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Fortunly's Guide

Best Private Student Loans for 2021

By
G. Dautovic

August 31,2021


Full college cost coverage, a simple application process, and various repayment options are just some of the benefits you’ll enjoy with private student loans. As usual, however, the market is overloaded with options, and choosing the right student loan is the first big financial decision most Americans make. Luckily for you, we compared the industry-leading lenders and found the best private student loans to choose from.

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5 Best Private Student Loan Options

Best for: personalized rates
Credible
Credible Logo
OVERVIEW

Credible is a lending marketplace that offers the best student loans for college. Thanks to its website tool, you can quickly compare payment options and interest rates at multiple lenders at once. Regardless of your credit history, Credible will help you find the loan that fits your budget. Read Review

  • Multiple lender/bank application
  • Low fixed and variable APR
  • User-friendly website
Apply Now
On Credible Website
Fixed APR:
starts at 1.04%
Variable APR:
starts at 3.39%
Grace period:
Depends on lender
Loan amount:
Depends on lender
Repayment periods:
Depends on lender
Credit score:
670 minimum
Application/origination fees:
No
Late payment fees:
Depends on lender
Best for: flexible repayment
College Ave
College Ave Logo
OVERVIEW

College Ave offers personal student loans for undergraduate and MBA students. Operating in all 50 states, this lender is best known for its versatile repayment options, three-minute application process, and a cashback reward program. Read Review

  • Flexible repayment options
  • Fixed and variable rates
  • Cashback rewards
Apply Now
On College Ave Website
Fixed APR:
3.49% - 12.99%
Variable APR:
1.09% - 11.98%
Grace period:
6 months for undergraduates; 9 months for graduate loans
Loan amount:
$1,000 to the total cost of attendance
Repayment periods:
5, 8, 10, or 15 years
Credit score:
N/A
Application/origination fees:
No
Late payment fees:
$25
Best for: independent loans
Ascent
Ascent Logo
OVERVIEW

If you’re looking for non-cosigned student loans, Ascent is the best option for you. As a student, private loans for borrowers with low credit scores will be particularly interesting to you, and they’re Ascent’s specialty. Read Review

  • Two non-cosigned loan options
  • Four-step loan approval
  • Flexible repayment options
Apply Now
On Ascent Website
Fixed APR:
from 3.39% to 14.50%
Variable APR:
from 2.46% to 12.98%
Grace period:
9 months for undergraduates; 12 months for some graduate loans
Loan amount:
$1,000 up to the total cost of attendance
Repayment period:
5, 7, 10, 12, and 15 years
Credit score:
N/A
Application/origination fees:
No
Late payment fees:
No
Best for: consigned loans
Earnest
Earnest Logo
OVERVIEW

The next contender on our student loan companies list is Earnest. Earnest is a new player, offering personal loans for students since 2019. Although the requirements are hard to meet, Earnest’s loans come with a grace period of nine months, various in-school repayment options, and a 12-month forbearance period. Besides, Earnest offers competitive rates and no late payment fees. Read Review

  • Nine-month grace period
  • Skip payment every 12 months
  • Application via mobile phone
Apply Now
On Earnest Website
Fixed APR:
starts at 3.49%
Variable APR:
starts at 1.05%
Grace period:
6 months for undergraduates; 9 months for graduate loans
Loan amount:
$1,000 up to the total cost of attendance
Repayment period:
5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years
Credit score:
650
Application/origination fees:
No
Late payment fees:
No
Best for: versatile financial products
Discover
Discover Logo
OVERVIEW

Discover’s best loans for college come with competitive rates, post-graduation rewards, and no fees. In addition, Discover customer service is one of the best you will encounter. However, limited payment options are Discover’s downside. Read Review

  • Industry-lowest APR
  • Various financial products
  • Post-graduation rewards
Apply Now
On Discover Website
Fixed APR: from
4.24% to 12.99%
Variable APR:
from 1.24% to 11.99%
Grace period:
6 months for undergraduate loans
Loan Amount:
Not disclosed
Repayment period:
See review for more details
Credit score:
N/A
Application/origination fees:
No
Late payment fees:
No
Evaluation Criteria

How We Evaluate The Best Private Student Loans - Our Methodology

Student loans are pretty much par for the course when applying for college, and there are many ways to get one. Government agencies, colleges, non-profits, banks, online lenders - the list of sources is quite long. Federal loans are commonly used as financial aid because they offer more benefits than private student loans - they won’t be based on your credit, and the interest rates are fixed.

