Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 8, 2021

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Summary

  • The best student loans will vary depending on your education level, credit history, and even your degree type
  • Federal student loan rates are currently between 3.73% and 6.28%
  • Most of the time it’s preferable to exhaust your federal student loan funding before securing a private student loan

For those looking to take the next step in education, comparing the best student loans could save you from repaying more than you need. This is especially true if you’ve reached your federal student loan limits.

Shopping for student loans can be a tedious and time-consuming process. We’ll help save you time by identifying the best private student loans, private student and education loan rates, and more.

Ready to start comparing the best student loans? Enter your ZIP to get free quotes from top student loan providers in just a few clicks.

What is a student loan?

Student loans are provided to eligible students who are pursuing collegiate-level degrees. Most student loans are distributed to students and won’t need to be paid back until a year or so after the student’s last class.

Student loans can be provided with different interest rates depending on the lender. Students will be required to repay their loans whether they complete their degree or not.

There are quite a few common student loan lenders available. Some of these companies will also provide student loan refinancing for those looking to secure a better interest rate.

Below is a list of common student loan lenders.

  • College Ave
  • Earnest
  • Education Loan Finance
  • U-fi
  • Sallie Mae
  • Ascent
  • EDvestinU
  • Discover
  • So-fi

Not every student loan will be considered the best for bad credit, low interest, or other specific circumstances. In general, most student loan lenders will target the needs of only one or two types of consumers.

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How to Choose the Best Student Loan

Choosing the best student loan will depend on your situation. Assuming you’ve already exhausted your federal student loan funds, you’ll likely need to secure a private student loan.

Private student loans can vary drastically depending on your credit score, education level, and your desired private student loan amounts. You might have different loan term options depending on your loan amount.

Using a student loan calculator or college calculator could be a good start toward understanding your student loan necessities.

What are the best student loans for bad credit?

It’s not uncommon for students to search for financial assistance with bad credit or no credit at all. In reality, most undergraduate students will be fresh out of high school with very little credit history.

If you’re anticipating a high student loan balance and you have bad credit or no credit, you’ll most likely need to find a cosigner to help get your loan approved.

In fact, some federal loans, such as the Parent PLUS Loan, require a parent to be the primary loan-holder for you to secure funding for your education. In many cases, this is due to a lack of established credit history or bad credit.

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Private loans for education can also be split up into private student loans and private parent loans. In this case, the only difference is who is listed as the primary policyholder.

For students with bad credit, a private parent loan will most likely be the more affordable of the two options. Unfortunately, not every student will have a parent that can assist them with securing a private loan.

Best Student Loans Without a Cosigner

What do you do if you don’t have a parent to help you secure a Parent Plus Loan or equivalent from a private lender? The first key is to exhaust your federal loan funds. Federal student loans almost always have lower interest rates than private loans for those with bad credit or no credit.

Many companies will provide students a loan without a cosigner but might take advantage of the student by manipulating interest rates, term lengths, and so on. Many of the reliable student loan providers were listed in our first section.

If you can’t find a cosigner, it might be worthwhile to look into organizations that offer scholarships for your major, demographic, or for academic achievement.

Companies like eduPASS could help you find scholarships or network with students who may be in a similar position.

Best Student Loans for Graduate School

Attending graduate school can be a great way to make career advancement, but it comes at a significant expense. According to EducationData.org, master’s degree holders take out an average of over $55,000.

With such a large debt, it’s important to be sure you get the best rate possible. As a whole, federal unsubsidized loans will most likely offer the most reasonable student loan rates.

Unfortunately, even federal loans become more costly for graduate school students. The current federal loan rates are sampled below.

Federal Student Loan Rates
Loan TypeBorrower TypeFixed Interest Rate
Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized LoansUndergraduate3.73%
Direct Unsubsidized LoansGraduate or Professional5.28%
Direct PLUS LoansParents and Graduate or Professional Students6.28%
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You’ll see above that interest rates are preferable for undergraduate students. Private student loans for graduate students can be even more costly, however.

Most private lenders offer fixed rates from 3%-13%. Realistically, it’s unlikely that a student without much credit history would ever be lucky enough to be given a fixed interest rate on the lower side of that range.

With an unsubsidized federal student loan, you could expect to pay roughly $8,700 in interest accrued on a $30,000 loan. If you were given an interest rate of 10% from a private lender, that number jumps to over $17,500, assuming the loan was repaid in 10 years.

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Best Student Loans: The Bottom Line

The best student loans won’t be exactly the same for every borrower. You can expect to get different student loan interest rates based on your education level, credit history, and more.

By now, you should have everything you need to find the best student loans. Before you go, enter your ZIP to get free loan quotes from top lenders near you.