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If you’re planning on pursuing your master’s, PhD, or other advanced degree, you may be reviewing your options for graduate student loans. The best graduate student loans let you borrow as much as you need while providing flexible repayment terms and competitive interest rates.?
In fact, there are a number of private lenders offering graduate school loans at low rates, including loans specifically designed for medical school, law school, dental school, and MBA programs. We’ve reviewed the leading student loan lenders here, to help you find the best way to fund your continuing education.?
Best Graduate Student Loans of 2023
Before turning to a private graduate loan, it’s usually a good idea to max out your eligibility for federal Direct unsubsidized loans, which come with low fixed interest rates and a variety of repayment plans. If you’ve exhausted your federal student loan options and still have a gap in funding, though, it’s worth exploring your options for private graduate school loans.
Best Overall : Earnest
- APR Range: Fixed 4.67%–16.15%, Variable 5.87%-16.76%
- Loan Amounts: $1,000–$250,000
- Loan Terms: 5–15 years
9-month grace period?
Option to skip a payment once per year?
Loans for graduate school, medical school, law school, and MBAs?
No option for co-signer release?
Not available in Nevada?
Earnest tops our list of the best graduate student loans thanks to its flexible repayment terms, customized loan options, and transparency around lending requirements. When you borrow from Earnest, you can choose repayment terms from five to 15 years, making it easy to find a term that works for your budget.
Plus, you have four different repayment options after you borrow, whether you want to start making partial or full payments right away or defer payments until after you graduate. Earnest offers a nine-month grace period on student loans, too, which is three months longer than the grace period you’ll find from most other lenders.?
While Earnest offers a general graduate school loan option, it also customizes loans for specific degree types. Specifically, Earnest offers graduate student loans for medical school, law school, and MBA programs, as well as loan options for half-time students.?
Finally, Earnest is upfront about its eligibility criteria, sharing the residency, financial, and other requirements that you or your co-signer need to meet to borrow a loan. As long as you or your co-signer have a minimum FICO score of 650 and make at least $35,000 per year, a graduate student loan from Earnest could be a good fit.?
For more information, see the full Earnest Student Loans Review.
- In-school deferment: You can postpone payments while you’re in school and for up to nine months after you graduate.?
- Fixed payments of $25: To get a head start on your student loan payments, you can opt to pay $25 per month while you’re in school and throughout your grace period.?
- Interest-only payments: To prevent your balance from ballooning, you can pay off the accrued interest while you’re in school. You can continue paying only interest for nine months after graduation, before starting full payments.
- Full payments: Students with a source of income could opt to make full principal and interest payments while in school. As with interest-only payments, this option doesn’t come with deferment after graduation.?
To borrow a graduate student loan from Earnest, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:?
- Live in a participating state or Washington, D.C. (anywhere but Nevada)
- Be the age of majority in your state?
- Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or have a Social Security number?
- Be enrolled in a Title IV-qualified institution?
As for Earnest’s financial requirements, the lender asks that you or your co-signer have a minimum FICO score of 650 and annual income of at least $35,000. You also can’t have any past-due balances in the past year, accounts in collections, or bankruptcies on your credit reports.?
Loan Marketplace : Credible
- APR Range: Fixed 4.41%–16.99%, Variable 5.36%-16.99%
- Loan Amounts: Varies by lender
- Loan Terms: Varies by lender
Check rates with multiple lenders at once?
Best rate guarantee?
Options limited to partner lenders?
May need to research individual lenders for full details?
Credible is an online lending marketplace that enables you to check your rates with multiple lenders at once. With no impact on your credit, you can pre-qualify for a graduate student loan from Credible’s partners, which include:?
- Citizens Bank
- College Ave
- Custom Choice?
- Sallie Mae?
Since every lender sets its own borrowing requirements, you may not qualify with each one. After submitting your information, you can compare offers and see if any are the right fit.?
If you decide to move forward, you can select an offer and submit a full application. Most of Credible’s partner lenders offer student loans starting at $1,000 and going up to your school-certified cost of attendance.?