With federal loans, you can also hope for loan forgiveness and count on payments customized to fit your income. Without a required credit check, you just submit your federal loan application through FAFSA.

However, if you don’t qualify for federal aid or need more money after you’ve maxed out what you already borrowed, comparing student loans from online lenders and banks is probably your next step. Still, getting a private loan is a bit more complicated than getting one that’s government-issued and regulated. For starters, your creditworthiness enters the picture. 

Each lender presents a set of eligibility criteria potential borrowers must meet before applying for a loan. And you should have your own set too - for example, can you get a forbearance period? Can you postpone loan repayment? If yes, for how long? Can you apply for a loan independently, or do you need a cosigner? 

It might seem overwhelming, but having all these questions in mind will help you immensely when shopping for the best private student loan. 

We followed the same principles while conducting our evaluation and outlined the methodology for finding the prime private loan candidates.

Loan types

As you may have guessed, you can’t just get any loan to cover your university expenses. Undergraduate loans tend to require a cosigner as a sort of guarantee, but depending on your income and credit score, you might be able to get one on your own. Graduate loans - loans for MBAs, master’s, and doctoral degrees - usually include higher borrowing amounts and extended repayment periods. Specialized offers for future health and legal professionals are relatively common as well.

Deciding between a cosigned or an independent loan is your first step. Generally, the best college loan options require a cosigner, especially for undergraduate students. After all, these young borrowers usually have neither a credit score nor a stable income. A cosigner - with their own score and salary - serves as a guarantee the loan will be paid off. 

Loan options without a cosigner are rare, but if you’re a student who already has a good credit score and meets the lender’s income requirements, you might qualify for an independent loan. 

Loan terms

Loan terms are the next thing to check out before applying. Each lender has a maximum borrowing amount to give, and it differs based on your loan type. Most top student loan companies have a minimum borrowing amount of $1,000 and a maximum that covers the cost of attendance for undergraduate loans. 

Interest rates are crucial when choosing a loan. There are two types of rates: fixed and variable. With fixed-rate loans, your monthly APR will stay the same the entire repayment period. Variable-rate loans depend on market changes, and your interest rates will rise and fall accordingly.

Term length

Private lender and bank term lengths for student loan repayment usually include several options: 5, 7, 10, or 15 years. Our private student loan comparison includes lenders that offer even more than that. Term length will influence other loan characteristics, too. For instance, if you choose a 15-year repayment period, you’ll have low monthly payments, but the overall costs and the interest rate will be higher than with shorter terms. 

Repayment options

Most lenders offer the same four most common repayment options:
 
Full in-school repayment. Repay your principal and interest rate right away, resulting in low overall costs but high monthly payments. 

Interest-only in-school repayment. Start repaying interest rates while you are still in school. 

Flat payments. Almost every best private loan for students offers fixed low in-school flat rates, typically $25 each month. 

Deferred payment. This offer will cost you the most, but you won’t need to pay off your loan while you’re in school. 

Grace period

A grace period is a time after you finish school during which you don’t need to repay your loan. The standard grace period is six months for undergraduate student loans and nine months for graduate loans. However, some lenders offer even longer grace periods. 

Deferment and forbearance options

Deferment and forbearance allow you to postpone your loan repayment temporarily. Not all top student loans include this in their offer, so read each lender’s terms and conditions thoroughly before applying.

You can defer your loan payments due to military or public service. In-school deferment is possible for those enrolled at least part-time in a school program. On the other hand, if you’re facing financial hardship, you might be eligible for loan forbearance.

The two options for postponing your payments differ in terms of interest rate management: Deferment means that your interest rate will not accrue on your balance. Forbearance accrues interest while you don’t make payments. 

Loan requirements

Regardless of how good a loan offer might seem, it won’t be of any use to you if you’re not eligible for it. The top private student loans have different criteria potential borrowers must meet, and if you have a cosigner, they have to meet them too. These standards include a minimum credit score, minimal annual income, and debt-to-income ratio.

Lenders might also check whether you have unpaid debts or outstanding credit card balances. But before all that, you need to be of legal age for a loan and fulfill any residence requirements. Only a US resident can apply for an independent loan; if you have a cosigner, they need to have US citizenship. 

Application process

All lenders allow for online applications. You start by filling in the website form. Then your chosen lender for a private student loan reviews your application and sends you an offer. If you decide to go with them, you need to upload and submit the required documentation.

Getting a prequalification check is possible with many lenders. It’s the right solution for seeing whether you qualify for a loan without harming your credit score. 

Additional features

Sometimes lenders incorporate various discounts on your monthly rates and rewards programs for excellent students to their offers. You must meet specific criteria to earn rewards, but it’s worth checking with your lender to see if you can qualify for these programs.

Unlike federal loans, private loans don’t have a forgiveness program. Some lenders will go on charging monthly payments even if a borrower dies.

Quick Breakdown

The Best Student Loans for 2021:

  • Credible - Consider if you want personalized rates from multiple lenders
  • College Ave - Consider if you need a cosigned loan with flexible repayment options
  • Ascent - Consider if you want an independent loan
  • Earnest - Consider if you want a cosigned loan
  • Discover - Consider if you’re looking for versatile financial products

Private Student Loans: Reviews

Credible Review

Overview
5 stars Our Rating
Fixed APR:
starts at 1.04%
Variable APR:
starts at 3.39%
Loan amount:
Depends on lender
Repayment periods:
Depends on lender

Founded in 2012, Credible is an online marketplace that offers undergraduate and graduate student loans and refinancing. This marketplace is best known for its user-friendly website, multiple lenders comparison tool, and entirely free services. If you want to find and compare the best student loan rates, Credible is the right place for you. 

Loan types  

Like other loan marketplaces, Credible connects you with lenders so you can find an offer that fits you best. What makes Credible stand out from similar platforms is that it lets you compare up to eight lenders and banks at once, thus increasing your chance to find the lowest rates and payments.

Credible can connect you with industry-leading lenders:

  • Ascent
  • Citizens Bank
  • College Ave
  • MEFA
  • Sallie Mae
  • EDvestinU
  • INvestEd

As you can see, Credible’s student loan options are versatile. Depending on your needs, you’ll make a choice to borrow from either an independent lender or a bank. You can compare private student loans and find one that will cover your tuition fees, accommodation, books, and other potential costs. 

Loan terms and fees

At Credible, you can choose between loans with variable and fixed rates alike. Since this marketplace is connected with a multitude of lenders and banks, you can get the industry-lowest rates, payments, and fees. The variable APR starts from 1.04%, while the fixed rate starts from 3.39%. 

If you choose a variable rate, you can start with a low monthly payment. However, depending on how the market shifts, you can end up with high monthly installments. Fixed rates stay the same throughout your term, regardless of what happens on the market.  

Credible provides its services gratis, on top of letting you compare student loan rates and find the best options for student loans. The company doesn’t charge application, origination, or prepayment penalty fees. However, each lender reserves the right to apply loan fees. 

Eligibility requirements and application process

Credible’s main selling point is the simultaneous comparison of multiple lenders. Just one application will get you loan offers from up to 8 lenders - the fastest way to find the lender that fits your needs. 

Credible has an easily navigable website, with the dropdown menu for comparing lenders nestled in the upper right corner. Credible will offer you several private student loans and review your credit score without harming it. 

The minimum credit score for applying is 670, but even if your credit score is lower than that, you can get a cosigner for your loan. In that case, Credible will take their credit score into account and thus up your chances of getting a loan. 

Credible allows you to apply for a loan if:

  • You are enrolled in an eligible student program
  • You are a US citizen with a Social Security Number
  • You or your cosigner have a good credit score

Once your application is accepted, you’ll get a definite offer with the best student loan for your budget. After signing the contract, the funds will be directly transferred to your school. If there’s any money left over, you can use it to buy books or pay for other student expenses. 

Repayment terms

Credible lenders and banks extend their customers the usual four payment choices while in school. You can get a flat rate, defer your payments, pay off just your interest rate, or pay the principal and interest in full.

Rewards and unique features

As mentioned, Credible’s most exciting feature is its loan and lender comparison tool. You can even compare student loans with different cosigners if you have several candidates to ensure you’ll get the lowest possible rates.

