10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Student Loan Refinance Lender

More than 43 million Americans have student loan debt. Today, the average borrower graduates with a balance of nearly $38,000. For those with private loans, that amount may be closer to $40,500.

If you’re among those borrowers looking for ways to reduce student loan debt as quickly and easily as possible, you may want to consider refinancing.

A common reason for refinancing student loans is to secure a lower interest rate, which can help lower monthly payments and save money on interest. But you may also choose to refinance to change other loan terms or change your lender.

But choosing a refinance lender can be overwhelming. So to help you evaluate student loan refinancing companies, we’ve created a handy cheat sheet. Asking these 10 questions can help you zero-in on your best fit.

Student Loan Refinance Lender Questions Cheat Sheet

1. How Great is the Rate?

One of the main reasons to refinance your loans is to get a lower interest rate.

Ask the lender to provide your interest rate before doing a hard credit pull. Most online lenders allow you to prequalify with a “soft” credit pull , which won’t impact your credit score.1 This should allow you to “rate shop” without affecting your credit.

A “hard” credit inquiry, on the other hand, stays on your credit report for up to two years. One or two hard inquiries will probably have a minimal impact on your credit. But several within a short period can harm it, which is why it’s important to get quotes before officially applying for a loan.

You can use a student loan refinancing calculator to estimate your total savings with a new refinanced loan, even before you prequalify.


💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

2. Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons?

All new federal student loans are granted through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. Private student loans, on the other hand, are provided by individual financial institutions.

Refinancing federal student loans is an option available to borrowers. Sometimes, refinancing can be beneficial. For example, it may be a good idea if you can qualify for a lower interest rate and save a significant amount of money.

Others may find that refinancing a federal loan isn’t the right option for them. Here’s a quick list of some of the pros and cons to consider if you’re thinking of refinancing federal student loans.

Some of the Pros to Consider:

•   Long-Term Savings: Refinancing to a lower interest rate could potentially help you save money in interest over the life of the loan.

•   Lower Monthly Payments: You can also choose to extend the repayment term, which would result in lower monthly payments. This may make sense if you’re struggling to fit your payments into your budget. However, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.

•   Faster loan payoff: Imagine having no more student loans to pay back! By shortening your loan term, you could speed up your repayment.

•   Rate Change: Variable rates often start off lower than fixed rates, which can be helpful if you plan to pay off your loan quickly.

Some of the Cons to Consider:

•   Loss of Access to Federal Repayment Plans: When you refinance federal loans with a private lender, they’ll no longer qualify for any federal repayment plans. This includes income-driven repayment plans that reduce payments to a small percentage of your income.

•   No Longer Eligible Federal Forgiveness Programs: If you’re pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or other federal forgiveness programs, refinancing may not be the right option for you, since doing so makes your loans ineligible.

•   Inability to Defer Your Loans: You’d also lose the opportunity to put your federal student loans into deferment or forbearance in the event of financial difficulty.

3. Can You Pick Between Fixed and Variable Rate Loans?

With a fixed rate loan, the interest rate is locked in for the entire life of the loan. This means you’ll have a predictable monthly payment for the entire term.

The interest rate on a variable-rate loan, however, can go up or down over time, depending on market conditions. While the initial rate may be lower, you could end up with a high rate a few years into your loan.

Fixed-rate loans are generally considered to be less risky than variable rate loans. But if you’re able to repay your loan in a relatively short time period, variable-rate loans can be worth considering.

You can use SoFi’s student loan payment calculator to estimate your student loan payments with a fixed rate. Tools like this can help give you an idea of how much more you may need to be paying each month if you want to pay your loan off faster.

4. Can You Choose Your Loan Term?

Typically, this is the case. But beware: Choosing the term that results in the lowest monthly payment isn’t always the best option. Stretching out your repayment term helps reduce the monthly payments, but it also means you’ll pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

If you recently graduated, you may not be making enough money to afford your current payment. In that case, a longer term with lower monthly payments to free up some cash flow in the short-term might make sense.

Be realistic about how much you can afford to pay back each month. If you can afford a higher monthly payment, you’ll likely pay off your loan more quickly, and ultimately pay less money in interest.


💡 Quick Tip: When refinancing a student loan, you may shorten or extend the loan term. Shortening your loan term may result in higher monthly payments but significantly less total interest paid. A longer loan term typically results in lower monthly payments but more total interest paid.