You may need to head to an individual lender’s website or call its customer support team if you need additional details about its loan amounts, repayment options, or other loan features.?
For more information, see the full Credible Student Loans Review.
Your repayment options will vary by lender, but you may find the following:?
- Deferred payments
- Fixed payments?
- Interest-only payments?
- Immediate repayment?
Since Credible is a loan marketplace that partners with various lenders, the specific eligibility requirements will vary by lender. However, most require that you’re the age of majority in your state and are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Through Credible, you can find loans in all 50 states.?
Credible’s partners require a minimum credit score of 670, but you or your co-signer will need a score of 700 or higher to access the most competitive rates.
Best for Law School Loans : SoFi
- APR Range: Fixed 4.99%–14.48%, Variable 5.99%-13.97%
- Loan Amounts: $1,000 up to cost of attendance
- Loan Terms: 5, 7, 10, or 15 years
Student loans for law school, medical school, MBAs, and graduate school?
Access to member benefits, including career coaching?
Not transparent about credit score requirements
Maximum APR can exceed 13%?
SoFi provides graduate student loans to qualifying borrowers across the country. Along with its general graduate school loan, SoFi also designs loans specifically for law school, medical school, and MBA programs.?
If you borrow from SoFi, you can choose between fixed and variable rates and loan terms of five to 15 years. You’ll also get access to a range of SoFi member benefits, which include career coaching and estate planning.?
SoFi doesn’t charge any fees on its student loans, so you don’t have to worry about an origination fee or prepayment penalty. Plus, the lender gives you the option to defer payments if you go back to school, undergo disability rehabilitation, or serve in the military.?
If you apply with a co-signer, SoFi allows you to apply for co-signer release after 24 months of on-time payments. However, the lender isn’t particularly transparent about its underwriting criteria and does not disclose its minimum credit score or income requirements on its website.?
For more information, see the full SoFi Student Loans Review.
- Deferred payments: Postpone payments while you’re in school and for an additional six months after you graduate.?
- Interest-only payments: Pay off the interest that accrues while you’re in school.?
- Partial payments: Make monthly payments of $25.?
- Immediate repayment: Start making full principal and interest payments right away.?
SoFi provides graduate student loans in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. while it doesn’t disclose specific requirements, you’ll need to meet SoFi’s criteria for credit, income, and debt-to-income ratio to qualify. You also have the option of applying with a co-signer. Along with its general graduate student loans, SoFi also designs loans for law students, health professions students, and MBA programs.
Best for Fair Credit Borrowers : Ascent
- APR Range: Fixed 5.33%–15.66%, Variable 6.58%-15.94%
- Loan Amounts: $2,001 to cost of attendance; aggregate total of $400,000?
- Loan Terms: 5, 7, 10, 12, 15, and 20 years
1% cash back reward upon graduation?
Co-signer release option after 12 months
Forbearance in the event of financial hardship?
Does not disclose credit requirements?
Charges late fees?
Maximum APR can exceed 15%?
Ascent is a solid student loan lender, with a fairly rare perk for eligible borrowers: If you meet certain requirements, including graduating with the degree you took the loan out for, you can get 1% of your loan proceeds back. This could be a nice (and fairly sizable) treat for all your hard work.
Ascent gives you the option to pre-qualify with no impact to your credit, so you can enlist a co-signer if you’re having trouble qualifying on your own. Its graduate school loans come with flexible repayment options and loan terms of five to 20 years.
Unlike most other private lenders, Ascent offers the option of graduated repayment, meaning you can choose to start with lower payments that increase over time. You also don’t have to worry about origination fees or prepayment penalties.?
If you apply with a co-signer, you can pursue co-signer release after 12 months of on-time payments, as long as you’re a U.S. resident or permanent citizen. Ascent also offers various deferment and forbearance options in the event of financial hardship.?
For more information, see the full Ascent Student Loans Review.
