How to Apply for a Private Student Loan

When it comes to applying for a private student loan, it seems a little more daunting than it actually is. Like anything, you'll want to be prepared with how you approach finding a loan that works for your personal finances.

But first, if you are ready to apply for a private student loan, you’ll want to have the following information handy:

  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s License
  • Income Information
  • Requested Loan Amount

It may also be helpful if your co-signer is present, so that you can fill out everything at the same time.

Here are some helpful step-by-steps when it comes to the application process:

Step 1: Research loan terms

Compare lenders based on the following information:

  • Interest Rate & Fee Disclosures – Take a look at each lender’s disclosures of potential interest rates and fees before you apply.
  • Repayment Options – Evaluate how long your private loan term will be and how much you will need to repay. You may also want to know what kind of repayment plans each lender offers.
  • Deferment & Forbearance – Find out which private loans come with deferment or forbearance options to help you in the event you run into future financial hardship.
  • Borrower Benefits – If offered, compare any lender benefits, such as rebates for on-time payments, interest-rate reductions for making payments using automatic withdrawal (ACH), or graduation rewards.
  • Customer Service – Make sure you are aware of the quality of service the lender and/or servicer will provide for you, as you may be working with them for 10-20 years or more.

Step 2: Complete the application

  • If you are applying online, you (and your co-signer) will likely enter your personal information and credit check authorization, and then receive a credit decision online or via mail, depending on the lender’s process. If you're not sure what you'll need an want more information, download our guide to paying for college.
  • Once you review your loan terms, you’ll probably need to accept the loan terms and sign a promissory note to complete the loan application process.
  • Remember, as part of the application process, you may need to provide income or identity verification documentation. Some lenders may allow you to scan and upload your private loan documents online, which can reduce processing time. Otherwise, you may need to mail or fax your documents.

Step 3: Disbursement of funds

  • Many private loans need to be school-certified, meaning the lender will verify your enrollment and loan amount with your school before funds can be disbursed.
  • Your funds will either be disbursed to your school (most likely scenario) or sent to you via check. Contact your school’s Financial Aid Office to provide you with details about how funds are disbursed.
  • If you applied for more money than your tuition, or if there was any price discrepancy between what you applied to borrow vs. what your tuition actually was you will receive a refund. In some cases, this refund should be used toward your loans so you aren't paying extra interest on money you don't need. If this was intentional, you should ration this money out and use it for any costs associated with your education such as textbooks, supplies, food, or housing.

Ready to apply? Visit our student loans page to see what lenders are available to you

Frequently asked questions

In order to apply for federal student loans, you must first file a FAFSA. From there you will receive a financial aid package, which may include federal student loans as well as grants, scholarships, etc.

To apply for a private student loan, you must find the right private student loan lender and apply directly through the lender. We recommend comparing different lender details such as APR, repayment terms, and other special details. Here’s a list of the top lenders of 2020 that we have vetted already. Choose a lender based on the best fit for your specific financial situation. Find a cosigner, if you have insufficient or bad credit, preferably someone with a good credit history. 

Firstly, only federal student loans are currently available for student loan forgiveness. Student loan forgiveness is currently only available for specific situations, including your chosen profession. Teachers are one of the professions that may be eligible to receive student loan forgiveness.

College Life Today's Top Student Loan Lenders 2020-2021

Lender Get started
Fixed APR: 3.49% - 12.78%²
Variable APR: 1.24% - 11.44%²
Includes 0.25% autopay discount¹
Skip a payment once per year (once repayment period has started)

Earnest disclosure
Fixed APR: 4.13% to 11.52% (with autopay)²
Variable APR: 1.78% to 11.89% (with autopay)²
0.25% interest rate reduction when you make required payments by automatic debit¹
Unemployment protection
4 Repayment options to choose from

Sofi disclosure
Fixed APR: 3.49% - 12.99%²
Variable APR: 1.09% - 11.98%²
Apply in as little as 3 minutes and get an instant credit decision
Multiple repayment options from deferred to immediate principal and interest
Choice of how long you take to repay the loan – 5, 8, 10, or 15 years³
0.25% interest rate reduction when you make required payments by automatic debit¹
Borrow up to 100% of your cost of attendance (minimum $1,000)¹

College Ave disclosure