5. What Happens if You Lose Your Job?

Life is unpredictable, and if you unexpectedly lose your job, it may be difficult to keep up with your loan payments. When you miss loan payments, you might incur late fees or other penalties. Additionally, late payments can have a negative impact on your credit score. After a series of missed payments, the loan could go into default.

Borrowers with federal student loans can apply for deferment or forbearance to temporarily reduce or pause their loan payments while they look for work. Or they can look into income-driven repayment plans, provided their federal student loans are current.

Some private lenders provide forbearance options for financial hardship situations. For example, SoFi’s unemployment protection program allows eligible members to temporarily put loans on hold if they lose their job through no fault of their own.

SoFi members also have access to career services that can assist with their job search. Not all lenders provide options that allow borrowers to pause their payments, so it is worth asking as you review different lenders.

6. Will the Lender Help With Your Career?

The higher your earnings, the easier it is to pay off your student loans quickly. A lender who helps you get ahead in your career understands this principle.

Lenders know that if you can’t get a job, or you lose your job, you won’t be able to pay back your loans. Ask your lender if they offer any networking or other career services that could help you advance in your career.

7. What Other Perks Come With Your New Loan?

Not all lenders are created equal. As you are reviewing different lenders and refinancing options, review everything the lender has to offer. In some cases, you might find you qualify for similar refinancing options at a few different lenders, but one might offer additional benefits that pushes it ahead of the other options.

A few of the perks of refinancing with SoFi include:

•   Zero hidden fees: There are no application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties.

•   Add a cosigner: Many students have limited income and credit history, so adding a cosigner could help improve their application’s chances of being approved.

•   Automatic payments: Not only can automatic payments help prevent any late or missed payments, but enrolling your SoFi loan in autopay could qualify you for an interest rate reduction.

8. Is the Application Online?

The last thing you want is to be buried in a mountain of actual paperwork. Look for lenders that offer a short, simple, online form.

9. What’s the Lender’s Reputation?

Make sure to do your due diligence on any potential lender. A quick Google search should provide some online reviews and media coverage of the lender, which will help you determine if they’re legitimate.

You can also check out their social media pages. Overall engagement levels and conversations within a lender’s social communities may provide additional, valuable insights and help give you a sense of the company’s commitment to things like customer service.

10. Will the Lender Grow With You?

Sure, lenders can refinance your student loans, but what about helping you with other financial milestones, such as buying a home and saving for retirement? Look for a lender that sees the big picture—and wants to invest in your long-term success.

Start the Refinancing Process Today

Whether you’re ready to start your application or you’re just beginning to consider refinancing, the SoFi team is here to help. Refinancing your student loans with SoFi could help you spend less money in interest, lower your monthly payments, or even pay off your loan faster. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.)

Keep in mind that refinancing federal student loans with a private lender will eliminate them from federal protections and benefits like deferment, loan forgiveness, and income-driven repayment plans.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How to Defer Student Loans When Going Back to School

Due to the financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, federal student loan payments were automatically paused from March 2020 to September 2023. During that time, interest didn’t accrue and collections activities were also paused. But now that payments are due again, many borrowers are looking for ways to make their loans more manageable, especially those who are facing ongoing financial hardships.

One option is student loan deferment, which allows you to temporarily pause your student loan payments. As with most financial decisions, there are pros and cons to deferring your student loans. Here’s more information about student loan deferment and what it could mean for your financial future.

What Is Student Loan Deferment?

Deferment is a program that allows you to temporarily stop making payments on your federal student loans or to temporarily reduce your monthly payments for a specified time period.

This is similar to another option known as forbearance. However, unlike forbearance, you may not be charged interest while your loan is in deferment. According to the Department of Education, if you hold one of the following types of loans, you will not be responsible for paying interest on your loan while it is in deferment:

•  Direct Subsidized Loan

•  Subsidized Federal Stafford Loan

•  Federal Perkins Loan

•  The subsidized portion of a Direct Consolidation Loan

•  The subsidized portion of a Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Consolidation Loan

If you have one of the following types of loans, you will be responsible for paying the accrued interest on your loan while it is in deferment:

•  Direct Unsubsidized Loan

•  Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan

•  Direct PLUS Loan

•  FFEL PLUS Loan

•  The unsubsidized portion of a Direct Consolidation Loan

•  The unsubsidized portion of a FFEL Consolidation Loan

If you are responsible for paying interest on your student loans while they are in grad school deferment, you have two options: 1) you can make interest-only payments on the loans while they are in deferment; 2) if you choose not to make these interest-only payments, the accrued interest will capitalize (be added to the loan principal) when the deferment period is over.


💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? With SoFi’s no-fee loans, you could save thousands.

How Do You Qualify for Student Loan Deferment?

In order to qualify for student loan deferment, you must meet one of the following requirements:

•  You’re enrolled at least part-time at a qualifying university

•  You’re unemployed or unable to find employment (for up to three years)

•  You’re experiencing an economic hardship

•  You’re currently volunteering in the Peace Corps

•  You’re on active-duty military service (or are in the 13 months following that service)

•  You’re in an approved graduate fellowship program

•  You’re in an approved rehabilitation program (for disabled students)

Requesting a Deferment

If you’re interested in deferring student loans to go back to school, you’ll need to apply for an in-school deferment. Most likely, you will request the deferment directly through your loan servicer—there is usually a form for you to fill out. When you request a deferment, you’ll also need to provide some sort of documentation to prove that you qualify for a deferment.

If you are enrolled in an eligible college or career school at least half-time, may be placed in deferment automatically . If it is, your loan servicer will notify you that deferment has been granted. If you enroll at least half-time and do not automatically receive a deferment, you will need to contact the school in which you are enrolled. The school will then send the appropriate paperwork to your loan servicer, so that your loan can be placed in deferment.

Pros and Cons of Student Loan Deferment

The biggest benefit of student loan deferment is the ability to temporarily postpone student loan repayment. As of the first quarter of 2023, 2.8 million loans were in deferment.

If you are deferring for extreme financial hardship, deferment allows you to free up money to pay off bills that require immediate attention like rent or electricity.

For students who have qualified for deferment through community service, like a stint in the Peace Corps, deferment gives them the opportunity to serve their community without any added stress from student loan payments.

While temporarily pausing loan repayment may seem like a blessing, it can come at a cost, especially if your student loans are not subsidized by the government. When in deferment, interest continues to accrue on your loan. And at the end of your deferment period, that interest will be capitalized on the loan. (This means that the accrued interest will be added to the principal balance of the loan. So ultimately, you’ll be paying interest on top of interest.)

This can mean you end up paying even more money over the life of the loan. To see how much deferring your student loans could cost, you can use an online calculator to get an estimate of how much interest will accrue while the loan is in deferment.

The Pros and Cons to Student Loan Refinancing

If you have private loans that aren’t eligible for federal student loan deferment, refinancing your student loans is another option to consider. You may also want to think about refinancing when you’re done with your graduate degree to pay off your loans at a potentially lower interest rate.

When you refinance, your existing student loans are paid off with a new loan from a private lender. If you are refinancing private loans before going back to graduate school, you may be after a lower monthly payment, which you could potentially qualify for when refinancing your loans and extending the loan term. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.)

Alternatively, if you’re looking to refinance after graduate school, you could potentially qualify for a lower interest rate, which could reduce the amount of money you spend over the life of the loan. The lender will use your credit score and earning potential to determine what interest rate you’ll qualify for. And thanks to your new graduate degree, you could have significantly increased your earnings.

Another big benefit of student loan refinancing? You’re able to combine all of your student loan payments – for both federal and private loans – into one easy-to-manage payment.

If you hold only federal student loans, however, you could look into a Direct Consolidation Loan , which allows you to consolidate federal loans into one loan with a single monthly payment. The new interest rate will be the weighted average of your current interest rates (rounded to the nearest one-eighth of 1%), so unlike refinancing, when you consolidate your student loans, you won’t necessarily qualify for a lower interest rate.

If you are taking advantage of your federal loans’ flexible repayment plans or student loan forgiveness programs (or if you are planning to do so), refinancing might not be the best option for you. A major con of student loan refinancing is that you’ll lose access to federal loan benefits when refinancing with a private lender—including deferment and income-driven repayment plans.

Refinancing Your Loans with SoFi

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How To Calculate Student Loan Interest

As with any loan, federal and private student loans come with interest charges. Federal Direct Loans use a daily simple interest formula, whereas some private student loans may use a compound interest formula.

A simple interest loan calculates interest on your principal balance. A compound interest loan, however, uses a different formula that typically results in higher interest charges than a simple interest formula.

