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Student Loan Guide

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PrivateStudentLoans.com works with the nation's leading private loan lenders. When federal aid is not enough to cover the true cost of education, this tool can help you find the right private student loans, with competitive rates, to meet your needs.

Student Loan Guide

Are you confused about which college student loan you need and how to get one? Well, you’re not alone. Our Student Loan Guide was made to help you understand each college student loan available to you, including interest rates, loan maximums and application links.

Direct Stafford Loan

The Direct Stafford Loan is available to both undergraduate and graduate students who need to borrow money for college. It’s the most widely-used, low cost borrowing option available for students. You’ll need to complete the FAFSA every year in order to receive the Direct Stafford Loan, and attend an accredited school at least half-time. On your award letter, you may notice that there are two types of Stafford loans listed, subsidized and unsubsidized. Depending on your financial situation, you may qualify for some or all of your loan to be subsidized. That means that the government will pay for your interest while you are in school or during periods of authorized deferment. Please note: Some colleges won't list Unsubsidized Stafford Loans on your award letter, so check with the financial aid office if you have questions.

Here are some other details about this federal college student loan:

Loan Maximum: Varies by your grade level and student status while in school

  • $5,500 Freshman
  • $6,500 Sophomore
  • $7,500 Junior, Senior and 5th year undergraduate students
  • $20,500 Graduate students
  • $40,500 Certain graduate medical professions

Interest Rate:

  • 4.45% for Unsubsidized and Subsidized Stafford Loans for undergraduate students
  • 6.0% for Unsubsidized Stafford Loans for graduate and professional students

You can apply for a Direct Stafford Loan through the government’s website www.studentloans.gov.

Federal Perkins Loan

This federal college student loan is a need-based loan that you may qualify for based on your financial aid situation. Federal Perkins Loans are very similar to the Direct Stafford Loan, except that the interest rate is 5% and you must qualify to receive the loan itself. If you were awarded a Federal Perkins Loan, it will be listed on your award letter. Please note, as of the 2015-2016 school year, no new Perkins Loans will be available. If you received Perkins Loans during your previous school year, you may continue to receive the loans if you meet eligibility requirements.

If you received a Federal Perkins Loan during the previous school year, you can apply for a Federal Perkins Loan by completing the FAFSA on the government’s website www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Federal PLUS Loan

The Federal Parent PLUS Loan is a college student loan for parents, and made in the parent’s name. As a parent, you can borrow up to the total cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid received, for your child. Payments are not due until 6 months after your student graduates or drops below half-time. The interest rate for a Parent PLUS Loan is 7.0% and there is an origination fee of 4.276%.

Graduate students can also take out a Federal Grad PLUS Loan once they have exhausted Stafford Loan funds, up to the total cost of attendance minus any other financial aid received.

You can apply for a Federal PLUS Loan through the government’s website www.studentloans.gov.

Alternative Student Loan

Many students find that free money and federal student loans do not cover the entire cost of their education, and are in need of additional money. An alternative student loan is a credit-based loan made in the student’s name, available for both undergraduate and graduate students. Most students without a significant income or credit history will need a credit-worthy co-signer in order to get approved for an alternative student loan.

For more information on getting an alternative student loan, you might want to read: