Best Graduate School Loans

Choosing to go to grad school can be a difficult choice in itself, but finding the right loans for grad school can be tricky too. Applying for undergraduate school loans is probably not something you missed when you first went to college. But now, you will have to do it all over again.

Check Your Student Loan Rates

View our top-rated lenders and find the best rates today. It’s quick and easy.

Refreshing data.
We found results in California.
    In this article

      To make your choice of graduate school loans a bit easier, we have put together the best graduate school loans from different lenders. With the help of our in-house analysis system, SimpleScore, we’ve rated the best loans for graduate school in terms of rates, fees, transparency, loan amounts and perks.

      The 6 Best Graduate School Loans of 2021

      Best graduate school loans at a glance

      LenderLoan AmountAPR RangeTermsSimpleScore
      CommonBond100% of costs7.12%–10.74% fixed; 6.75%–9.41% variable10–15 years4.4
      College Ave100% of costs4.24%–11.98% fixed; 1.89%–10.97% variable5–15 years4.2
      SoFi100% of costs4.13%–11.37% fixed; 1.78%–11.73% variable5 – 15 yearsNo fees, rate discounts, exclusive member benefits, deferred repayment
      Earnest100% of costsStarting at 3.49% fixed; Starting at 1.24% variable5–20 yearsNo fees, 9-month grace period, skip a payment
      AscentUp to $200,0003.78%–12.75% fixed; 2.96%–11.24% variable 10–15 years4

      *Rates accurate as of November 2020 and exclude autopay discounts

      Best for referral rewards – CommonBond

      If you’re happy with your loan, why not shout about it? CommonBond encourages customers to refer others and there’s a nice $200 reward in it for you.

      Fixed APR
      7.12%–10.74%
      Loan Amount
      $2K to 100% of costs
      Fees
      N/A
      SimpleScore
      4.2 / 5.0
      close
      SimpleScore CommonBond 4.2
      Max Fixed APR 4
      Perks 5
      Transparency 3
      Loan Amount 5
      Fees 4

      One of the great things about CommonBond’s grad school loans is that you get rewarded for referring other students. You can earn $200 for every friend, family member or colleague you refer who takes out a student loan with CommonBond.

      It’s not just you who benefits here either. CommonBond is dedicated to helping those in the developing world with a partnership with Pencils of Promise. This program helps schools and teachers provide technology to students.

      Besides those benefits, CommonBond has some of the best fixed-interest rates on this list – although that will depend on your circumstances.

      Best for flexible repayment terms – College Ave

      Pick and choose your ideal graduate loan with College Ave for the best experience.

      Fixed APR
      4.24%–11.98%
      Loan Amount
      $1K to 100% of costs
      Fees
      N/A
      SimpleScore
      3.8 / 5.0
      close
      SimpleScore College Ave 3.8
      Max Fixed APR 2
      Perks 4
      Transparency 4
      Loan Amount 5
      Fees 4

      If you are looking for a graduate loan that offers a bit more flexibility, then College Ave is worth looking into. College Ave allows borrowers to customize their loan experience. You get to choose between four different loan term lengths and four repayment options. If you want to get a head-start on payments, you can start paying your loan in school or defer it if you would rather wait. Deferment is on a case-by-case basis but most students are offered around six months.

      There’s also a chance to save some money through College Ave’s Student Loans Scholarship opportunities. You could win up to $1,000 towards your school costs.

      College Ave Disclosure

      1. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

      2.This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 6.27% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 33 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $145.75 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $14,817.03. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

      3. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

      4. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.

      Best for member perks – SoFi

      Gain access to exclusive member benefits including financial planning and career services when you sign up to SoFi loans.

      Fixed APR
      4.13%–11.37%
      Loan Amount
      $5K to 100% of costs
      Fees
      N/A
      SimpleScore
      4.6 / 5.0
      close
      SimpleScore SoFi 4.6
      Max Fixed APR 3
      Perks 5
      Transparency 5
      Loan Amount 5
      Fees 5

      SoFi is a trusted lender when it comes to helping students fund their studies. SoFi borrowers can benefit from low rates, no fees and a simple online application for finance. You can also gain access to SoFi’s financial planning and career services which are great perks for new and graduate students.