- Deferred payments: You can postpone payments while you’re in school and for nine months after you graduate on Ascent’s graduate, health professional, MBA, and law school loans. Ascent dental school loans come with a 12-month grace period, and Ascent medical school loans offer a grace period of up to 36 months.?
- Interest-only payments: You can pay the interest that accrues on your loans while in school. If you choose this option, expect your first payment to be due 30 to 45 days after your loan is disbursed.?
- Partial payments: You can also pay $25 per month toward your loan while in school.
Ascent’s graduate student loans are available in all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and U.S. territories. While Ascent doesn’t share its minimum credit score requirement, it does say you or your co-signer must have at least two years of credit history and an annual income of at least $24,000. International students are eligible to apply as long as they apply with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident as their co-signer.?
Best for Medical School : Discover
- APR Range: Fixed 4.99%–9.99%, Variable 6.37%-12.12%
- Loan Amounts: $1,000 up to full cost of attendance
- Loan Terms: 20 years
Health professions loans cover a variety of fields of study
Residency loans cover residency and internship expenses
Cash reward of 1% for good grades
No co-signer release?
Only one loan term?
Discover offers graduate school loans starting at $1,000 with repayment terms of 20 years. If you borrow from Discover, you don’t have to worry about application, origination, or late fees.
Along with general graduate school loans, Discover offers MBA loans, health professions loans, and law loans. It also offers two post-graduate loan options: residency loans and bar exam loans.?
You might qualify for a one-time 1% cash bonus if you earn a 3.0 GPA or higher in graduate school through Discover’s Rewards for Good Grades program. Discover also offers a lengthy grace period of nine months and options for deferment and forbearance.?
However, Discover does not provide the option of co-signer release. If you apply with a co-signer, that individual will share your debt for the life of your loan (unless you refinance in your own name).?
For more information, see the full Discover Student Loans Review.
- Deferred: You can postpone payments while you’re in school and for nine months after you graduate.?
- Interest-only: You can opt to pay off the interest that accrues while you’re in school.?
- Fixed payments: You’ll make fixed monthly payments of $25 while you’re in school and during your grace period.?
Discover student loans are available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. You must be 16 or older to borrow, as well as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. International students can also borrow if they apply with a co-signer who meets residency requirements.
While Discover doesn’t share its minimum credit score requirement, you will need to pass a credit check to borrow. Plus, you’ll have to be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting graduate program at an eligible school.?
Best Without a Co-Signer : MPOWER
- APR Range: 13.98%
- Loan Amounts: $2,001–$100,000
- Loan Terms: 10 years
No co-signer or collateral required?
Available to international students?
Interest rate discounts available?
Relatively high interest rate?
Must pay interest while in school?
Only one loan term?
MPOWER Financing offers student loans without requiring a co-signer or collateral; along with the traditional borrower qualifications, MPOWER also considers your future earning potential, which can help you get approved if you’re applying on your own. While domestic students are eligible to borrow from MPOWER, this lender is largely geared toward helping international students attend school in the U.S. and Canada.?
Along with student loans, MPOWER provides visa support and career development guidance. Its graduate loans come with a relatively high fixed interest rate of 13.98%, though you can qualify for a 0.25% interest rate discount by setting up autopay.?
Unlike some other lenders, MPOWER doesn’t let you postpone payments completely while you’re in school. Instead, you’ll have to pay the interest while you’re in school and during your six-month grace period.?
After that, you’ll be set up on a repayment term of 10 years.
For more information, see the full MPOWER Student Loans Review.
- Interest-only payments: You’re required to pay the interest while in school and for six months after you graduate.
MPOWER Financing provides loans for graduate students, specifically focusing on international students attending graduate school in the U.S. and Canada. Unlike most other lenders in the U.S., MPOWER doesn’t require international students to apply with a co-signer or collateral.?
Because it doesn’t require a creditworthy co-signer, MPOWER requests other documents when you apply, such as your resume, standardized test scores, and transcripts. You also must be attending one of the schools on its approved list in order to borrow a student loan.?
