You’ve taken the first step of your college career and chosen a school and a major. Great! Now what? Now it’s time to choose the right student loan for your needs. Making this choice can be a difficult one, but with a little research and the right tools, you can get what you want and need out of a lender.
Things to Consider When Financing Your College Education
The process of financing your college education can be a long and frustrating task — unless you’re prepared. Make sure you have a few things at your side when you’re going through the process. The first thing you want to do is complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You’ll need your information and your parent’s personal and tax information to complete the FAFSA, but it will be worth it to reduce your student loan amount and ultimately your student loan debt.
Make sure you have a co-signer designated if you think you might need one or in case your lender asks you to have one. Deciding who this will be ahead of time will save you scrambling in the middle of the process.
Knowing your options and being knowledgeable about your terms and what terms mean in general is important. Become familiar with APR, fixed or variable, and other terms used throughout the process to know exactly what you’ll be paying back. Most importantly, understand what options you have and what your terms mean. Check a student loan calculator to help guide you.
In the meantime, we’ve done some great research on your behalf, and we’ve compiled a list of the best private student loans available to you. We looked at a few key areas of importance, including term options, flexibility, repayment options, co-signer options, interest rates, and customer service to bring you the best options to fit your needs.
College Ave offers your pick of 8-, 10-, 12- or 15-year terms where you can make full principal and interest payments while you’re in school. Having your choice of repayment lengths is an important customization option and will ultimately affect your total loan amount and interest rates. Many lenders do not offer as many options. You can also choose to make interest-only payments or flat payments while in school.
Alternatively, you can choose to defer payments until after you’re finished with school, but the College Ave website is transparent and explains your repayment terms very clearly. For example, you’ll pay more interest in the life of your loan by postponing payments. They’ll approve you for 100% of approved school-certified costs, but that also means there’s a potential to over-borrow. It is important to set down and map out your financial plans to ensure this doesn’t happen.
College Ave also offers loan consolidation services and twelve months of forbearance to use. This can be especially useful if you find yourself in hard times or experience job loss. With a 0.25% rate reduction offer for automatic payments, this is a great loan option. You also have the option of choosing between a fixed interest rate and variable interest rate. Being able to make this decision means you get the choice between a predictable fixed monthly student loan payment or less interest now but potentially a higher interest rate later. Either is a good option, but ultimately, it’s your personal preference.
Drawbacks to this institution include the fact that deferment based on financial hardship is on a case-by-case basis. This may not be a great option for someone who is planning and wants a little wiggle room. However, they do offer loans starting at as little as $1,000 available to undergraduates, graduates, and parents so whatever your need, they can accommodate.
College Ave is a newer online lender founded in 2014 who focuses on student loans. They give out both loans to new students and offer refinancing and consolidation of both federal and private loans. They’re a great option for a borrower who wants to be in charge of their loan terms and make decisions about repayment that is best for them.
Citizens Bank also operates under Citizens One for their private student loans and refinancing services. Their private student loans are a great option particularly for international students and students who don’t think they’ll need to postpone payments or lower their payments in the future. This lender offers a little less flexibility in the future for repayment than some lenders so make sure you’re confident in your choice.
Like many companies, they only offer the standard twelve months of forbearance which could be difficult for those who came into financial hardships and needed assistance beyond this. This is a typical amount of forbearance time among lenders. However, they do offer multi-year approvals for student loans. This is a significant offer considering it means the subsequent years of borrowing are approved without a hard credit check for you or your cosigner. This option isn’t available for international students though. With this service, they have your credit wellbeing in mind.
Citizens One offers a cosigner release after thirty-six months of on-time payments. This is a reasonable length of time, unlike other borrowers who require significantly longer periods. This makes it a pretty good option for borrowers intending to have a cosigner. They generously offer 5-, 10-, and 15-year loan terms which are great for those who want more control over the life of their loans. This seems to be a standard set of options among many lenders.
Citizen One refinancing services are a great option especially for those who intend to be financially stable, are international students, or didn’t graduate. They also offer personalized rates by way of a soft credit check which is great if you’re shopping around for the best option for you without harming your credit in any way.
They also allow borrowers who do not have a degree to refinance which would be ideal for those who maybe decided on another path. Not all lenders accommodate this group of borrowers, so they offer a wide variety of accommodations across the board. The same rule for cosigners applies to their refinancing in that you need thirty-six months of on-time payments to release them. You can refinance anywhere from $10,000 to $350,000 with Citizens One.