In general, the terms of your student loan agreement will determine how much interest you pay over the life of your loan. Below we highlight how to calculate student loan interest.

Step 1: Calculate Daily Interest

A student loan calculator can help you determine how much interest you may pay over the life of your loan. You can also calculate daily interest costs manually if you know your interest rate.

Say you have a $10,000 federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan balance with a 5.50% fixed interest rate. You can use the following formula to calculate the daily amount of interest that would accrue on your $10,000 remaining loan balance:

(0.055 / 365) X $10,000 = $1.51

You can apply this formula by converting your 5.50% interest rate into a decimal (0.055) and dividing it by 365 days in a year to determine your interest rate factor. Then you multiply your interest rate factor by your $10,000 remaining loan balance. This calculates your daily interest charges as about $1.51.

Step 2: Calculate Daily Costs

Simple interest is charged as a percent of your outstanding principal. In student loan terminology, the interest typically accrues on a daily basis.

Using the above example of a $10,000 federal student loan balance with a 5.50% fixed rate, your lender would charge about $1.51 in daily interest on your $10,000 balance.

This means that every day that you continue to owe $10,000 on a simple interest loan with a 5.50% interest rate, you accrue $1.51 in interest, which is added to the principal amount you owe. In other words, it costs you about $1.51 per day in order to have your $10,000 loan balance still outstanding.

Step Three: Calculate Monthly Costs

Once you know how much you’re paying in interest every day, you can determine how much you’re paying in interest every month.

In order to figure out how much cash you’re shelling out monthly to pay your accruing interest, you multiply your daily interest cost by the amount of days between payments, which is usually 30 days, or one month. Here it is with our example numbers from above:

$1.51 x 30 = $45.30

This $45.30 estimate of student loan interest is the amount that may accrue over the course of a month. This is how to calculate student loan interest on a $10,000 balance with a 5.50% fixed rate using the simple interest formula.

In general, federal and private student loans are amortizing loans. Student loan payments may cover interest charges and some principal, but you’ll typically pay more in interest at the start of your repayment term. A greater portion of your payment may go toward principal as you pay down your loan balance over time.

Simple vs Compound Interest

Student loans from the federal Direct Loan Program are daily simple interest loans. In addition to Direct Unsubsidized Loans, these loans include:

•   Direct Subsidized Loans

•   Direct PLUS Loans

•   Direct Consolidation Loans

Some private student loans may charge compound interest, which is typically more costly than simple interest. What is compound interest? It’s when a lender charges interest on interest and principal.

Simple interest is charged as a percent of your outstanding principal, whereas compound interest is charged on your accumulated unpaid interest and principal balance combined. This is typically more costly than simple interest, because compound interest charges interest on the unpaid interest.

If you have private student loans, you can ask your lender whether the finance charges are based on simple interest or compound interest.

When Does Interest Start on Student Loans?

Federal and private student loans typically begin accruing interest when they’re disbursed. There are some exceptions, of course, so the exact timing of when student loan interest accrual starts may depend on your loan type.

The difference between private vs. federal student loans is that federal student loans are made, insured, or guaranteed by the federal government under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The federal Department of Education does not guarantee private student loans, which typically come from banks, credit unions, fintech companies, and state-based nonprofits.

Private education loans, including refinance student loans, are not eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Teacher Loan Forgiveness, or federal income-driven repayment (IDR) plans.

Refinancing your student loans with a private lender may reduce your interest rate. You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.


💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? With SoFi’s no-fee loans, you could save thousands.

What Is Interest Capitalization?

Interest capitalization is when unpaid interest accrues over time and gets added to your principal loan balance. Interest capitalization can occur with federal and private student loans, but the U.S. Department of Education eliminated most instances of federal student loan interest capitalization effective July 2023.

A federal student loan borrower who exits a period of deferment on an unsubsidized loan or who overcomes a partial financial hardship on the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan may face capitalized interest. Federal student loan interest capitalization can also occur upon loan consolidation. These are the few instances where federal law requires federal student loan interest capitalization to occur.

Federal student loan borrowers on the IBR plan can consider switching to the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan. The SAVE Plan is the most affordable repayment plan for federal student loans, according to the Department of Education.