Best for Student Loan Refinancing : Splash Financial
- APR Range: Fixed 4.96%–10.99%, Variable 5.49%-10.89%
- Loan Amounts: Minimum of $5,000, maximum varies by lender
- Loan Terms: Not disclosed
Connects borrowers with student loan refinance offers?
Lets you check your rates with multiple lenders at once?
Rates start as low as 4.96%?
Refinance offers limited to Splash’s exclusive partner lenders?
Loan terms and conditions can vary by individual lender?
Splash is a student loan network that can connect you with student loan refinance offers from several lenders that are exclusive to Splash; you won’t be able to apply with them through other means. If you’ve already borrowed graduate student loans and are looking to lower your rates, Splash is worth exploring.?
You can pre-qualify for student loan refinancing with no impact on your credit score and access extra-low rates.
Splash can also connect you with graduate school loans, specifically from its partner Earnest. As mentioned, Earnest provides loans for graduate school, as well as specific programs, including medical, law, and MBAs.?
For more information, see the full Splash Financial Student Loan Refinancing Review.
Refinancing student loans can help you lower your interest rate and restructure your repayment terms, but be cautious about refinancing federal loans. If you refinance federal loans, you turn them private and thus lose access to federal repayment plans, forgiveness programs, and other protections.
- Full principal and interest: Since refinancing is typically done after graduation, you'll begin paying full payments right away as you were with your previous loan or loans.
- Medical and dental school repayment: Refinanced medical or dental school loans only require fixed monthly payments of $100 while you're in a residency or fellowship, and for a six-month period after you leave those programs.
The Splash Financial network is available to borrowers in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The credit and income requirements will vary by lender, but you’ll need strong credit (or a creditworthy co-signer) to access the lowest rates. Some of Splash’s partner lenders offer co-signer release after a certain period of on-time repayment.
Best for International Student Loans : Citizens Bank
- APR Range: Fixed 4.99%–11.42%, Variable 6.27%-12.99%
- Loan Amounts: $1,000–$150,000, or more with some degrees
- Loan Terms: 5–15 years
International students eligible with a co-signer?
Multiple loan types for specific graduate programs?
No option to prequalify?
Co-signer release only available after 36 months?
Applying for more funding for every year you want to go to school can be a hassle, and if you fail to secure the funds your education may suffer. Citizens offers multi-year approval to help erase this concern. If you apply for a loan, are approved, and are given multi-year approval, you won’t have to submit a full, formal application for later school years. Instead, you can simply request more funds without the need for further hard inquiries or documentation.
If you’re already a Citizens banking customer, you could qualify for a 0.25% interest rate discount, in addition to the 0.25% automatic payment discount. Unfortunately, Citizens doesn't give you the option to check your rates through pre-qualification, so you’ll need to submit a full application to see your options.?
Citizens does not charge origination, application, disbursement, or prepayment fees. Along with its graduate school loan option, Citizens also offers MBA, law, medical, dental, and medical residency refinance loans.?
For more information, see the full Citizens Student Loans Review.
- Deferred: You can defer payments while you’re in school and for six months after you graduate.?
- Interest-only: You can start paying the interest right away to prevent your balance from growing while you’re in school.?
- Immediate repayment: You can choose to make full payments from the get-go.?
Citizens looks for a strong credit history when you apply for a loan. You’ll also need to provide your personal details, school’s cost of attendance, and information about any financial aid you’ve already received. International students can qualify if they apply with a co-signer who’s a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Citizens student loans are available in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.?
You have many options when it comes to borrowing a private student loan for graduate school. Earnest tops our list of the best graduate school loans overall, thanks to its low rates, flexible repayment options, and transparent lending practices.?
However, there are a variety of lenders that might be a good fit depending on your situation. MPOWER Financing could be a good choice for international students who want to take out a loan on their own, without a co-signer. Citizens stands out for its multi-year approval option, while both Ascent and Discover offer a 1% cash-back bonus to qualifying students.?
