What Credit Score Do You Need to Get a Private Student Loan?

Updated on February 5, 2024

At a Glance

  • A good credit score for private student loans is typically around 700 or higher.
  • Lenders may consider fair credit scores (mid-600s to low 700s) with less favorable terms.
  • Poor credit (below 600) may require a co-signer, and no credit history benefits from a co-signer’s profile.
  • Eligibility factors include income, work history, and credit utilization.

Starting your journey in higher education is a wonderful venture, but it is not hidden that tuition fees can be exceedingly costly. Private student loans are the best option, which can provide more financial assistance to students. However, one main critical factor you need to manage is your credit score. Lenders place a great value on this when considering your eligibility.  

In this blog post, we’ll quickly explain credit scores and get to the point: What credit score do you require to get a private student loan, what factors affect your credit score, and what steps do you take to assess your eligibility for a private student loan?

What is a Good Credit Score for Private Lender Student Loans?

The specific credit score needed to qualify for a private student loan can vary significantly from one lender to another. Generally, private lenders have their own criteria for evaluating loan applicants, and credit score is just one factor they consider. However, there are some general guidelines:

  • Good to Excellent Credit: Most private lenders typically require a good to excellent credit score to qualify for their best loan terms and interest rates. This often means a FICO credit score in the range of 700 or higher. Having a co-signer with a strong credit history may also help you qualify for a loan with favorable terms.
  • Fair Credit: Some lenders offer loans to borrowers with fair credit scores, which can range from the mid-600s to low 700s. However, you may face higher interest rates and less favorable terms if your credit score is in this range.
  • Poor Credit: If you have a poor credit history or a low credit score (typically below 600), it may be more challenging to qualify for a private student loan without a co-signer. In such cases, you may need a co-signer with a better credit profile to secure the loan.
  • No Credit: Students who have not yet established a credit history may still be eligible for private student loans with the help of a co-signer. Lenders may consider factors such as the co-signer’s credit history and the borrower’s future earning potential.

Factors Affecting your Credit Score

It is important to keep in mind that your credit score plays a pivotal role. Lenders also examine other factors when deciding whether to approve a loan. Your salary, work history, and other financial aspects are also considered. Therefore, you can still have other options accessible even if your credit score isn’t in the “good” category. 

Here are important factors that affect your credit score:

  • Payment History (35% of Your Score): A timely payment and careful handling of past debts greatly influence your good credit score. Late payments or defaults may adversely impact your credit score, making you ineligible for student loans.
  • Credit Utilization Ration(30% of Your Score): Your credit utilization ratio compares your credit usage to how much you have used. To maintain a high score, it is advised to keep this ratio below 30%. A high credit usage rate might indicate lenders that depend too much on credit, increasing borrowing risk.
  • Credit History Duration: Lenders want a longer credit history as it provides more information about your spending financial habits. A private student loan can be difficult if you start with credit and have a short account. However, some lenders specialize in helping those with bad credit. 
  • Types of Credit and Recent Inquiries: A diverse credit portfolio that involves credit cards, school loans, and mortgages shows that you can handle different types of debt. However, many recent credit inquiries may cause lenders to worry that borrowers may take on too many obligations.

How to Find Your Eligibility for a Private Student Loan

So, how can you tell if your eligible for a private student loan? And if so, which ones? There are a few steps you can take to get a better sense of your private student loan eligibility.

1. Check Your Credit Score

The first step is to get a copy of your credit report from one of the three big credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian. These reports include all the juicy information regarding your history of borrowing and repayment. Additionally, being aware of your financial account is a good idea. Once you have your report, you can review your credit score to see if it satisfies the lending criteria. Make sure you adhere to the lending regulations.

While, your credit score is important, lenders take other factors into account as well. They want to confirm that you have the legal right to borrow money. Thus, you must be a permanent resident or a citizen of the United States and have reached the age of majority, which is typically 18 years old. International students need not worry—you, too, have options! Ask the lender what is required to learn more.

3. Evaluate Your Income and Debt History

The next step is to get a sense of your financial health. The lender will consider your salary and credit history because they need to know that you can repay the loan. You’ll be better with a regular income and a low debt-to-income ratio (i.e., your debt isn’t eating up your entire paycheck). But if you’re still in school and unemployed, don’t worry. Some lenders provide loans designed especially for students without considering their income.

4. Request Private Student Loan Rate Quotes

The final step is to request rate quotes from potential lenders. You may get an accurate idea of the interest rates and terms you can expect by requesting rate estimates from many lenders. Additionally, it always helps to have a few choices available. Remember that each lender may have a different minimum credit score requirement, so try a variety of lenders to improve your chances of being accepted.

5 Best Private Student Loans and Alternatives

Now that you know what kind of credit score gets you the best rates on a private student loan, you’ll need to find a lender. Researching lenders can be a daunting task, so we’ve prepared a list of the top lenders for different credit situations so you don’t have to.