Final thoughts

Credible is a reliable platform where you can compare multiple lenders’ loan offers and rates with or without a cosigner. Its streamlined platform will save you time by letting you send a single application to up to eight different lenders. However, there are options outside of those covered by Credible, so it could be useful to explore them, too.

Reasons to Apply:

  • Various loan offers
  • Soft credit check prequalification
  • Rich FAQ section
  • Multiple lender comparison
+ Show more

College Ave Review

Overview
4.5 stars Our Rating
Fixed APR:
3.49% - 12.99%
Variable APR:
1.09% - 11.98%
Loan amount:
$1,000 to the total cost of attendance
Repayment periods:
5, 8, 10, or 15 years

College Ave is an online lender that offers various types of loans and financial products for students who want to refinance their loans.

Thanks to its simple prequalification process and flexible loan terms, College Ave has some of the best student loans for US students. And if you finish your degree on time, you can qualify for College Ave rewards. 

Loan types  

College Ave offers undergraduate, MBA, and parent student loans. While most of the loans approved by this lender need to be cosigned, you can also apply for a non-cosigned private loan, assuming you have a good credit score. 

The minimum amount you can apply for is $1,000, while the maximum goes up to the full attendance cost.

Aside from offering student loans that cover all your student expenses (tuition fees, student accommodation, books, etc.), College Ave’s private education loans don’t require full-time school enrollment.

Loan terms and fees

College Ave provides loans with both fixed and variable rates. APR for fixed undergraduate student loans can be as low as 3.49% and can’t go above 12.99%. This lender also has the lowest student loan rates with variable APR. The minimum variable APR can be as low as 1.09%, and the maximum it might rise to during the lifetime of your loan is 11.98%. 

College Ave doesn’t charge application, origination, or prepayment penalty fees, but late payments will cost you.

Eligibility requirements and application process

Private loans for college by College Ave are available in all 50 states. US citizens can apply for a loan without a cosigner, but international students must have a cosigner with a permanent US residency. All students applying for a loan must be enrolled in an eligible student program and attending classes. 

The lender will also check your credit score, monthly income, and debt-to-income ratio. Before applying for a loan, you can let College Ave run a soft check to see if your credit score is good enough and get an estimate for potential rates and payments.

Although College Ave enables non-cosigned loans, 96% of its undergraduate private college loans have cosigners. Their credit score is a deciding factor for loan amounts and interest rates.

Repayment terms

It’s always good to have plenty of choices for customizing your loan to fit your budget. College Ave offers repayment periods of 5, 8, 10, or 15 years. And if you’re a medical, law, or dental student, you’re eligible for College Ave’s 20-year repayment program. 

College Ave offers four ways to repay your loan while in school: Full principal and interest payment, interest-only, flat rate, and deferred payment. 

Like other private student loan companies, College Ave grants borrowers a grace period after graduation, during which they don’t need to make payments. The grace period is six months for undergraduate students, while it’s nine months for graduate students. Medical students can defer their payments for 36 months. You can also get a 6-month extension on your grace period.

College Ave deferment and forbearance options allow you to postpone your payments, too. Deferment is a possibility for students enrolled at school at least half-time during their military service. Forbearance options are more flexible: You can postpone your loan payments for up to 12 months if you’re facing financial hardship. 

Releasing a cosigner takes a while with College Ave, a rare drawback with the best private loans for students. More than half of the repayment period must pass for the cosigner to be released from their obligation.

Rewards and unique features

College Ave’s most significant selling point is its partnership with Payce Rewards, enabling borrowers to earn cashback rewards on various purchases that go towards paying off their loan. 

If you enable auto-pay for your payments, you can get 0.25% off on your monthly loan installment. You just need to create an account and select the recurring payment method to get a payment reduction. 

Final thoughts

College Ave is worth considering if you’re looking for private loans for students with flexible repayment options. The versatility applies to the potential grace period and postponement options, too.

