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Last updatedSeptember 2021

Best Private Student Loan Options 2021

Invest in your future

These private student loan companies will pay your college tuition and living expenses, so you can focus on your education.

Are you eligible for a better rate?


    College is not listed

    College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

    1. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.

    2. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. 

    3. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

    Information advertised valid as of 8/9/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

    Advertised rates and other loan information are for the Sallie Mae® Smart Option Student Loan® for undergraduates.

    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.

    This loan is for undergraduate students at participating degree-granting schools. Students who are not U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents must reside in the U.S., attend a participating school in the U.S., apply with a creditworthy cosigner (who must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident) and provide an unexpired government-issued photo ID to verify their identity. Applications are subject to a requested minimum loan amount of $1,000. Current credit and other eligibility criteria apply.

    1. Interest is charged starting when funds are sent to the school. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. Payments may be required during the grace/separation period depending on the repayment option selected. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan. Advertised variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised APRs assume a $10,000 loan to a borrower who attends school for 4 years and has no prior Sallie Mae loans. The borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction benefit. This benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. It may be suspended during forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan.
    2. Although we do not charge a penalty or fee if you prepay your loan, any prepayment will be applied as outlined in your promissory note—first to Unpaid Fees and costs, then to Unpaid Interest, and then to Current Principal. 
    3. This promotional benefit is provided at no cost to borrowers with undergraduate or parent loans with a first disbursement between May 1, 2021 and April 30, 2022. Borrowers are not eligible to activate the benefit until July 1, 2021. Borrowers who reside in, attend school in, or borrow for a student attending school in Maine are not eligible for this benefit. Chegg Study® offers expert Q&A where students can submit up to 20 questions per month. No cash value. Terms and Conditions apply. Please visit for complete details. This offer expires one year after issuance. 
    4. 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.
    5. Based on a comparison of approval rates for Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loans for Undergraduate Students who applied with a cosigner versus without a cosigner during a rolling 12-month period from October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019.


    Information advertised valid as of 8/26/2021.

    Smart Option Student Loans® are made by Sallie Mae Bank.

    Sallie Mae, the Sallie Mae logo, and other Sallie Mae names and logos are service marks or registered service marks of Sallie Mae Bank. All other names and logos used are the trademarks or service marks of their respective owners.

    ©2021 Sallie Mae Bank. All rights reserved.

    SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries, including Sallie Mae Bank, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

    1. Aggregate loan limits apply.

    2. Get a cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan when you earn at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) in any academic period covered by the loan. Limitations Apply. Visit for terms and conditions. 

    3. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.125% as of July 1, 2021. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Our lowest APRs are only available to applicants with the best credit. The APR will be determined after an application is submitted. It will be based on credit history, the selected repayment option and other factors, including a cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). If a student does not have an established credit history, the student may find it difficult to qualify for a private student loan on their own or receive the lowest advertised rate. Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates.

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    College Ave
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    0.99% - 11.98% variable APR2
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    • 3.34% - 12.99% fixed APR
    • Quick online application
    • Multiple repayment options
    Already have your diploma?Compare our top picks for student loan refinance
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    APR 1.80%-9.15%
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    No matter what your college plans look like—whether you are earning your bachelor’s degree, PhD, or a specialized certificate—you are going to need the financial security to pay for it. Even if you receive financial aid to cover the costs of your books and classes, you might still need a student loan to cover living expenses while you advance your degree. 

    What are Private Student Loans? 

    Private loans are similar to federal loans in the fact that they can be used to pay for school expenses. Taking out a student loan means that you will be responsible for paying back the amount of money borrowed after your grace period—typically six months after graduation or dropping out of school. 

    Unlike a federal loan, a private student loan is not backed by the government. Instead, this type of college loan is backed by a bank, credit union, or online lender. Federal loans generally have better terms, repayment plans, and do not require a credit check, but there is a limit to how much money you can borrow towards your degree. 