Borrowers who earn less than 225% of the federal poverty guideline (or less than $32,805 for a single borrower and $67,500 for a family of four in 2023) don’t have to make any payments under the SAVE Plan. Beginning July 2024, SAVE Plan payment amounts are based on 5% of discretionary income for undergraduate loans, 10% for graduate loans, and a weighted average for borrowers who have both.

What Is Student Loan Amortization?

As mentioned earlier, federal and private student loans are amortizing loans. That means you’ll typically pay more in interest at the start of your repayment term and less toward interest as you pay down your loan balance over time.

There are variable and fixed-rate student loans, but federal student loans issued after July 1, 2006, have a fixed rate. A variable rate can fluctuate with the market, whereas a fixed rate remains the same over the life of the loan. Amortization refers to the amount of principal and interest you pay each time you make a loan payment.

It’s possible for negative amortization to occur, which is when your monthly payment is low enough that it doesn’t cover the interest charges for that month. Negative amortization causes your loan balance to grow.

If you’re enrolled in the SAVE Plan, however, you won’t experience negative amortization on federal student loans as long as you make your required monthly payments.


💡 Quick Tip: It might be beneficial to look for a refinancing lender that offers extras. SoFi members, for instance, can qualify for rate discounts and have access to career services, financial advisors, networking events, and more — at no extra cost.

Lowering Your Student Loan Interest Rate

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How to Refinance Student Loans as an International Student

Refinancing your student loans can help save you money and reduce the amount of time you’ll be paying back your loan. However, as an international student, your options are limited. If you’re considering refinancing your student loans as an international student, it’s important to know where you can go and how it can help you.

How Refinancing Student Loans Works

Student loan refinancing is the process of replacing your current student loans with a new one, creating one monthly instead of several. You can refinance both federal and private student loans, potentially saving you money and time as you pay off your debt.

Student loan refinancing companies like SoFi offer fixed and variable interest rates that can be lower than what you’re currently paying on your student loans.

You can also choose from various student loan repayment options and terms, allowing you to pay off your loans as quickly as your budget allows. As you can guess, the shorter your repayment period, the more you’re likely to save on interest.

As you consider your strategy for paying off your student loan debt, refinancing can be a crucial element in helping you achieve your goal.

Another word you may hear that’s close to refinancing is consolidation. With other loans, the terms are typically synonymous. But with student loans, consolidation is generally associated with the federal direct loan consolidation program, while refinancing is typically done through a private lender.


💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? With SoFi’s no-fee loans, you could save thousands.

Where to Refinance Student Loans for International Students

It’s not always easy to know where to go, and it can be frustrating to get turned down over and over again because of your international student status. Many refinancing companies require you to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to be eligible but fortunately, some companies provide more flexibility for international students. For instance, SoFi as well as MPOWER can offer loans to international students. SoFi, for example, considers U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and people who hold a J-1, H-1B, E-2, O-1, or TN visa (as of the date of this article).

If you’re a permanent resident, you’ll need to either have at least two years left until your status expires or you’ve filed an extension. And if you’re a visa holder, you’ll need to have at least two years left before your status expires, or you’ve filed for a renewal or applied for permanent residency.

That said, qualifying based on your citizenship, resident, or visa status doesn’t necessarily mean you qualify based on all criteria. Student loan refinancing lenders also typically have credit and income requirements.

This means that if you don’t have an established credit history — which is not always the case for international students — you may have a tough time getting approved on your own.

If this is your situation, it might be worth getting a student loan co-signer, such as a trusted family member or friend who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, to apply with you to help strengthen the creditworthiness of your application. This can be helpful because this person acts as backup for your application — and lenders now can also rely on the co-signer for payment. Even if you do qualify to refinance your student loans on your own, a co-signer could help you get a lower interest rate.

To help improve your chances of getting approved with more favorable terms, such as a low rate, it’s a good idea to choose a co-signer who has a stellar credit history and a solid income.

Two Things to Consider Before Refinancing Your Student Loans

Refinancing might not be the right option for everyone. Here are three things to think about before you make your decision:

You May Not Qualify for a Lower Rate

Your eligibility and interest rate are based on several factors, including your credit history and income. As such, there’s no guarantee you’ll get approved for a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying, even with a co-signer.

Also, if you already have a relatively low interest rate with your current lender, you may have a hard time getting an even lower rate.

Fortunately, some lenders, including SoFi, allow you to check your rate before you officially apply. This is done with a soft credit check, which doesn’t impact your credit score.