Reasons to Apply:

  • Auto-pay option
  • Three-minute application process
  • Free rate calculator
  • Various deferment and forbearance opportunities
+ Show more

Ascent Review

Overview
4 stars Our Rating
Fixed APR:
from 3.39% to 14.50%
Variable APR:
from 2.46% to 12.98%
Loan amount:
$1,000 up to the total cost of attendance
Repayment period:
5, 7, 10, 12, and 15 years

Ascent is best-known for its independent undergraduate student loans, but it also offers loans with a cosigner for both undergraduate and graduate students. It’s one of the best student loan lenders, praised for its versatile repayment terms, diverse forbearance and deferment options, excellent referral program, and cashback rewards. 

Loan types  

Ascent offers private student loans for undergraduate, MBA, medical, dental, law, and doctoral students. They can be cosigned or not, depending on the borrower’s creditworthiness.

However, while both options exist, Ascent is primarily focused on students who want to take out an independent loan. Non-cosigned loans can be either credit-based or future-income-based. For an independent future-income-based loan, a borrower must have a GPA of at least 2.9 and meet the school’s SAP threshold.

This helps students with no credit score apply for the best college loans based on their GPA and school program instead.

Loan terms and fees

Ascent’s cosigned and non-cosigned undergraduate loans can have either fixed or variable interest rates. Market-dependent APR ranges from 2.46% to 12.98%. Fixed APR can be as low as 3.39% or as high as 14.50%, depending on your credit score and debt-to-income ratio.

The minimum loan amount you can borrow is $1,000, while the maximum amount is up to $200,000 for credit-based loans. If you want to apply for an independent future income-based loan, the maximum amount per academic year is $20,000. 

As is expected with the best student loan companies, Ascent will not charge you any fees if you pay off your loan earlier.

Eligibility requirements and application process

Ascent eligibility requirements differ based on loan type. Generally, the lender considers your credit history, but other things can also factor in, depending on whether you have a cosigner or not. Ascent sets a credit score requirement for both the student and their cosigner. While it hasn’t set an explicit numerical threshold, Ascent will make a soft credit inquiry without impacting your score to determine your eligibility.

Ascent’s best student loan options also require a cosigner income of $24,000 for the current and previous year. The same requirement pertains to students applying without a cosigner.

The application process couldn’t be simpler and faster. After you prequalify for a loan, you need to submit your application and any additional documents. Ascent then forwards the loan to your school for verification; it usually takes the school several weeks to complete the loan procedure. 

Repayment terms

Ascent offers education loans with a repayment term of 5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years, with variable APR. If you choose a loan with fixed rates, the 15-year option disappears.

One of the reasons why Ascent is among the best student loan providers is its long grace period: You can postpone your payment for nine months if you apply for an undergraduate student loan, nine months for graduate programs, and up to 36 months for a medical student loan.

Other payment options include interest-only repayment and a $25 minimum flat rate repayment option.

Rewards and unique features

The referral program truly makes Ascent shine. If someone applies with your referral code, you can earn $25. Once the loan application is accepted, you’ll earn $500 more, and the person you referred can earn $100.

If you enable auto-pay with a flat in-school payment, your installment amounts will go down by 0.25% or 2% if your loan is credit-based or future-income-based, respectively.

Ascent private student loans for college also come with a 1% cashback reward program after you graduate. 

The total forbearance postponement can last up to 24 months during the loan life. You can also have four consecutive forbearance periods of three months. In-school deferment and military deferment are also available. 

Final thoughts

If you need a private student loan but don’t need anyone to sign with you, Ascent is the lender you’re looking for. 

Reasons to Apply:

  • Nine-month grace period
  • Excellent referral program
  • 1% cashback rewards after graduation
  • Fast and simple application
+ Show more

Earnest Review

Overview
4 stars Our Rating
Fixed APR:
starts at 3.49%
Variable APR:
starts at 1.05%
Loan amount:
$1,000 up to the total cost of attendance
Repayment period:
5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years

Founded in 2013, Earnest is a San Francisco-based online lender specializing in providing personal loans and refinancing student loans. As of April 2019, Earnest offers personal student loans. The lender is best-known for its flexible repayment terms and forbearance options. Unfortunately, Earnest eligibility criteria are hard to meet without a cosigner.

Loan types  

Earnest offers student loans for both undergraduate and graduate students. You can apply for a loan with or without a cosigner, but you need to meet a long list of requirements to get an independent loan. Even if you have a good credit score, Earnest loans are not easy to get.

