Compare Recommended Student Loans for Grad School Staff
Best Student Loans for Grad School
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Various estimates put the average annual tuition fees for grad school at $30,000 to $40,000. According to the New America Foundation, a non-partisan think tank, 58% of graduate students borrow for grad school. Graduate degree recipients leave school with an average of $70,000 in debt, about $50,000 of which can be attributed to graduate school itself.

We’re not telling you all this to scare you off grad school, but rather to stress the importance of finding the right lender before beginning our graduate studies. The difference between 3% and 4% APR or a repayment term of 5 years or 15 years mightn’t sound like a big deal right now, but it can make thousands of dollars of difference later in life.

The 5 Best Lenders for Student Loans for Grad School

Here are our recommendations for the 5 best providers of private student loans for grad school.

1. Credible

  • Type of lender: Marketplace

  • Products: Graduate loans, refinance

  • Repayment terms: 5-20 years

  • Cosigners accepted: Yes

Credible is an online lending marketplace that helps graduate students get pre-qualified for the best student loans for their needs. It takes only a couple of minutes to get pre-qualified with Credible. All you need to do is fill out a short online form with information about yourself (and any cosigner), your studies, and finances. Within seconds, Credible will show you a list of offers from its network of vetted lenders.

This platform is geared toward applicants with very good to excellent credit. A co-signer can be a spouse, relative, parent or any adult that is a US citizen or permanent resident alien. According to Credible, 85% of its applicants bring a cosigner, giving them a 3-times better chance of being offered a good rate.

Why go with Credible? It offers market beating rates if you or your cosigner have excellent credit.

See the full Credible review

2. Earnest

  • Type of lender: Direct 

  • Products: Private student loans, student loan refinancing

  • Repayment terms: 5-20 years 

  • Cosigners accepted: Yes 

Earnest is something of a new kid on the block, having been founded in 2013 with the stated goal of helping students and all types of other borrowers better their financial future. 

Earnest secures private student loans in addition to student loan refinance, and if you’re looking to apply, you can receive a rate quote online in as little as 2 minutes. You can also get an eligibility check that won’t affect your credit rate, so if you’re looking to get a loan for graduate school you can test the waters with Earnest risk free. 

Some of the perks are a 9 month grace period—during which you don’t have to make any payments—the ability to skip a single payment each year, and a .25% discount for autopay. 

Earnest has relatively tough credit requirements—a score of 650 or more—if you want to go it alone. On the other hand, if you have a cosigner you can get a loan even with a lower credit score. 

Why go with Earnest? It’s a flexible lender, and the 9-month grace period and ability to skip a payment are 2 quality perks. 

See the full Earnest review

3. SoFi 

  • Type of lender: Direct 

  • Products: Private student loans, undergrad student loans, refinancing

  • Repayment terms: 5-20 years 

  • Cosigner accepted: Yes

SoFi was founded by a group of recent Stanford business school graduates back in 2011 with an eye on making it easier for people to pay back their student loans. 

This is pursued through a number of measures that can make repaying your loan easier. The company features a number of discounts, including a 0.25% interest rate reduction if you sign up for automated payments, as well as .125% off if you use a SoFi member as a cosigner. And to sweeten the deal, SoFi also has no fees at all—not for origination, application, prepayment or for being late with your payment. 

Passing the initial application for a loan with SoFi should only take you a matter of minutes. After that, your application is sent to your school for verification, and SoFi estimates that the entire process should take around 4-6 weeks.  

Why go with SoFi?  SoFi offers a number of discount options—and never charges you any fees.

See the full SoFi review

4. College Ave Student Loans

  • Type of lender: Direct

  • Products: Graduate loans, parent loans, refinance

  • Repayment terms: 5-15 years

  • Cosigners accepted: Yes

College Ave is an online lender that has been offering graduate loans and other types of student loans since 2014. All its loans are underwritten by Firstrust Bank or Safra Bank, whichever can best accommodate the applicant. College Ave offers highly competitive rates and its website offers full transparency on rates, fees, and other details.

A couple of things make College Ave stand out from the crowd. Firstly, it offers parent loans, which are designed for parents wanting to fund their child’s education. Parent loans can be applied to grad school as well as to undergraduate degrees. Second, College Ave offers 4 flexible repayment options: principal and interest; interest-only payment while you’re in school; flat $25 monthly payments while you’re in school; and deferred payments, where you only begin paying after finishing grad school.

Why go with College Ave? It’s very flexible when it comes to repayments, offering 4 different ways of paying back the loan.\

See the full College Ave review

5. LendKey

  • Type of lender: Marketplace

  • Products: Graduate loans, refinance

  • Repayment terms: 5-15 years

  • Cosigners accepted: Yes

LendKey (formerly Fynanz) is a lending platform that connects borrowers with graduate loans and refinancing options from a network of community lenders. LendKey works with more than 300 credit unions and community banks to find extremely low borrowing rates for graduate students.

A credit union is a financial co-operative that is owned and operated by its participants. Most credit unions charge their members a monthly or annual fee on top of the costs of loans and other financial products and services. Some credit unions require that a person meet certain conditions in order to become a member, such as military service or working in a certain profession such as teaching. 

Why go with LendKey? To find market-beating rates from hundreds of participating credit unions and community banks.

Read the full LendKey review

How to find the Best Student Loans for Grad School

The golden rule of finding a student loan for grad school is to compare lenders. Before agreeing to a student loan, line a few lenders up side by side and see how they compare to one another on rates, fees, repayment terms, and other features. If you’re not sure about your ability to make monthly payments before finishing grad school, ask about their repayment and deferment options. And always remember to use a loan calculator (which most of the above lenders provide for free) to calculate the overall cost of your loan as well as the monthly payments. Staff's editorial staff is a professional team of editors and writers with dozens of years of experience covering consumer, financial and business products and services.