AmOne (Best for Okay to Good Credit)

AmOne has built a reputation for effectively connecting prospective students with appropriate private student loan options. Their platform facilitates matches between borrowers and a network of lenders, ensuring students have access to funds that best fit their educational financial needs.

AmOne Personal Loan

4.5
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

600

Fixed APR

3.99%-35.99%

Variable APR

N/A

Overview

  • Minimum credit score: 600.
  • Fixed APR: 3.99%-35.99%.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $50,000.
  • Repayment: 1 to 7 years.

Qualifications

  • Must be at least 18 years old.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • While there’s no specific income requirement, a consistent source of income is essential for the applicant.

Pros

  • Suitable for individuals with lower credit scores.
  • No cost for the matching service.
  • Attractive loan rates.

Cons

  • Acts as an intermediary, not a direct lender.
  • Risk of multiple contacts from prospective lenders.
  • Lack of clarity on lender details.

Spring Loans (Best for Bad Credit)

Spring Loans offers an array of private student loan solutions catering to diverse educational needs. With an emphasis on flexibility and adaptability, they aim to support students whether they’re embarking on undergraduate studies or pursuing advanced degrees.

Spring Loans Personal Loan

4.2
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

27.00%

Variable APR

N/A

Overview

  • Minimum credit score: None.
  • Fixed APR: 27.00%
  • Loan amounts: $3,000.
  • Repayment: 48 months.

Qualifications

  • Demonstrate a recurrent income.
  • Minimum age prerequisite: 18 years.
  • Validate U.S. citizenship status with an SSN.
  • Provide a legitimate U.S. driver’s license or a state identity card.
  • Establish a functional bank account for incoming deposits.
  • Adhere to any specific demands by the loan provider.

Pros

  • Open to applicants with any credit background.
  • Four-year loan period aids in structured financial management.
  • The $3,000 offer addresses several short-term financial challenges.
  • Wide-reaching eligibility criteria invite a broad spectrum of applicants.
  • The focus on dependable income over job title benefits varied income sources.

Cons

  • The set 27% APR is higher than many alternatives.
  • Restriction to a $3,000 loan might not cover all financial outlays.
  • Possessing specific IDs is mandatory, sidelining some applicants.
  • A prerequisite for an ongoing bank account may limit certain users.

First Premier Lending (Best for Bad Credit)

First Premier Lending focuses on tailoring private student loan solutions to the unique needs of each student. Recognizing the financial challenges of academic pursuits, they provide a diverse range of loan options to bridge the funding gap many students encounter.

First Premier Lending Personal Loan

4.2
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

27.00%

Variable APR

N/A

Overview

  • Minimum credit score: None.
  • Fixed APR: 27.00%.
  • Loan amounts: $3,000.
  • Repayment: 48 months.

Qualifications

  • Maintain a consistent source of income.
  • Must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Possess valid U.S. citizenship and a legitimate social security number.
  • Hold a current U.S. driver’s license or state-issued ID.
  • Keep an active bank account for direct deposit.
  • Satisfy any lender-specific criteria, such as credit rating, borrowing history, or place of residence.

Pros

  • No minimum credit score requirement allows accessibility for those with varied credit histories.
  • 48-month term provides clarity and allows for long-term financial planning.
  • Specific loan amount of $3,000 can meet many short-term financial needs.
  • Broad set of qualifications make the loan accessible to a wide range of people.
  • Emphasis on consistent income, not necessarily employment type, allows flexibility for borrowers.

Cons

  • A fixed APR of 27% is relatively high.
  • Loan amount is capped at $3,000, which might not cater to larger financial requirements.
  • Requirement of a U.S. driver’s license or state-issued ID could exclude some individuals.
  • Mandatory active bank account could be limiting for those who are unbanked.

Sallie Mae (Best for Very Good Credit)

A stalwart in the student lending world, Sallie Mae offers private student loans for both undergraduate and graduate students. With competitive interest rates, flexible repayment options, and a commitment to helping students achieve their academic goals, Sallie Mae remains a top choice for many seeking educational financing.

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan

4.5
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

Mid-600's

Fixed APR

4.50-15.49%

Variable APR

6.37-16.70%

Overview

  • Minimum credit score: Mid-600’s.
  • Fixed APR: 4.50-15.49%
  • Variable APR: 6.37-16.70%
  • Loan amounts: Minimum of $1,000 per year.
  • Repayment: 10 to 15 years.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Does not disclose.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.

Pros

  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.
  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, can apply with a U.S. co-signer.

Cons

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

College Ave (Best for Good Credit)

College Ave is dedicated exclusively to student loans, ensuring a deep understanding of students’ needs. They offer both undergraduate and graduate student loans with transparent terms, competitive rates, and multiple repayment options, making them a popular choice for those in need of educational funding.