Earnest loans are designed for students who already have a federal loan but need extra money to cover college costs. And while it may be optimized to be the best place for student loans with a cosigner, there is a catch - no cosigner release allowed.

Loan terms and fees

Earnest doesn’t charge application, origination, or prepayment penalty fees. But it won’t charge you a late payment fee, either, unlike most lenders.

Your interest rate is calculated based on your or your cosigner’s creditworthiness. The loan amount you apply for is also taken into consideration. The minimum loan amount is $1,000, and the maximum can go as high as the total cost of attendance.

For private student loans, the interest rate with variable APR starts at 1.05%, while the fixed APR starts at 3.49%.

Eligibility requirements and application process

Earnest has strict application requirements: First off, you need to have a US permanent residence card and be of minimum legal age for your state. Second, full-time school enrollment is required to qualify for a loan. Before applying for a loan at Earnest, check if the lender offers all its loan types in your state.

For example, Earnest’s loans are unavailable in Nevada, and in other states, like Texas, Ohio, and Alaska, you cannot get a loan with variable rates. 

The eligibility standards get even stricter if you need an independent loan, so Earnest might not be the best place to get student loans without a cosigner. To even stand a chance, you need to:

  • Have a minimum credit score of 650
  • Have an income of at least $35,000 per year
  • Have a minimum of 3 years of credit history
  • Have no bankruptcies

The lender also checks other aspects of your finances, like whether you have outstanding credit card balances, personal loans, and savings.

The Earnest website can tell you if you’re entitled to loan consideration. To that end, Earnest will gather your personal information, like name, address, phone number, and estimated credit score. As a result, you’ll be able to see estimates for your potential private student loan rates.

Earnest’s online application process includes the added benefit of uploading the necessary documents via smartphone. The lender will forward a loan offer to your email within 72 hours of your application. 

Repayment terms

Earnest’s main selling point is the extended grace period on student loan payments. You don’t need to pay your installments for nine months after you finish school. This only works for those who elected to defer their payments entirely while in school, though - if you choose to pay off your loan during your studies, the after-graduation grace period will not apply. 

There are several possibilities in terms of private student loan interest rates if you opt for in-school payments. For many students, the most tempting offer is the $25 monthly flat payment. Those who have a cosigner can opt for making full payments, as well. And if neither of those work for you, you can decide to only pay off your accrued interest while studying. 

Rewards and unique features

Earnest will meet you halfway in case of financial hardship, too, with a forbearance period of 12 months. If things aren’t that bad, but you need to catch a break, you can skip one monthly rate once in 12 months.

Final thoughts

Even with its strict eligibility requirements, Earnest is one of the best private student loan lenders. It offers competitive interest rates and customizable repayment plans. The lender has lots of positive reviews online, and the option to postpone a payment once in 12 months is also appreciated.

Reasons to Apply:

  • Loan terms between 5 and 15 years
  • 0.25% auto-pay discount
  • Competitive interest rates
  • Prequalification available
+ Show more

Discover Review

Overview
3.5 stars Our Rating
Fixed APR:
from 4.24% to 12.99%
Variable APR:
from 1.24% to 11.99%
Loan Amount:
Not disclosed
Repayment period:
15 years for undergraduates

Aside from offering one of the best credit cards for students, Discover is also a smart choice if you want to apply for a private college loan. Discover Bank offers the lowest interest rate on student loans, various loan types, and good student rewards. Besides, Discover has an excellent customer support team ready to answer all your questions at all hours. 

Loan types  

Discover Bank is a popular destination for students in need of loans to cover their studies’ entire cost. Discover’s loan assortment includes undergraduate loans, loans for students pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees, and MBA students.

Discover also offers law school loans with a repayment period of 20 years, as well as a specialized bar loan to cover the costs of preparing for the exam. Students enrolled in medical and dental schools are also eligible for extended loans and specialized residency loans.

In addition to the best college loans for students, Discover offers debt consolidation loans, too. 

At Discover, you can apply for a loan with or without a cosigner if you’re a US citizen. International students must have a cosigner to apply for a loan. 