    Private student loans help fill in the gap so that you aren’t stuck to foot the bill if your federal-issued financial package isn’t enough. Many students are able to secure financial aid and federal loans during their undergrad degree, but financing becomes harder to receive for advanced degrees. This is where private student loans really shine. They are the additional financing option available so you can finish your degree and advance your career. 

    What to Consider When Looking for a Private Student Loan 

    There are two questions to ask yourself when searching for the right private educational loan. First, how much do I need, and second, how much can I comfortably afford? These two numbers might not be the same, and that is when you will have to decide how much of a college loan you are willing to take out. 

    Here are a few other things to take into consideration as you search:

    • Your credit score: If you don’t have an excellent credit score, you run the risk of getting a high APR or being denied the loan altogether. Find out what the ideal credit score for a lender’s lowest APR rate. Will you need to boost your credit score or have a good cosigner? 
    • The APR rates: Not only do you want to compare APR rates among lenders, but you also want to figure out if a fixed or variable interest rate is better for your unique financial situation. 
    • Loan terms: What terms and rates are the lenders offering? Can you adjust these terms easily in the future or are you locked in? Do the math of a longer loan term because even though it might mean lower monthly payments, it can also mean paying more in interest for the life of the loan. 
    • Discounts offered: Does the lender offer any discounts for being a pre-existing member, setting up autopay, or by having more than one product through them? Even saving 0.25% APR can save you a few hundred dollars in the life of your loan. 
    • Your current budget: It is easy to assume that once you graduate that you will secure a higher-paying job and be able to afford any student loans. This isn’t always the case. Can your current budget support your future monthly loan payments? While you aren’t required to pay on your student loan until after graduation, paying as much as you can while in school will help you out significantly later on. 
    • Any fees: Lastly, you want to know if the lender charges any fees for the loan or if there is a prepayment penalty (a penalty for paying off the loan early). 

    If you are applying for a private student loan to see your eligibility and check rates, be sure to get all of your quotes within 30 days so your credit report shows only one hard inquiry.

    How to Apply for a Private Student Loan 

    After you have done your research, it is time to fill out a private school loan application. Remember, if your credit score is below the excellent range, you will have a harder time getting a competitive APR rate. If you have the time to raise your credit score before applying for a private student loan, then do so. If your credit score is still too low or your credit history hasn’t been fully established, you will need to find a family member or trusted individual with an excellent credit history that doesn’t mind cosigning a loan with you. Being a cosigner is a big financial responsibility—if for some reason you fail to pay your loan, your cosigner will be responsible. 

    Filling out a private school loan application is straightforward, but you and your co-signer will need a few important documents, including the following: 

    • Your social security number
    • Your date of birth, address and identifying details
    • Pay stubs
    • Proof of assets
    • Monthly rent or mortgage receipts
    • Any other information that lays out your financial status.

    You should also be prepared to share the following:

    • The name of the college you are attending
    • When you’ll be graduating
    • Total college costs
    • And how much you are requesting to borrow to cover those costs

    You will also need to fill out the Private Education Loan Applicant Self-Certification form, which is provided by your school and will show the lender exactly what costs you face for your education. 

    Federal Vs. Private Loans

    Both federal and private loans come with their own set of benefits. Federal loans are accessed through filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) while private loans must be applied for through a local bank, credit union, or private lender. Both types of loans must also be repaid, though federal loans have more flexible repayment options if you become unemployed or a low-income earner after graduation. Some private student loan lenders offer some grace when it comes to financial hardship, but this is very temporary if it is offered at all. 

    Private loans allow student borrowers to access more funds for schooling costs that surpass financial aid packages. Another benefit to private student loans is that there is no deadline to apply. If you miss your chance to file a FAFSA, private student loans are still available to help you afford your tuition. 

    Unlike private loans, federal loans do not require a credit check or a cosigner in order to qualify.

    Subsidized Vs. Unsubsidized

    Federal loans are offered to students as subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are available to only undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. These loans do not collect interest while the student is in school or if the loan is deferred or in forbearance after graduation. The interest rate on subsidized loans is fixed, but borrowers are limited to how much money they can borrow. 

    Similar to subsidized loans, the government sets a fixed interest rate for direct unsubsidized loans. However, the loan accrues interest while the student is in school or if the loan is in a state of deferment or forbearance. 

