When it comes to borrowing money for college, grad school, or career training, there are two options: private student loans or federal student loans.
Federal student loans are loans funded by the federal government. These are typically the student loans with the lowest interest rates. They also offer assistance and grace periods if you have trouble paying your student loans. However, federal college loans for students have high origination fees, strict eligibility requirements and usually only cover part of the cost of admission.
Comparing private student loans is a bit like comparing colleges in that there are so many different options out there. Obviously, finding the best student loans rates should be a priority. However, it can sometimes be worth paying a higher rate in exchange for other benefits. Here’s the full breakdown of things to look for before applying for student loans.
Loan type. Some student loan companies only offer undergraduate loans, while others offer the full range of loans. Possible loan options include: undergrad student loans, graduate student loans (e.g. law school, medical school, MBA), parent loans, career training loans, and K-12 loans.
APR. Most private student lenders offer a choice between fixed student loan interest rates and variable student loans rates. Based on our study of the best student loans for college, variable student loan interest rates range from 1.04% to 12.40% and fixed student loan interest rates run from 3.49% - 12.99%. The average interest rate for a student loan is around 5-6% for undergraduate loans, 6-7% for graduate student loans, and 7-8% for parent loans. The lower loan interest rates are reserved for the borrowers with the best credit scores.
Fees. One of the main advantages of private student loans is that there are usually no additional fees to worry about. That means no origination fees, no application fees, and no prepayment fees. If a lender boasts of low interest loans for students, always double check to make sure there aren’t any additional fees.
Discounts. Most private student loan interest rates come with a 0.25% rate discount for using autopay. Other potential offers from private student loans organizations include cash-back upon graduation, refer-a-friend bonuses, and free learning tools from third-party partners.
Loan amount. The best college loans for students cover the full cost of admission. This includes tuition, room and board, fees, books and supplies, transportation, and a computer for school.
Repayment terms. Depending which lender you choose, you may be given up to 15-20 years to finish paying your student loans. Many private lenders require student loan payments while you are still in school, but some allow you to begin paying your student loans after graduation.
Grace and deferment periods. With some private student loan services, you may have the option of taking a grade period of 6-12 months after graduation before starting to pay off your student loans. Some student loan companies also offer deferment options for borrowers who find themselves struggling to make student loan payments.
Minimum credit score. Qualifying requirements for personal student loans are highly variable. Most private lenders require a credit score of at least 680, although some have been known to accept borrowers with scores as low as 600. As mentioned already, the best interest on student loans is reserved for borrowers with strong credit.
Co-signer option. Many students don’t have the credit score required to qualify for a private student loan on their own. With this in mind, many student loan companies allow for a co-signer (such as a parent, relative or someone else you trust) to be added to student loan applications. Having a co-signer with excellent credit is key to getting the lowest student loan rates.
All the top lenders maintain student loans websites where you can begin your application. Useful tip: Only apply to a handful of lenders with the best student loans rates in order to save yourself the trouble of uploading dozens of student loan applications.
It typically takes around 15 minutes to apply for a student loan. Here’s what you and your co-signer will need to provide:
After submitting your application, you’ll have a chance to review the interest rate and repayment term options. Then you and your co-signer will have the opportunity to review and e-sign the agreement. Finally, your lender will verify your academic enrollment and loan eligibility with your school. Assuming everything goes smoothly, you’ll be funded for school.
As long as you or your co-signer have decent credit, getting student loans isn’t all that difficult. After all, there are literally dozens of companies offering student loans in the USA. However, unless you want to try your luck applying for student loans from literally every lender, then it pays to do a bit of research first. On this website, you’ll find lender reviews and information to help you find student loans with low interest rates and favorable terms. Compare the student loans organizations on key factors like APR, loan type, and repayment term to find which makes most sense for you.