Loan terms and fees

Discover’s loans are the right decision if you need to cover bigger financial gaps while you’re in college. However, if you need money to buy books, taking out a loan is not your smartest option: Much like other lenders, Discover sets its lower limit on loan amounts at $1,000. The maximum borrowing amount covers full college costs.

Discover offers low-interest student loans. Variable APR can bring your interest rate down to 1.24%, while fixed APR can go as low as 4.24% if you enroll in the auto-pay program. The interest rate mainly depends on your or your cosigner's creditworthiness. The highest variable APR is 11.99%, and the highest fixed APR is 12.99%.  

Eligibility requirements and application process

Discover’s requirements for a student loan might not be as strict as Earnest’s, but you still need to meet several conditions to get one. You must be enrolled in an undergraduate school program in an eligible school at least part-time, or pursuing a graduate, law, health profession, or MBA degree. 

Like most student loan companies in the USA, Discover reviews your credit score and history, though there is no explicit limit. If you don’t have one or it’s bad, you’d be better served by applying with a cosigner. 

Discover’s downside is that it doesn’t offer prequalification nor a loan rate estimate. Instead, you need to complete your application and endure a hard credit inquiry to find whether you are eligible for a loan or not. 

However, the bank does have a multi-year option that enables pre-qualification for the next academic year - you won’t need to pass another hard credit inquiry. 

If you’re applying for private student loans, companies usually don’t charge origination or application fees, but they charge late payment fees that can be extremely high. Not Discover, though - student loans are fee-free.

Repayment terms

Discover offers loans with a repayment period of 15 years for undergraduate and 20 years for graduate, law, and medical degree loans.

You can choose between fixed in-school rates and interest-only rates. There’s also the option to start paying off your loan after graduation and a six-month grace period.

Rewards and unique features

Perhaps not the top candidate for repayment programs, Discover still offers the best private loans for college in terms of forbearance options. In case you lose your job or have other financial difficulties, Discover can postpone your payments for up to 12 months (but not consecutively) or decrease the installment amount. 

Discover gives excellent rewards after graduation, too, provided you qualify. If you complete your school program with a high GPA and have an outstanding principal balance within six years of signing your loan, you can be eligible for a graduation reward. 

Final thoughts

Discover might not be the best option for bad credit student loans, but its assortment includes almost all types of student loans that you can qualify for with a good credit score. Limited repayment options might discourage you, but Discover’s rates are among the lowest in the industry.

Reasons to Apply:

  • No fees
  • Bar exam loans
  • Fast application procedure
  • Multi-year prequalification
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How to Get a Private Student Loan

To get a private student loan, you need to complete several simple steps: The first thing you need to do is find a lender and check if you meet the borrowing requirements. Unlike federal loans, private student loans are credit-based, meaning that each private student loan lender sets individual credit score thresholds.

It’s also why alternative student loans are harder to obtain, especially for undergraduate students with no credit score. To increase your chances of getting a loan, ask your parents or relatives to be your cosigners. 

The next step is prequalification. Luckily, most lenders let you see loan rate estimates and terms before actually applying. This won’t harm your credit score, as it’s a soft inquiry. It’s also a good way to check your rates with and without a cosigner.

Aside from reviewing your finances, a private student loan company will also ascertain your citizenship and enrollment status. Whether you’re looking for good or bad credit private student loans, you need to be a US resident or have a cosigner who is.

The application process is always online, so you’ll need to scan and upload your documents. After reviewing your application, the lender might ask for additional information. 

As soon as you get approved, you can choose your term length, repayment options, and rates.  

The last phase of getting a personal loan for students is the money transfer to your school, but be patient - several weeks might pass before the school receives funds. 

FAQ
Which private student loan is best? +

Many student loan lenders offer private student loans; which one is best depends on your needs. Our reviews of the best private student loans can help you make this decision and find the right offer faster.  

How do I choose a private student loan? +

Unlike federal loans that you can apply for via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), picking a private student loan requires more engagement. Student loan providers have different loan requirements and offer various repayment options. It’s crucial to get correct information about each lender before applying.

What credit score do you need for private student loans? +

It depends on the lender, but a credit score in the mid 600s is usually required. 

Can I get private student loans with bad credit? +

A private student loan requires a minimum credit score from a borrower or their cosigner. The best private student loans are also available for people with low credit scores, but they need to have a trustworthy cosigner in most cases.

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