SunTrust offers private student loans to undergraduates and graduates at loan terms including 7-, 10- and 15 years. These are fewer options than many other lenders but also offer thirty-six months of interest only payments to assist in relief during financial hardships.
Cosigners can be released after thirty-six months of consecutive full payments are made, a standard for many lenders and less. Loan amounts are from $1001 up to $150,000 total for a borrower but cannot exceed $65,000 per year. You can also make greater-than-minimum payments through their autopay system to pay off your student loans faster.
There’s no application fee or prepayment penalty with SunTrust, but they also don’t offer customized rates with a soft credit check to avoid harming your credit which makes it difficult to compare to others while trying to choose the right one for you. SunTrust also offers an in-school deferment which will defer all payments while enrolled at least half-time until up to six months after graduation. This is nice for students who don’t mind a little extra interest in the future in exchange for worry-free lending while still enrolled.
Borrowers may request a forbearance post-graduation for up to twelve months total in 3-month increments at a time. While the twelve-month period is pretty standard, the 3-month increment requirement is sort of less accommodating because you may only need one or two months, and this locks you into three, which means you may use your forbearance quicker than actual need. SunTrust also offers academic deferment should you re-enroll and military deferment for those who serve.
What’s unique about SunTrust is that after graduation, it offers a 2% reduction of your principal loan and a 0.50% reduction in your interest rate should you enroll in autopay which can save you much money over time. While an autopay reduction in interest rate is seen with many lenders, the reduction to your principal loan amount is unique and significant to your overall financial planning because that’s less money you will pay interest on as well.
Sample SunTrust 2% Principle Reduction after Graduation
|Original Principal Loan Amount||New Principal Loan Amount after 2% reduction||Total Principal Loan Amount Savings|
Though Sallie Mae has been in business since 1973, in 2014 is split itself into two entities. Sallie Mae Bank, which is a consumer banking business, and Navient, which currently holds the title for being the most significant federal student loan servicer in the industry.
Sallie Mae offers private loans to undergraduate students with great flexibility options for repayment. Interest only payments can be made during school and the borrower’s grace period and Sallie Mae offers a 1% lower rate than traditional deferred repayment plans which can add up to significant savings.
Sallie Mae also stands as being one of the only lenders to cater to part-time students although they don’t offer personalized rates until you apply which can make it difficult when shopping for the right lender for your needs. Borrowers may also choose to make interest-only payments for up to twelve months after graduation.
Sallie Mae offers loan terms for five up to fifteen years and lends anywhere from $1000 to up to 100% of certified school costs while in attendance. Sallie Mae is especially generous to cosigners, offering a release after just twelve full on-time payments are made which is the shortest seen during research, and that makes Sallie Mae one of the best regarding borrowers using cosigners.
With Sallie Mae, you will find there are no application fees or prepayment penalties, but you will pay late fees on untimely payments made which is just one more reason to make sure you always make on-time payments each month. If you make $25 monthly payments while still enrolled in school, you can have a 0.5% reduction in your interest rate versus if you were to defer monthly payments until after graduation so if it’s possible for the student to do so, it is in their best interest for the life of their loan.
Sallie Mae offers a variety of deferment types including in school deferment for those who reenroll to attend a graduate program. Military deferments are provided but do require some contact with the military customer services, and there is a cap on your interest during that time. If you are in an internship, residency or fellowship, you can also defer payment. Residents can defer monthly payments for up to sixty months in twelve-month increments. Postgraduates may also request to pay interest only payments for up to twelve months after graduation.
Although Discover Bank is mostly known for its credit card business, in 2007 they opened Discover Student Loans to branch out, and they offer both private student loans and loan consolidation. Discover stands out for its repayment options for those who want flexibility in the future, especially for those who may be struggling to make payments. They even offer reduced monthly payments for a period.
Unfortunately, Discover only offers one loan term of 15 years, unlike many other lenders who provide a variety of loan terms. If this doesn’t concern you, they will be a great option. Students can borrow anywhere from $1000 up to 100% of attendance costs after another financial aid is applied.
Discover does not offer a cosigner release like many other lenders but for a student who does not have a cosigner or who doesn’t mind a cosigner staying on for the life of the loans, this may not be a concern either. Like other lenders, there is no application or origination fees or prepayment penalties, and Discover offers no late fees which are great for the borrower who may occasionally pay their monthly payments a little late.
