Choose the private student loan
right for your education

Types of private student loans

There are private student 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. Parent loans, taken out by a parent, relative, or another creditworthy individual (not the student) are another way to help you pay for college.

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

What private loans for college can be used for

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 your education expenses, 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. Apply only once with a single credit check and funds will be sent directly to your college or university each term as requested. You can cancel future disbursements as needed with no penalty. No additional interest is charged until money is sent to your school.

Private student loan eligibility

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. Applying for a private student loan with a creditworthy cosigner may increase your chances for approval and may help get you a better rate, since many students haven’t had time to build up their own credit.

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

How to look for private loans for college

There are differences between private loans for college. 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 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 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.

How to get a private student loan

There’s no cost to apply for private student loans, but there are a few things you should know before you start:

  • 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.

Understand the student loan application process

How much you should borrow in private student loans

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).

Do you need a good credit history for 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: A credit check is conducted for the Federal PLUS Loan.)

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 may help you get a loan.

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 education loans for college or grad school, 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 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

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 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

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1. 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. Miscellaneous personal expenses (such as a laptop) may be included in the cost of attendance for students enrolled at least half-time.
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.
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.
Federal loan rate and fee information is provided by Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Department of Education.
Sallie Mae provides compensation to its partners for their referral of student loan customers.