Best Student Loans for Graduate School in January 2024

Updated: January 3, 2024

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A postgraduate degree can help you further your career — but for many students, it can be an investment that requires the help of graduate student loans.

Thanks to their range of benefits, federal student loans are the primary option, but they may not cover the total cost of graduate school. After federal options are exhausted, a private student loan for graduate school can help make up the difference. You can use a private loan to help pay for graduate studies, whether a master’s degree or a Ph.D.

MoneyGeek analyzed the best student loans for graduate school by looking at more than 35 data points in six categories: affordability, accessibility, user-friendliness, customer service, flexibility and transparency.

Ascent Review

  • Ascent

    Best for students who want flexible repayment terms and quick co-signer release terms.

    • 4.36%–14.08%Fixed APR Range
    • 1.47%–11.31%Variable APR Range
    • $2,001–$200,000Loan Amount Range
    • Non-U.S. citizens and temporary residentsCo-signer

    Ascent aims to support student learning through its range of private student loans for undergraduate and graduate students — with or without co-signers. Thanks to its wide range of benefits, MoneyGeek ranks Ascent as the best student loan for graduate school. Students can get flexible repayment options and terms, with payments that you can postpone up to nine months after graduation. Additionally, co-signers can get released after 12 months of consecutive on-time payments.

    However, while Ascent has its benefits, it also has some drawbacks. For instance, students who opt for non-co-signed loans may be subject to a minimum income requirement. Ascent may also not cover your school, as there is a list of schools that the provider works with.


    • Grace period of up to nine months after graduation
    • Flexible repayment options and terms
    • Co-signer release after 12 months of consecutive on-time payments
    • Specific loans based on what you’re pursuing (MBA, medical, etc.)
    • No application, origination, disbursement or prepayment penalty fees


    • Minimum income requirement for non-co-signed loans
    • Not all colleges and institutions may work with Ascent
    • Maximum fixed APR is at a whopping 16.24%

SoFi Review

  • SoFi

    Best for students who need to fund the total cost of their education through private loans.

    • 3.22%–11.16%Fixed APR Range
    • 1.10%–11.68%Variable APR Range
    • $5,000 minimum, no maximumLoan Amount Range
    • OptionalCo-signer

    As a leader in providing affordable and accessible financing options to students since 2011, SoFi offers flexible terms and an easy application process to graduate students who need to finance their education. This is proven through the company’s no-fee loans and discount opportunities not often available from other lenders. Ascent also offers an Unemployment Protection program, which puts your loan in forbearance if you are eligible.

    While Ascent is a good choice thanks to its flexibility and money-saving opportunities, graduate students may find that some of the discounts are difficult to qualify for. Additionally, Ascent may take up to four to six weeks to disburse your funds.


    • No fees of any kind
    • Multiple discount opportunities
    • Unemployment protection
    • Flexible repayment and terms
    • Offers career services


    • Not all schools are eligible
    • Funds may take four to six weeks to be disbursed
    • Discounts may be hard to qualify for

Discover Review

  • Discover

    Best for those who want to maximize loan discounts.

    • 3.99%–11.59%Fixed APR Range
    • 1.79%–11.09%Variable APR Range
    • $1,000 up to 100% of college expensesLoan Amount Range
    • Optional Co-signer

    Discover Student Loans, provided by Discover Bank, offers loans to students at colleges and graduate schools across the country, covering up to 100% of school-certified costs. Graduate students can take advantage of the company’s various benefits, such as cash rewards for good grades, interest rate reduction for automatic payments or interest-only loans, zero fees and 24/7 support.

    However, Discover may not be for everyone. The lender requires that students be enrolled at least half-time and demonstrate satisfactory academic progress (SAP) to qualify. Discover’s variable APR for graduate student loans also caps at a whopping 16.72%. This is higher than other lenders and is not ideal for students with no co-signer or credit history.


