A Complete Guide to Private Student Loans

The average cost of college in the U.S. is $36,436 per year, including books, supplies, and daily living expenses, according to the Education Data Initiative. While grants and scholarships can significantly lower your out-of-pocket expenses, they typically don’t cover the full cost of your college education.

Student loans, both federal and private, can help bridge this gap in financial aid to allow you to attend the college of your choice. Federal student loans are funded by the government. They tend to offer the best rates and terms but come with borrowing limits. If you still have gaps in funding, you can turn to private student loans.

Private student loans are funded by banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Private lenders set their own eligibility criteria, and interest rates generally depend on a borrower’s creditworthiness. While private student loans don’t offer all the same borrower protections as federal loans, they can still be a smart choice to help you pay for educational expenses, as long as you do your research.

This guide offers private student loan basics, including what they are, how they work, their pros and cons, and how to apply for one.

What are Private Student Loans?

Often when people talk about student loans, they’re referring to federal student loans, which are provided by the federal government. Private student loans, by contrast, are given out by individual banks and lenders. Students typically turn to private student loans when federal loans won’t cover all of their costs.

You can use the money from a private school loan to pay for expenses like tuition, fees, housing, books, and supplies. Interest rates for private student loans may be variable or fixed and are set by the lender. Repayment terms can be anywhere from five to 20 years.

Unlike federal student loans, borrowers must pass a credit check to qualify for private student loans. Since most college students don’t have enough credit history to take out a large loan, a cosigner is often required.


💡 Quick Tip: Fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee SoFi private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

How Do Private Student Loans Work?

How Private Student Loans Work

Loan amounts, interest rates, repayment terms, and eligibility requirements for undergraduate private student loans vary by individual lenders. If you’re in the market for a private student loan, it’s key to shop around and compare your options to find the best fit.

To get a private student loan, you need to file an application directly with your lender of choice. Based on the information you submit, the lender will determine whether or not you are approved and, if so, what rates and terms you qualify for.

If you’re approved, the loan proceeds will typically be disbursed directly to your university. Your school will apply that money to tuition, fees, room and board and any other necessary expenses. If there are funds left over, the money will be given for you to use toward other education-related expenses, such as textbooks and supplies.

Repayment policies vary by lender but typically you aren’t required to make payments while you’re attending school. Some lenders will allow you to defer payments until six months after you graduate. However, interest typically begins accruing as soon as the loan is dispersed. Similar to unsubsidized federal student loans, the interest that accrues while you’re in school is added to your loan balance.

The Pros and Cons of Private Student Loans

Pros of Private Student Loans

Cons of Private Student Loans

Apply any time of the year May require a cosigner
Higher loan amounts Less flexible repayment options
Choice of fixed or variable rates No loan forgiveness programs
Quick application process Can lead to over-borrowing
Statute of limitations on collection Not always discharged in death or disability
Options for international students No federal subsidy

If federal financial aid — including grants, work-study, and federal student loans — isn’t enough to cover the full cost of college, private student loans can fill in any gaps. Just keep in mind that private student loans don’t offer the same borrower protections that come with federal student loans. Before taking out a private student loan, it’s a good idea to fully understand their pros and cons.

The Benefits of Private Student Loans

Here’s a look at some of the advantages that come with private student loans.

Apply Any Time of the Year

Unlike federal student loans, which have application deadlines, you can apply for private student loans any time of the year. As a result, they can be helpful if you’re facing a mid-year funding shortfall or if your college expenses go up unexpectedly.

Higher Loan Amounts

Federal loans have annual maximums. For example, a first year undergraduate can borrow up to $5,500. The aggregate max you can borrow from the government for your entire undergraduate education is $31,000. Private student loan limits vary with each lender, but you can typically borrow up to the full cost of attendance minus any financial aid received.

Choice of Fixed or Variable Interest Rates

Federal loans only offer fixed-rate loans, while private lenders usually give you a choice between fixed or variable interest rates. Fixed rates remain the same over the life of the loans, whereas variable rates can change throughout the loan term, depending on benchmark rates.

Variable-rate loans usually have lower starting interest rates than fixed-rate loans. If you can afford to pay off your student loans quickly, you might pay less interest with a variable-rate loan from a private lender than a fixed-rate federal loan.

Quick Application Process

While federal student loans require borrowers to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, private student loans do not. You can apply for most private student loans online in just a few minutes without providing nearly as much information. In some cases, you can get a lending decision within 72 hours. By comparison, it typically takes three to five days for the government to process the FAFSA if you submit electronically, and seven to 10 days if you mail in the form.

Statute of Limitations

While you never want to default on your student loans (since it can cause significant damage to your credit), it can be nice to know that private student loans come with a statute of limitations. This is a set period of time that lenders have to take you to court to recoup the debt after you default. The time frame varies by state, but it can range anywhere from three to 10 years. After that period ends, lenders have limited options to collect from you.

However, that’s not the case with federal student loans. You must eventually repay your loans, and the government can even garnish your wages and tax refunds until you do.