      SoFi allows you to check your offered rate before you apply which is handy if you’re shopping around for the best rates. However, if you do become a customer, SoFi will occasionally check up on your school to verify satisfactory academic progress, which could affect your eligibility for approval in subsequent years.

      SoFi Disclosure

      GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.80% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.11% to 11.81% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.78% to 11.72% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.90% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 07/10/2020. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).

      Longest grace period – Earnest

      Deferment options and skippable payments make Earnest loans some of the most flexible options on the market.

      Fixed APR
      3.8%–13.03%
      Loan Amount
      Up to 100% of costs
      Fees
      None
      SimpleScore
      4.2 / 5.0
      close
      SimpleScore Earnest 4.2
      Max Fixed APR 2
      Perks 4
      Transparency 5
      Loan Amount 5
      Fees 5

      The main thing that stands out with Earnest graduate loans is the generous nine-month grace period for deferment. If you wish to delay repaying your loan, Earnest’s flexible deferment options are very useful. You can even skip a payment per year which makes it incredibly flexible for those financially tougher months.

      Aside from this, Earnest has fairly low-interest rates, no fees attached and you can even get a 0.25% discount with automatic payments. Another thing that Earnest excels at is its fantastic mobile app and seamless website experience.

      Best for discounts – Ascent

      Save money and even get a nice cash bonus to celebrate your graduation from grad school with Ascent loans.

      Fixed APR
      3.78%–14.75%
      Loan Amount
      $1K–$200K
      Fees
      5% of past due amount
      SimpleScore
      3.6 / 5.0
      close
      SimpleScore Ascent 3.6
      Rates 2
      Perks 5
      Transparency 4
      Loan Amount 3
      Fees 4

      Ascent student loans offer plenty of benefits and discounts to students who take loans out. With an automatic payment discount of 0.25% and a 1% cash-back award on graduation, Ascent is one of the best options for financial perks.

      Ascent also offers a non-cosigned option on their loans if you would rather not involve a cosigner. Repayments are made simple with Ascent’s future income-based loans. This means that repayments are more manageable and affordable in the future.

      What is a graduate school student loan?

      A graduate school student loan is a specific type of loan to make paying for the next step after undergraduate studies feasible. While you should first apply for government student aid, scholarships and grants first, not every student can get 100% funding from those alone. Luckily, private student loans generally have lower interest rates than other loans which can help you save money on the cost of your studies.

      How graduate student loans work

      Graduate student loans work much in the same way as undergraduate student loans and are pretty straightforward. You will need to apply online a few months before school starts and the money will be sent to you during the first few weeks. Whatever is leftover once tuition fees are taken out can usually be spent on things like books or living costs.

      Most lending options will cover 100% of your tuition fees. You will need to agree to pay back your loan plus interest over a set period of time. The loan terms can range from around 10 to 20 years.

      [ Read: A Guide to Transferring From an On-Campus University to Online Learning ]

      Loan amount

      Loan amounts vary depending on the type of loan and the lender so it’s important to do some research.

      Most lenders will have a minimum amount you can borrow which is usually around $5,000 and a maximum amount of $200,000 or $300,000, since graduate school is expensive. However, many lenders will offer to cover all your tuition fees.

      Repayment

      Repayment terms vary depending on the lender and the type of loan you have. With federal loans, you will often get an income-driven repayment plan. This type of plan is ideal because it ensures that the repayments are affordable based on your reported income.

      With private student loans, you will typically have to pay back your loan as soon as you can.  Different lenders will have different repayment terms so it’s worth shopping around for the best agreement.

      [ Read: Should Students Take a Gap Year Because of COVID-19? It Depends. ]

      Federal graduate loans vs. private graduate loans

      Federal student loans are provided by the government and benefit from a fixed interest rate — as of 2020, the interest rate for Grad PLUS Loans offered by the government is 5.30%. These loans also have a loan fee attached to them, very similar to an origination fee.

      Private grad loans are offered by independent institutions such as banks or online lenders. Private graduate student loans can have fixed or variable rates, and unlike Grad PLUS Loans, most lenders do not charge an origination fee. However, both loans have no notable limit — you can borrow up to 100% of the cost of attendance certified by your school.

