Many students ignore their loans until after graduation, but it’s wise to start paying them off while you’re in school. Get a part-time job while you’re in college and dedicate most or all of the earnings to your student loans. If you can pay off $800 a month while you’re in school, then you’ll have paid off $30,000 or more by the time you graduated. For some people, that’s their entire amount owed!
Not sure where to begin your search? Here’s our list, in no particular order, of some of the best private student loans offered by the top lenders. To compile it, we looked for established lenders offering competitive rates and additional benefits which are detailed below. Of course, there are other great choices out there, but think of it as a jumping-off point as you start your research.
The debt snowball method is ideal for people who need to experience wins right away. “With this strategy, you’ll begin paying the smallest balance off first,” Anderson said. “Continue to make the minimum payments on your other accounts and put as much money as you can towards the smallest balance.” Once the smallest balance is paid off, combine the amount you were paying on that balance with the minimum payment on your next-smallest balance, and so on. “This strategy can help keep you motivated and encouraged since you should start to see some results right away,” Anderson said.
“If you refinance a federal loan into a private loan, you walk away from important federal benefits and consumer protections, such as income-driven repayment, loan forgiveness programs, default resolution options, flexibility during times of hardship and discharges based on disability or death of the borrower,” said student loan lawyer Adam S. Minsky.
Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR") published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of November 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.80%. Variable interest rates range from 2.83%-11.16% (2.83%-11.01% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.40%-12.19% (4.40% - 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.
To obtain federal student aid, you’ll have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA. As the name implies, the form is free and puts you in the running for financial aid for college, including federal student loans — making the whole application process easier, even if the form itself takes some time to fill out.
As a general rule, students should only consider obtaining a private education loan if they have maxed out the Federal Stafford Loan. They should also file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which may qualify them for grants, work-study and other forms of student aid. Undergraduate students should also compare costs with the Federal PLUS Loan, as the PLUS loan is usually much less expensive and has better repayment terms.
For undergraduate and graduate student loans, you can borrow up to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance (including tuition, housing, books and more) minus other financial aid. Aggregate loan limits apply. The minimum amount is $1,000 for each loan. We certify and disburse loan amounts through your school so you do not borrow more than you need.
There is a narrow window (billing cycle of between 21-25 days) to avoid interest charges if balances are paid in full. Loans may be deferred until after graduation, or interest-only payment may be made during school. If you don't pay the interest, it will be added (capitalized) to your loan balance following the grace period, at the start of repayment.

For example, you may see variable rates advertised as low as 2.5% APR and fixed rates starting around 3.9% APR. But this is a sunny day scenario. You and/or your cosigner would need to have the right qualifying credit score or credit factors to achieve the lowest rate, and the lender may impose requirements such as signing up for auto-debit from a checking or savings account to lock in these low rates. When comparing lenders, look for the asterisks and footnotes along with the fine print to understand what it takes to achieve or put you in the running for the advertised rates.
Next, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report, which outlines your expected family contribution. The form will automatically be forwarded to the schools listed on your application. The financial aid offices of those institutions will send you a financial aid award letter outlining the aid package they will offer. It’s your job to compare those offers and choose the school that best fits your future goals and family budget.
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When it comes to Stafford, Perkins, PLUS, and Direct Consolidation loans—which make up 85 percent of education debt—there are five repayment options. They range from the standard plan, which requires a minimum payment of $50 every month for up to 10 years, to the new, income-based plan that caps your monthly payments at a “reasonable percentage” of your income (determined by the federal government)and forgives any debt remaining after 25 years. So which schedule is best for you?
If you’re more about saving as much money as possible, you might want to give the debt avalanche a shot. “With this method, you throw the largest payment you can at your highest-interest-rate debt every month, while paying the minimum payments on your other debts.” By focusing on interest rates rather than the balances, you save more money overall.
“If you refinance a federal loan into a private loan, you walk away from important federal benefits and consumer protections, such as income-driven repayment, loan forgiveness programs, default resolution options, flexibility during times of hardship and discharges based on disability or death of the borrower,” said student loan lawyer Adam S. Minsky.
U-fi® is a registered trademark of Nelnet, Inc., for products and services provided by Nelnet Consumer Finance, Inc. You should exhaust lower-cost federal borrowing options before turning to non-federal loans. You are, of course, not limited to seeking loans or other products from U-fi.com, and are free to obtain information and loans from all other providers of student loans and related products.
One final thought concerning the use of private student loans: get a strong understanding of the interest rates as well as the loan’s other terms and conditions. Most lenders offer you a choice between a variable or fixed APR (annual percentage rate), so be sure to read up on the differences between the two interest rate options. Keep in mind that the rates advertised may not necessarily be the rates you qualify for based on your creditworthiness — or that of a qualifying cosigner.

Private student loans are credit based. Students with no credit history or a low credit score may find it difficult to qualify for a private student loan on their own. Students may have the option to apply for a Discover student loan with a creditworthy cosigner. By applying with a creditworthy cosigner, you may improve your likelihood for loan approval and may receive a lower interest rate.
Say, for example, you have a couple with a combined college debt of $50,000. Annually, they are making $100,000 combined in salaries. By establishing a budget with a goal of 3-years completion, they can make the necessary adjustments in their day-to-day spending to meet that goal. This budgeting might even reveal more money they can put toward diminishing the principal balance.
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