying for a student loan through Sallie Mae non-U.S. citizen students (including DACA students) who reside in and attend school in the U.S. are eligible with a creditworthy cosigner (who must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident) and an unexpired government-issued photo ID to verify identity.

International students can get money for school through scholarships and financial aid. We encourage students and families to start with savings, grants, scholarships, and federal student loans to pay for college. Students and families should evaluate all anticipated monthly loan payments, and how much the student expects to earn in the future, before considering a private student loan.

When you pay off your student loan in full, you’ll have paid more than the amount you originally borrowed. This is generally due to the accrual of interest and interest capitalization. Interest rates are the rates charged to borrow money. It’s calculated as a percentage of your Current Principal. There are two primary types of interest rates: fixed and variable.

  • A fixed interest rate is an interest rate that stays the same for the life of the loan.
  • A variable interest rate is an interest rate that may go up or down due to an increase or decrease to the loan’s index.

Both your rate and rate type can be found on your billing statement and loan documents.

If you need more help, you can learn more about interest rates or choose which rate is right for you.

How is the interest rate on my variable rate loan calculated?

For a variable rate loan, most lenders start with a benchmark index and add a margin. For instance, if the lender uses the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) as its index and then adds a 5% margin, the rate will be quoted as “SOFR + 5%.” While economic conditions may make the benchmark index go up or down, the margin added will usually remain fixed.

You can find your loan’s index and margin on your Promissory Note and loan documents.

For questions related to indexes and the transition from LIBOR to SOFR, please visit

Private student loans made simple

Whether you're a student or a cosigner, our goal is to make your private student loan borrowing experience as stress-free as possible. We're here to help every step of the way.

If you’re a student

We’ve got tools, resources, and information that can help you throughout your borrowing journey:

If you’re a cosigner

We’ve got tools, resources, and information that can help you throughout your cosigning journey:

Still have questions or need help applying?

As a leading private student loan lender and trusted partner in your borrowing experience we are here to answer any questions you may have about the application process.

Call us at 


footnote Borrow responsibly
We encourage students and families to start with savings, grants, scholarships, and federal student loans to pay for college. Students and families should evaluate all anticipated monthly loan payments, and how much the student expects to earn in the future, before considering a private student loan.

footnote All reviews on this page were provided by customers who completed Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys. Reviewers were not compensated by Sallie Mae for providing their review.

footnote FAFSA® is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid.

footnote 1. For applications submitted directly to Sallie Mae, loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received, as certified by the school. Applications submitted to Sallie Mae through a partner website may be subjected to a lower maximum loan request amount. Miscellaneous personal expenses (such as a laptop) may be included in the cost of attendance for students enrolled at least half-time.

footnote 2. Federal student loan information was gathered on 3/5/2024 from

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

footnote Explore federal loans and compare to make sure you understand the terms and features. Private student loans that have variable rates can go up over the life of the loan. Federal student loans are required by law to provide a range of flexible repayment options, including, but not limited to, income-based repayment and income-contingent repayment plans, and loan forgiveness and deferment benefits, which other student loans are not required to provide. Federal loans generally have origination fees, but are available to students regardless of income.

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