      How to choose the best graduate loan for you

      Choosing the best graduate school loans for you can be a difficult decision. There are so many options out there, with different terms, loan amounts, perks and eligibility criteria. What is the best option for you may not be the best for someone else.

      The best way to choose a graduate loan is to follow the simple steps below.

      1. Calculate what you need. Start by calculating the amount you will need to borrow for school. How much is your school charging for the full tuition? How much will you need for living expenses? This is key information that can filter out those with minimum or maximum loan amounts which are unsuitable.
      2. Check federal loans as well. You may be able to apply for federal student loans which can fully or partially cover your tuition. Apply for federal student aid and Grad PLUS Loans to compare both federal and private loans and pick the option or combination of options best for you.
      3. Choose a couple of lenders. Narrow down your focus to a couple of private lenders and submit applications. When narrowing down, compare everything from interest rates to term lengths, repayment plans and extra perks. Rule out any which have unsuitable terms for you or those which simply don’t appeal to you.
      4. Choose your lender and accept an offer. Choose the best rate and deal for your situation and accept an offer from that lender.

      Graduate loan FAQs

      Graduate loan FAQs

      It depends. It’s not a secret that going to graduate school — let alone undergraduate and graduate school — is expensive. However, depending on your career trajectory, you may earn more income starting out after graduation with an MBA or grad degree than you would with just an undergraduate degree.

      Deferring your payments while in school can be a life-saver if you are struggling to afford repayments while in education. Most lenders automatically defer your payments while you’re in school, but will require payment six months after graduation, if you stop attending college or drop below half-time enrollment.

      Taking out an MBA loan is just one way to fund business school tuition. There are some other alternatives including MBA fellowships or scholarships. 

      Sometimes your employer will be able to provide aid for business school. This usually occurs in one of two ways. Your employer can cover the cost in return for a set number of working years after school. This is called employer sponsorship. Alternatively, your employer may offer MBA reimbursement which typically offers a few thousand dollars towards education expenses.  

      We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the student loans we recommend. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

      Methodology

      SimpleScore

      The SimpleScore is a proprietary scoring metric we use to objectively compare products and services at The Simple Dollar.

      For every review, our editorial team:

      • Identifies five measurable aspects to compare across each brand
      • Determines the rating criteria for each aspect score
      • Averages the five aspect scores to produce a single SimpleScore

      Here’s a breakdown of the five aspect scores and their rating criteria for our review of the best money market accounts of 2020.

      Why do some brands have different SimpleScores on different pages?

      To ensure the SimpleScore is as helpful and accurate as possible, we developed unique criteria for every category we compare at The Simple Dollar. Since most brands offer a variety of financial solutions, their products and services will score differently depending on what we’re scoring on a given page.

      However, it’s also possible for the same product from the same brand to have multiple SimpleScores. For example, if we look at CD products for Ally, it scores a 4.6 out of 5 for our CD SimpleScore metrics. However, when we apply the metrics we measure for money market account SimpleScores, Ally scores a 4.4 out of 5. These two different financial products have two separate SimpleScore metric ratings to account for differences between them. We adjust our ratings based on industry standards for each category.

      Have questions about our methodology?

      Email Hayley Armstrong at hayley@thesimpledollar.com.

      Minimum deposit

      We compared the required minimum deposit to open a money market account. The lower the minimum deposit, the higher the score.

      APY

      MMA holders want great returns on their investments. That’s why we awarded brands with higher APYs.

      Customer satisfaction

      We leveraged J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study and 2020 U.S. Direct Banking Satisfaction Study to rate each brand for customer satisfaction. The higher the satisfaction score, the higher the SimpleScore.

      Perks

      Customers should be able to leverage their accounts, which is why we awarded brands that offer perks like ATM withdrawals, check-writing abilities, mobile check deposit and waived monthly fees.

      Monthly fee

      It’s annoying to pay to use your account. That’s why we awarded brands that have low or no monthly fees.

      Kara Copple

      Contributing writer

      Kara Copple is a writer who specializes in business, finance and marketing industries.

      Reviewed by

      • Courtney Mihocik
        Courtney Mihocik
        Loans Editor

        Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in personal loans, student loans, auto loans, and debt consolidation loans. She is a former writer and contributing editor to Interest.com, PersonalLoans.org, and elsewhere.