You May Not Qualify for a Lower Rate

Your eligibility and interest rate are based on several factors, including your credit history and income. As such, there’s no guarantee you’ll get approved for a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying, even with a co-signer.

Also, if you already have a relatively low interest rate with your current lender, you may have a hard time getting an even lower rate.

Fortunately, some lenders, including SoFi, allow you to check your rate before you officially apply. This is done with a soft credit check, which doesn’t impact your credit score.

Refinancing Is Just One Piece of the Puzzle

As you think through your student loan repayment strategy, keep in mind that refinancing isn’t the end of the line. Once you complete the process of refinancing your loans, it’s important to still make sure you’re paying down your debt.

For example, consider getting on a budget and looking for ways to put extra cash toward your student loan payments each month.

Also, you could go with a shorter repayment period to save even more time and money on your debt.

The Takeaway

Be sure to check your eligibility requirements when it comes to refinancing student loans as an international student with private lenders. Also, consider adding a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to strengthen your application.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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A Guide to Crowdfunding Your Student Loans

If the price of higher education is giving you sticker shock, you’re not alone.

The average cost of tuition for 2023-24 was $26,027 for in-state residents at public colleges, and $27,091 for out-of-state students. At private colleges, the average tuition and fees totaled a whopping $38,768!

Most students end up taking out student loans to cover the cost of college. Over 43 million Americans have federal student loan debt, with an average balance of $37,718 each. Combined, Americans now hold $1.766 trillion in student loan debt!

Paying off your loan may become a burden, especially if you opt for a career in public service, art, or another low-paying field. Your debt may also become unmanageable if you run into unexpected economic difficulties due to medical bills, losing your job, caring for a parent or child, or other challenges.

If more traditional student loan repayment plans aren’t working, you may want to think outside the box. One approach could be crowdfunding student loans. Here are some things to know about this creative way to tackle your debt.

What Is Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is the process of soliciting small contributions from multiple donors to meet a financial goal. Through online platforms like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, people have turned to crowdfunding to raise money for entrepreneurial ventures, medical crises, disaster victims, classroom supplies, and much more.

You can solicit donations from friends, family, and even complete strangers. By splitting the contributions among a large quantity of people, crowdfunding is a way to meet a big financial goal while not having to rely on finding one major source of funding.

Raising money online makes it easy to share your campaign widely and for people to easily contribute. Increasingly, people have been crowdfunding to pay off their debt, including fundraising for college. That can include textbooks, tuition, studying abroad, or living expenses — or, of course, student loans.


💡 Quick Tip: Enjoy no hidden fees and special member benefits when you refinance student loans with SoFi.

Sites for Crowdfunding Your Student Loan Repayment

There are a number of sites that allow you to set up a crowdfunding campaign so you can pay off your student loans. Before you sign up, you’ll want to make sure that you understand all the rules and fees that you might encounter during the process.

Here are some crowdfunding sites to look into:

GoFundMe: GoFundMe is perhaps the best-known crowdfunding platform out there. Setting up a fundraiser is easy. Once you have a GoFundMe account and set a goal, you’re encouraged to tell your personal story of why you’re raising money and add a photo or video. Then you can share the campaign with your network of family, friends, coworkers, followers on social media, etc. Once your GoFundMe page starts raising money, you can start withdrawing it. While GoFundMe doesn’t charge fees for setting up a page, there are transaction fees (2.9% + $0.30, which includes debit and credit charges).

Rally.org: Rally.org works a lot like GoFundMe. Once you have an account, you can set a goal, tell your story, and then start sharing with friends and family. Like GoFundMe, you can start withdrawing money as soon as people start donating to your fundraiser. There’s one big difference between Rally.org and GoFundMe: the fees. While there’s only transaction fees on GoFundMe fundraisers, Rally.org charges 5% + credit card fees (2.9% + 30 cents) for each donation processed. That 5% can make it harder for you to reach your fundraising goal.

Gift of College: If you’re not looking to launch a full-blown crowdfunding campaign, but you do want to make it easier for friends or family to help you pay off your student loans in the form of gifts at birthdays, holidays, or graduation, you might consider an account with Gift of College. To get started, you set up an account and link your student loan account. Then you can share your profile with friends and family to encourage them to buy you Gift of College gift cards for special occasions. It’s free to set up a Gift of College account, but there is a 5% processing/service fee charged to the gift giver for every gift card they buy (though the fee is capped at $15 per transaction). Gift of College can also be attached to 529 accounts.