    Private Vs. Public College

    Both private and public colleges are great school choices and student loans work the same for each. Typically, private colleges are smaller and costlier. Public colleges are funded by the state government and donations and therefore less expensive. 

    Private and public college costs should be considered when you research student loans and financial aid options. Many private colleges will allow students to transfer credit as a junior, meaning you can complete two years at a cheaper, public college first. 

    Parent/Cosign Loans

    Along with the option to have parents or other family members cosign a loan, parents can take out a loan for your education too. This should be the last financial option considered when exploring different financial aid options, though. A parent student loan, or a Direct PLUS loan, is a federal loan that a parent or dependent student can take out for educational costs.

    This puts the parent as the only person on the college loan, and it can be a risky financial move if the parent is set to retire in 10 years or less. Also, unlike other federal student loans, a parent student loan is not eligible for most repayment plans. 


    Don’t let money be the reason why you don’t accomplish your dream degree and advance your career. Along with financial aid, federal student loans, and private student loans, there are many options to help you afford your degree. 


    *The information shown on our site is provided to us directly by our partners, and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date. As products, offers and rates are subject to change at any time, the information on our site may in some cases be different than the information on our partners’ sites, and the terms displayed may not be available to all consumers. Before making any purchasing decision, we encourage you to review the financial institution's website for current information, as well as all terms pertaining to your purchase.

    † Before applying for a private student loan, Citizens and Cognition Financial recommend comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. The Custom Choice Loan® and Union Federal® Private Student Loan isare made by Citizens (“Lender”). All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to Lender’s underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions and other terms and conditions apply. LENDER AND COGNITION FINANCIAL CORPORATION EACH RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. TERMS, CONDITIONS AND RATES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. Custom Choice Loan® is a service mark used under license. Union Federal is a registered trademark of Cognition Financial Corporation. Union Federal Private Student Loans are not offered in connection with any lender other than Citizens or the federal government. Citizens is a brand name of Citizens Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. Interest rates and APRs (Annual Percentage Rates) depend upon (1) the student’s and cosigner’s (if applicable) credit histories, (2) the repayment option and repayment term selected, (3) the expected number of years in deferment, (4) the requested loan amount and (5) other information provided on the online loan application. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate applicable to your loan. Rates and terms are effective as of 6/1/2021. The variable interest rate for each calendar month is calculated by adding the One-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”), or a replacement index if the Lender, in their sole discretion, deems LIBOR to be substantially altered or if LIBOR is no longer based on newly reported rates from its reporting banks, plus a fixed margin assigned to each loan. The LIBOR is published in the "Money Rates" section of The Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition). The LIBOR index is captured on the 25th day of the immediately preceding calendar month (or if the 25 th is not a business day. The current LIBOR index is 0.09% as of 6/01/2021. The variable interest rate will increase or decrease if the LIBOR index changes or if a new index is chosen. The applicable index or margin for variable rate loans may change over time and result in a different APR than shown. The fixed rate assigned to a loan will never change except as required by law or if you request and qualify for the auto pay discount. 2 APRs assume a $10,000 loan with one disbursement and the summer savings rate discount of 0.50% (applicable to applications submitted between 12:00:00am EST on May 1, 2021 and 11:59:59pm EST on August 31, 2021). The high variable rate APR assumes a 7-year term with the Full Deferment option, a 19 month deferment period, and a six-month grace period before entering repayment. The high fixed rate APR assumes a 15-year term with the Full Deferment option, a 31 month deferment period, and a six-month grace period before entering repayment. The low APRs assume a 7-year term, and the Immediate Repayment option with payments beginning 30-60 days after the disbursement via auto pay. Offer valid for new Custom Choice Loans and Union Federal Private Student Loans for which applications are submitted between 12:00:00am EST on May 1, 2021 and 11:59:59pm EST on August 31, 2021. A 0.50% interest rate reduction will be included in the loan options presented during the online application process. The interest rate reduction will be applied as of the first disbursement date and will be effective for the life of the loan.