Best Student Loans for Graduate School in January 2024

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Edited byAmy Wilder

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.

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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.

Direct Subsidized Loans are only available to undergraduate students.

It depends on how much you need. You should first exhaust any federal options you have, then use private graduate student loans to fill in any gaps. For instance, if you don’t get enough federal student loans to pay for your books or other miscellaneous program fees, a private student loan may help.

Graduate PLUS loans allow you to borrow up to the total cost of attendance, while other options such as the Direct Unsubsidized Loan only allow you to borrow up to a limit of $20,500 per year.

Private graduate student loans cannot be forgiven, but if you get a federal graduate loan, you may be eligible for forgiveness if you meet certain conditions.

Student loans for graduate school can be used for any education-related purpose. This not only includes your tuition and other fees, but it can also include the cost of transportation to school, books, housing and more.

Most loans — student loans included — are based on creditworthiness. If you have a co-signer, their credit will impact your interest rate and terms, but your credit will be considered if you don't. However, if you use outcomes-based loans, your interest may depend on the lender’s criteria.

The best repayment plan for you will depend on your circumstances. Most lenders will allow you to defer all payments until after graduation, but you can also choose to pay interest during enrollment or start making payments immediately after getting the loan.

It depends on the terms you’ve set with your lender. Repayment can last anywhere from five years up to 20 years, depending on the lender and your financial circumstances.

Whether graduate school is worth it for you depends on your personal goals and financial circumstances. If your financial situation isn’t ideal, like if you carry a lot of debt or you’re struggling with bills at home, then getting into more debt for graduate school may not be the best idea.

Getting a federal student loan to pay for graduate school should be your first priority. Once you’ve exhausted federal options, you may want to consider applying for a private student loan.

Methodology

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.

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*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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