While in school, Discover allows full payments are starting immediately, interest-only, fixed amounts of $25, and deferred repayment options. After school, lenders may defer payments for academic reasons, military services, in public service, or in a medical residency. Borrowers are granted twelve months of forbearance for financial hardships, but borrowers may not take all twelve months consecutively. Interest only payments at a minimum of $50 per month may be made for up to six months.
Discover offers refinancing services with generous flexibility in both 10- and 20-year repayment terms. This would be ideal for a financially stable student who wants a little breathing room in the future. Refinancing can be for anywhere from $5,000 to $150,000 in loans and like their private student loans, but no cosigner release is available which is not great for borrowers who want to use a cosigner. This means they’ll remain on loan for the entire life of the loan. Some cosigners may not like this.
Discover’s consolidation loans offer the same abundance of deferment options, forbearance length and reduced payment options as their private student loans as well.
Ascent is an online student loan lender that offers two types of student loans. Their Ascent Tuition loan is a traditional loan which requires a cosigner for approval. Their Ascent Independent loan is a student loan for juniors, seniors, and graduate students who want to sign for a private student loan without the assistance of a cosigner.
The Ascent Tuition loan is an excellent option if you intend to utilize a cosigner because it’s explicitly designed for that scenario. Borrowers can arrange for overpayment to multiple accounts or a single account making it possible to pay off your loan faster. Ascent Tuition loans offer lower interest rates than the Ascent Independent loans as well which is a nice perk.
The Ascent Tuition loan offers 5-, 10-, and 15- year variable interest rate loan terms of 5- and 10- year loan terms for fixed interest rates. Ascent Tuition loans offer up to twenty-four months of forbearance which is more generous than the standard twelve months you see with most lenders on the market. This makes it great for students who want some guarantees in case of financial hardships. An in-school deferment and military deferment are available as well as interest-only payments or flat fee payments, to suit your needs and specific financial situation.
The Ascent Independent loan is a private student loan of a different kind, offering loans to those students without a cosigner or credit history. These loans are only available to juniors, seniors, and graduate students and they look at more than just your credit or financial situation for loan approval. Ascent will look at your future earning potential, major, and even your school attendance as a basis for loan approval.
The Ascent Independent loan offers 10- and 15- year loans terms for variable interest rates and only 10-year rates for fixed interest, so again a few fewer options than some lenders provide.
Ascent Independent loans, like Ascent Tuition loans, offer twenty-four months of forbearance, double the typical amount with other lenders, both in school and military deferments, and interest only and flat payments to suit your needs. These types of choices help you tailor your borrowing experience to fit your exact desires for loan repayment.
Overall Ascent is a great choice, and the custom options for both independent borrowers and borrowers with cosigners makes repayment easy.
EDvestinU is an online student loan servicer who offers private student loans to undergraduate and graduate students who are enrolled at least halftime. Students should have at least $30,000 of annual income or a cosigner to qualify. This particular lender will not accommodate part-time students or those who are not financially grounded.
They offer both fixed and variable rates and offer 7-, 10-, 12, 15- and 20- year loan terms which is quite the variety and many more than your average lender which gives you much control of your future repayment terms.
Loans are a minimum of $1000, and they will lend up to $200,000 in total. Students must be admitted to or enrolled in an approved college or university when applying for an EDvestinU private student loan which makes it difficult for shopping around for the right private student loan for you in advance. Eligible programs include any title IV degree-granting college or university. Waiting until after you’re enrolled to get started on researching private loans can shorten the amount of time you have to research lenders and secure funds before you start.
EDvestinU offers a cosigner release after just 24 full on time monthly payments and there are no prepayment penalties or origination fees making is a greater cosigner option. EDvestinU offers three types of repayment plans. Full deferment until after graduation, interest-only payments, and principal and interest payments starting immediately which are all great options and the right choice for you will depend on your needs at the time of lending.
Overall EDvestinU has great loan terms and some repayment options that make it a perfect choice for a variety of different types of borrowers.
Sample Loan Terms and for $30,000 at 3.9% Fixed Annual Interest Rates for EDvestinU
|Principal Loan||7-year term||10-year term||12-year term||15-year term||20-year term|
Commerce Bank has been providing student loan options for about 50 years and offers a wide variety of repayment options to the borrower. Borrowers may choose between several repayment plans and between fixed interest rates and variable interest rates.