Is Crowdfunding for Repaying Student Loans a Good Idea?

There are pros and cons to turning to the crowdfunding model as a way of making a dent in your student loan debt. Let’s start with the positives. If your campaign is successful, it’s an easy way to earn money to pay off your debt, and you don’t have to do much in return. Earning and saving the same amount through a job would likely take much longer, depending on your living expenses.

Similar to a wedding registry, a crowdfunding site also makes it less awkward to ask people in your life for help, compared to just asking for money outright. You probably have lots of loved ones who would like to help you but don’t have an easy way to do it.

Another perk is that obtaining a lump sum and putting it toward your loan principal can greatly reduce the interest that accumulates and the amount you owe over the life of the loan. Finally, crowdfunding often works. There are many examples of successful campaigns out there to inspire you.

There are some downsides to consider. One is that a crowdfunding effort is likely to get you a chunk of money once, rather than a regular stream of funding.

Considering the size of most student loans, and how interest compounds over time, you may not raise enough money to pay off the entire loan. So you’ll still have to figure out a way to consistently make your monthly payments.

Also, how much you may earn is unpredictable — it depends on the strength of your campaign and the size of your network, plus the generosity of donors, so it’s a bit risky to rely on this to stay solvent.

Another con is that depending on the size of the donation, you may need to pay taxes on the money, so you wouldn’t get to keep the entire amount you raise. Finally, even though a specialized crowdfunding site makes it easier, it may still feel uncomfortable to ask people you know for money, especially if they are facing their own debts and financial challenges.

How To Set Up a Crowdfunding Campaign

Pick a crowdfunding platform: First, you need to pick a crowdfunding site to use. Review the terms carefully so you understand how the process works. You’ll want to see if the platform keeps a percentage of funds donated, what processing fees are charged, whether it allows employers or the general public to contribute, and whether the money goes to your lender directly or comes to you in the form of cash.

Set a goal: If your fundraising goal sounds impossibly high, it could prevent some people from donating. Starting with a number that’s ambitious but reasonable may help, even if it means asking for less than your total student loan amount.

Build trust with your funders: You need to spell out what you are going to do with the money. Potential donors likely want to know what, exactly, their gift is supporting. And they probably want to be sure it will actually go toward student loans and not other expenses. Make clear how exactly you will pay off the loan and how you will hold yourself accountable to donors can go a long way toward building trust.

Telling your personal story: People may be more likely to support you if they understand the impact they can have on your life. Telling your unique story can help make their gift about more than just debt. You could describe your past accomplishments and future goals, as well as how the support will help you achieve them. Try putting up photos and a video to help people connect with your goals emotionally.

Leveraging your network: In order to have a successful campaign you’ll need to share with people you know through email and social media. You might want to tie the campaign to a special occasion, such as your birthday or graduation. You can ask your network to share on their channels as well.

Keeping the momentum going: A successful campaign doesn’t end when you launch. Posting updates on your crowdfunding page regularly will keep people interested and remind them to donate could help you reach your goal.

Express gratitude: People are doing you a favor when you donate, so thank them early and often! It will make them feel good about their gifts and perhaps even encourage them to share your campaign or donate more down the line.

Thinking About Student Loan Refinancing

If you can fund your student loan debt in full through crowdfunding, congratulations! But most people can’t depend on this as a long-term strategy and will need to find additional ways to pay off the rest of their balance.

If you’re still struggling with student debt, refinancing your student loans may be another way to make your loans more affordable. You can refinance federal loans, private loans, or a mix of both by taking out a new loan with a private lender like SoFi and using it to pay off your old ones. Note that if you do refinance federal loans with a private lender, you will lose eligibility for federal student loan benefits like deferment and income-driven repayment programs.

You may be able to qualify for a lower interest rate or lower monthly payments, depending on your credit history and income. It could be worth checking what rates you’d qualify for by applying for pre-qualification online. If you refinance with SoFi, membership includes complimentary support from career coaches and protection during periods of unemployment for those who qualify. Plus there are no hidden fees.

The Takeaway

With student debt growing exponentially, it’s worth considering creative solutions. Crowdfunding can be a relatively easy way to make a dent in your student loans without investing a lot of time. But for most people, it won’t be enough to eliminate their debt completely.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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