Because every lender has its own pros and cons, it’s worth shopping around before you pick one. Many of these lenders let you pre-qualify online, so you can check your rates with no obligation or impact on your credit score.?
Taking the time to compare your options can help you find a graduate school loan that’s the best fit for you and your finances.?
Guide to Choosing the Best Graduate Student Loan
How Do Graduate Student Loans Work?
Graduate student loans offer funding that you can use on qualified education expenses, such as tuition, fees, room, board, books, supplies, and living expenses. Most lenders send your loan proceeds directly to your financial aid office, which will apply it to required expenses, like tuition. Then, the office will send the remaining amount to you.?
Most private lenders give you the option of postponing payment while you’re in school and for six or nine months after you graduate. However, make sure to read the fine print to confirm when your first payment is due. If you can afford in-school payments, you could reduce your overall interest charges.?
Private student loans are different from federal loans, which typically don’t require a credit or income check. Federal loans are also eligible for a variety of federal repayment plans, forgiveness programs, deferment and forbearance programs, and other protections.?
Graduate students are eligible to borrow Direct unsubsidized loans and grad PLUS loans. It’s often a good idea to max out your eligibility for Direct unsubsidized loans, since they come with relatively low fixed interest rates. If you need additional funding for graduate school, compare private student loans with federal grad PLUS loans to see which would be the better option.
How To Compare Graduate Student Loans
When comparing graduate student loans, there are a number of features to consider:?
- APR: The loan with the lowest APR will likely be the most affordable one.??
- Fees: Look out for application, origination, administrative, disbursement, or late fees that could add to your costs of borrowing.?
- Repayment terms: Choose a loan with a repayment term that works for your budget, whether it spans five or 15 years. Find out what your options are for in-school payment too, and whether the lender offers a grace period.?
- Borrower protections: When comparing private lenders, find out if they offer any benefits, such as forbearance in the event of financial hardship or deferment if you go back to school.?
- Co-signer release: If you need to apply with a co-signer to qualify, find out if the lender offers the option of co-signer release after a certain period of time.?
- State availability: Some lenders provide loans in all 50 states, while others are restricted to certain areas.
- School eligibility: Finally, make sure your school is on a lender’s list of eligible institutions for a graduate student loan.?
How To Qualify for Private Graduate Student Loans
To qualify for a private graduate student loan, you may need to meet the following requirements:?
- Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or apply with a co-signer who is (this requirement varies among lenders)?
- Be the age of majority in your state?
- Have a strong credit history?
- Meet a minimum threshold for annual income?
If you can’t meet a lender's underwriting requirements on your own, you may still be able to qualify by applying with a co-signer.?
What Can Graduate Student Loans Be Used For?
Graduate student loans can be used for qualified education expenses, which include:?
- Tuition and fees?
- Room and board?
- Off-campus rent?
- Books, computers, and other supplies?
- Living expenses?
In fact, your lender probably isn’t going to monitor how you use your student loans. It’s up to you to follow guidelines and spend responsibly so you don’t take on more debt than you need.
How Much Should You Borrow for Graduate School?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how much you should borrow for graduate school. However, some experts recommend not taking on a monthly payment that exceeds 8% of your post-graduation income. Others suggest not borrowing any more than you can afford to pay off in 10 years. Consider your post-graduation career plans and projected income to decide on an amount that will work for your budget.
What Are the Requirements for Private Graduate Student Loans?
Private graduate student loans typically require that you:?
- Are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or apply with a co-signer who is?
- Are the age of majority in your state?
- Reside in a state where the lender operates
- Are enrolled in an eligible school?
- Meet the lender’s requirements for credit and income (on your own or with a co-signer)
Investopedia is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews of student loan lenders. We collected thousands of data points across 30 lenders—including loan types, interest rates, fees, loan amounts, and repayment terms—to ensure that we help readers make the right borrowing decision for their education needs.