Commerce Bank offers loans to undergraduates, graduate students, and parents for up to 100% of certified school costs of attendance. They provide loans to a student at the full time, half-time or less than half-time which a unique lender quality is. Many lenders do not provide loans to borrowers for part-time students, so they’re an excellent option for just that. Students may take out a Your Future Education Loan without a cosigner and have several repayment options available to them. This loan type also offers an interest rate reduction for automatic debit payments.
Parents, grandparents or other creditworthy cosigners can utilize a Their Future Education Loan to cover up to 100% of school costs as well, and this is also available to full time, half time, or less than half-time students.
Commerce Bank does not charge application or origination fees and fixed interest rates, and variable interest rates are different for each type of borrower, whether undergraduate, graduate, or parent. Your Future Education Loans of 5-10-year loan terms while Their Future Education Loans are only offered in ten-year terms.
Overall Commerce Bank is an excellent choice for student and parent borrowers. It’s nice that they offer a customized loan to each type of lender and have a great variety of repayment options available.
PNC Bank offers undergraduate loans, graduate and professional student loans, and refinancing services with a pretty good variety of repayment options for the borrower. Undergraduates and graduates must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree or certification program to qualify. This is not a lender who will accommodate part-time students. Refinancing with PNC allows you to combine your private and federal student loans into a single loan with a single payment which can be a great option to maintain a clean credit report and less hassle paying student loan payments each month.
PNC Bank has no application or origination fees and an option to make no payments while enrolled in school. They offer a 0.50% reduction in interest rate with automatic payments from any account. They offer fifteen-year loan terms only, so there aren’t many customization options. However, if a fifteen-year loan term is right for you, then you have nothing to worry about. A fifteen-year term is a pretty standard option among lenders.
Cosigners can be released after 48 months of on-time payments which is a little more extended period than some but also better than others. Although not the best regarding the length of time, it’s still relatively good and should be considered for borrowers with cosigners.
Overall ONC Bank is a pretty good lender choice for any borrower, offering several repayment options and relief options. Cosigners get a decent release period as well.
Commonbond is an online student loan lender offering undergraduate, graduate, and MBA loans in a variety of repayment terms including 5, 10, and 15 years so you can customize your loan to fit your needs. They offer both fixed interest rates and variable interest rates which put you in charge of what you will pay and for how long. This kind of customization is essential when choosing the right lender and loan type for you. Though, they do not mention offering parent loans which aren’t an option for those hoping to utilize this service.
Commonbond offers twelve full months of forbearance over the life of your loan in case of financial hardship which is standard, but some lenders offer more. There are no application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties so applying additional loan payments will benefit you in reducing what you pay over the life of your loan and less interest. Cosigner release can be done after just 24 on-time payments which is one of the shorter periods seen in lenders, so this is an excellent option for borrowers who intend to use a cosigner.
Commonbond offers refinancing services to easily roll your multiple student loans into one single loan and one monthly payment. Commonbond has a simple application and does not affect your credit score when shopping your options. It can be especially important to do your research when looking for refinancing options, so these soft credit checks and personalized packages can be beneficial.
Overall Commonbond ranks as a good and average lender regarding rates loan terms and repayment options. They’re as good of a choice for undergraduates and graduates as any other and maybe the right fit for you.
Choosing the right private student loan from the right lender is crucial for your future financial planning. Whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student, in a residency or fellowship, or the parent of a student enrolled in college, there is a loan out there to fit your needs and wants.
Ask yourself a few questions when shopping around. What sort of options do I want while in repayment? Do I want to pay more over less time or lower payments over a more extended period? Do I want a predictable fixed interest rate, or do I want to spend less now and possibly a little more in the future? Do I want the option to defer until after graduation? Can I afford to make full or partial payments now to reduce the burden after graduation? Do I need to borrow for multiple years? Will I be using a cosigner? Write these questions and your answers down while doing your shopping and check off what you need and want until you find the one that most fits your needs.
Choosing higher education is a significant step in your life, and you need to make sure you put as great of an effort into funding it. If you do it right, you can walk away with a little less debt and a little more hope for the future.
So, get your calculator out, get your documents you’ll need in line, grab your cosigner, and dig in. It can be challenging and frustrating, but the education on the other side will be worth it.