    • No application, origination, prepayment or late payment fees
    • 0.25% reduction in interest rate for automatic payments
    • Get rewards for good grades
    • Offers in-school or deferred repayment options
    • 0.35% interest rate discount


    • Students must be enrolled half-time to qualify
    • Satisfactory academic progress (SAP) is required for eligibility
    • High variable APR maximum of 16.72%

Sallie Mae Review

  • Sallie Mae

    Best for students enrolled less than half time.

    • 3.50%–13.83% Fixed APR Range
    • 1.37%–11.76%Variable APR Range
    • $1,000 minimum, no maximumLoan Amount Range
    • Allowed but not requiredCo-signer

    Since its inception in 1972 as a public banking corporation, Sallie Mae has become a prominent source of private student loans. It’s a great option for students enrolled less than half-time, as most lenders require at least half-time enrollment to qualify.

    Apart from its unique eligibility requirements, you can defer Sallie Mae’s graduate student loans for up to 48 months during an internship or fellowship, or six months after graduation. There are no prepayment penalties or origination fees and you have the option to release any co-signers after 12 months straight of on-time payments. However, interest rates can be high depending on your creditworthiness, as Sallie Mae’s maximum variable APR can reach 15.47%.


    • Get up to 48 months of deferment during internship or fellowship
    • No origination or prepayment penalties fees
    • Loans available to less than half-time students
    • Co-signer release after 12 months of on-time consecutive payments
    • Discounts for interest repayment option


    • Lowest interest rate is only offered to interest repayment plans and creditworthy applicants
    • No prequalification
    • Charges late fees
    Sallie Mae

How to Find the Right Graduate Student Loan

Since graduate school is a significant investment, finding the right graduate student loan provider is essential. Exploring your options and comparing lenders will help you find the most favorable loan terms.

  • Determine the amount you need: Calculate the amount of money you need to cover the costs of your program. Understanding how much you need to cover graduate school, particularly after you exhaust federal student loans, can help you evaluate lenders’ limits.
  • See eligibility requirements: Before pre-qualifying with providers or looking at other details, it’s important to narrow down your choices based on eligibility requirements. See if you or your co-signer meets your desired providers’ qualifications.
  • Compare providers: Once you’ve identified the providers you qualify for, compare them by prequalifying to see their interest rates and terms. Note that these offers are not official and terms may change once you apply, but they can give a good idea of what you might get.
  • Choose a provider and send in your application: After choosing a provider, find out its application process. You can often find this on its website or you can call the lender to talk to an agent.
  • Receive funds and start making payments: If your graduate student loan gets approved, wait to receive your funds. The money is usually sent directly to your school, with any leftovers sent to you after all tuition and fees are paid. Make a plan for payment depending on your repayment terms.

Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate Student Loans

Getting a private student loan for graduate school can help fill any gaps that a federal loan can’t meet — but understanding the ins and outs is essential before you apply. Discover more about graduate student loans through MoneyGeek’s frequently asked questions.

Are subsidized loans available to graduate students?
How much graduate student loans should I borrow?
How are graduate PLUS loans different from other federal student loans?
Are graduate loans included in loan forgiveness?
What can graduate student loans be used for?
How are interest rates on a graduate student loan determined?
How do I pay off my graduate student loans?
How long does it take to pay off graduate student loans?
Is graduate school worth the debt?
Should I take out a graduate student loan from a private lender?


We reviewed more than 30 private student loan lenders using 35+ individual data points across six key categories: loan affordability, accessibility, consumer friendliness, customer service, flexibility and lender transparency.

Within each ranking criteria category, we considered several individual data points that we feel carry the most weight when choosing a private student loan lender. These factors include APR ranges, available loan amount, minimum credit score, minimum income amount, application fees and disbursement time.

With the consumer in mind, we also factor in each lender’s customer support, business ratings and additional features that could make your experience easier and more accessible — like pre-qualification, payment options and mobile apps.

*Rates, fees or bonuses may vary or include specific stipulations. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting/last updated date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. We recommend visiting the card issuer’s website for the most up-to-date information available.
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