College Ave Private Undergraduate Student Loan

4.8
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

600 or better

Fixed APR

5.05% - 16.99%

Variable APR

5.59% - 16.99%

Overview

  • Minimum credit score: 600 or better.
  • Fixed APR: 5.05% – 16.99%.
  • Loan amounts: 5.59% – 16.99%.
  • Repayment: 5, 8, 10, 15, and 20 years.

Qualifications

  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • For undergraduate loans: Part-time enrollment at an accredited college/university.
  • International students: Need a Social Security number and a co-signer.
  • For refinance loans: Must be 18 years or older.
  • For refinance loans: Graduation from an eligible school is required.

Pros

  • Prequalify with a soft credit check
  • Flexible repayment options
  • Offers co-signer release for private loans

Cons

  • Charges late fees
  • Must have graduated to be eligible to refinance
  • Half of repayment term must have passed to release co-signer

Factors That Influence Lenders’ Decisions

Lenders consider several factors when deciding whether to approve a private student loan application. While the specific criteria may vary from one lender to another, the following are some of the key factors that lenders typically take into account:

  • Credit History and Credit Score: Lenders assess your credit history and credit score to gauge your creditworthiness. A higher credit score and a positive credit history can improve your chances of approval and may qualify you for better loan terms. Some lenders may consider a co-signer’s credit history if you have limited or poor credit.
  • Income and Employment: Lenders often want to ensure that you have a source of income or the ability to repay the loan. This includes evaluating your current employment status and income level. If you’re a student, they may also consider your expected future earning potential in your chosen field of study.
  • Co-Signer’s Information: If you have a co-signer, their creditworthiness and financial information will be reviewed by the lender. A co-signer with a strong credit history can improve your chances of approval and may lead to better loan terms.
  • Debt-to-Income Ratio: Lenders assess your debt-to-income ratio, which is the amount of debt you have relative to your income. A lower debt-to-income ratio is generally more favorable, as it suggests you have the capacity to take on additional debt.
  • School and Program: Some lenders may consider the school you plan to attend and the program you’re enrolled in when evaluating your loan application. They may have specific eligibility requirements or loan limits for different schools or programs.
  • Loan Amount and Terms: The amount of money you’re requesting and the loan terms (such as the repayment period) also play a role in the lender’s decision. Some lenders may have maximum loan limits, and your ability to repay the loan may be a factor in determining the loan amount you’re approved for.
  • Citizenship and Residency Status: Lenders typically require borrowers to be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. International students may need a qualified co-signer who meets these criteria.
  • Loan Purpose: Lenders may inquire about the specific purpose of the loan, such as tuition, books, or living expenses. Providing accurate information about how the funds will be used is important.
  • Bankruptcy and Delinquency History: If you have a history of bankruptcy or delinquent loans, this can negatively impact your loan application. Lenders may be hesitant to approve applicants with a history of financial difficulties.
  • Other Financial Factors: Lenders may consider other financial factors, such as your savings, assets, and any outstanding debts not reflected in your credit report.

It’s important to note that each lender may have its own unique criteria and underwriting process. Additionally, some lenders offer more flexible options for borrowers who may not meet traditional eligibility criteria, such as income-driven repayment plans or alternative credit scoring methods.

Before applying for a private student loan, it’s a good idea to research multiple lenders, understand their specific requirements, and compare loan offers to find the best fit for your financial situation.

Should you Apply for a Private Student Loan with a Cosigner?

The cosigner option in private student loan applications is important. You may ask if a cosigner can improve your credit. The response is a “strong maybe,” not “yes” or no. A cosigner with good credit may help you get a loan. Your creditworthiness can assist lenders in deciding your eligibility. 

It is crucial to understand that choosing a cosigner involves more than just getting a loan. It indicated that someone else is willingly taking on the burden of the loan alongside you. Therefore, the cosigner you choose has a big impact. It is necessary to carefully select your cosigner, considering their financial stability, reliability, and desire to uphold this commitment.

Do Lenders View Graduate Students Differently?

Graduate students frequently find themselves negotiating a unique landscape for financing their education. Lenders are aware that obtaining advanced degrees may result in increased tuition prices and, as a result, greater debt. As a result, when determining the creditworthiness of graduate students, they can take a slightly different tack.

Unlike undergraduate students who may be just beginning their credit journey, graduate students may have already established some credit history. However, it might not be as extensive as what lenders typically prefer to see. Some grad students might also have bad credit and need student loans. Understanding this predicament, some lenders may be more flexible and considerate of graduate students’ credit scores.

Final Thoughts

Obtaining a private student loan, whether for college, nursing school, or technical school — is a multifaceted process dependent on many criteria, one of which is a good credit score serving as a crucial component. Although a credit score of around 650 or higher is often seen as a promising starting point, the complexities of the loan application process extend beyond this numerical value. 

Understanding your creditworthiness, carefully considering the cosigner option, and recognizing the particular considerations for graduate students are all essential aspects of navigating the private student loan market. Finally, seeking higher education demands financial education, adaptability, and a complete approach that considers your credit history and goals.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.