Options for International Students

International students typically don’t qualify for federal financial aid, including federal student loans. Some private lenders, however, will provide student loans to non-U.S. citizens who meet specific criteria, such as attending an eligible college on at least a half-time basis, having a valid student visa, and/or adding a U.S. citizen as a cosigner.

When we say no fees we mean it.
No origination fees and late fees
when you take out a student loan with SoFi.


The Disadvantages of Private Student Loans

Private student loans also have some downsides. Here are some to keep in mind.

Requires a Cosigner

Most high school and college students don’t make enough income or have a strong credit history to qualify for private student loans on their own. Though some lenders will take grades and income potential into consideration, most students need a cosigner to qualify for a private student loan. Your cosigner is legally responsible for your student debt, and any missed payments can negatively affect their credit. If you can’t repay your loans, your cosigner is responsible for the entire amount.

The good news is that some private student loans allow for a cosigner release.That means that after you make a certain number of on-time payments, you can apply to have the cosigner removed from the loan.

Less Flexible Repayment Options

Federal student loans offer several different types of repayment plans, including Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plans, which calculate your monthly payment as a percentage of your income. With the new Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan, for example, your monthly payments are generally equal to 5% of your discretionary income (which is the extra income you have after paying for basic necessities).

With private student loans, on the other hand, usually the only way to reduce your monthly payment is to refinance the loan to a lower interest rate, a longer repayment term, or both.

No Loan Forgiveness Programs

Federal student loans come with a few different forgiveness programs, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), IDR forgiveness. and Teacher Loan Forgiveness. While these programs have strict eligibility requirements, they can help many low-income borrowers. Private lenders, however, generally don’t offer programs that forgive your debt after meeting certain requirements.

If you’re experiencing financial hardship, however. the lender may agree to temporarily lower your payments, waive a payment, or shift to interest-only payments.

Can Lead to Over-Borrowing

Private loans typically allow you to borrow up to 100% of your cost of attendance, minus other aid you’ve already received. Just because you can borrow that much, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Borrowing the maximum incurs more interest over the duration of your loans and increases your payments, which can make repayment more difficult.

Not Always Discharged in Death or Disability

Federal loans are discharged if the borrower passes away, which means that the debt will be cleared and won’t count against the borrower’s estate. With private student loans, however, lenders can try to collect any outstanding loan amounts against a borrower’s estate in the event of death. They can’t, however, try to collect from a relative who did not cosign the debt.

Also keep in mind that your private loan could go into automatic default if your cosigner passes away, even if you’ve been making your payments on time.

No Federal Subsidy

Subsidized federal student loans, awarded based on financial need, come with an interest subsidy, meaning the government pays your interest while you’re in school and for six months after you graduate. This can add up to a significant savings.

Subsidies don’t exist with private student loans. Interest accrues from day one; in some cases, you might need to make interest payments while still in school. If you don’t pay the interest as you go, it’s added to your debt as capitalized interest when you finish school. (This is also the case with federal unsubsidized loans.)

Federal vs Private Student Loans

Here’s a look at the key differences between federal vs. private student loans.

Federal Student Loans vs. Private Student Loans

The Application Process

Federal student loans are awarded as a part of a student’s financial aid package. In order to apply for federal student loans, students must fill out the FAFSA each year. No credit check is needed to qualify.

To apply for private student loans, students need to fill out an application directly with their preferred lender. Application requirements may vary depending on the lender. A credit check is typically required.

Recommended: Financial Aid vs Student Loans

Interest Rates

The interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and are set annually by Congress. Once you’ve taken out a federal loan, your interest rate is locked for the life of the loan.

For the 2023-2024 school year, the interest rate on Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized loans for undergraduates is 5.50%, the rate on Direct Unsubsidized loans for graduate and professional students is 7.05%, and the rate on Direct PLUS loans for graduate students, professional students, and parents is 8.05%. The interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and are set annually by Congress.

Private lenders, on the other hand, are free to set interest rates. Rates may be fixed or variable and depend on several factors, including your (or your cosigner’s) credit score, loan amount, and chosen repayment term. Private student loan rates range anywhere from 2.99% to 14.96% APR for fixed-rate loans and 2.99% to 14.86% APR for variable-rate loans.

Repayment Plans

Borrowers with federal student loans can select from several different federal repayment plans , including income-driven repayment plans. You can defer payments while enrolled at least half-time and immediately after graduation

Repayment plans for private loans are set by the individual lender. Many private student loan lenders allow you to defer payments during school and for six months after graduation. They also have a variety of repayment terms, often ranging from five to 20 years.

Options for Deferment or Forbearance

Federal student loan borrowers can apply for deferment or forbearance if they encounter financial difficulties while they are repaying their loans. These options allow borrowers to pause their loan payments (interest, however, will typically continue to accrue).

Some private lenders may offer options for borrowers who are facing financial difficulties, including short periods of deferment or forbearance. Some also offer unemployment protection, which allows qualifying borrowers who have lost their job through no fault of their own to modify payments on their student loans.

Loan Forgiveness

Borrowers with federal student loans might be able to pursue loan forgiveness through federal programs such as PSLF or Teacher Loan Forgiveness, or after paying down their balances on an IDR plan for a certain period of time.

Since private student loans aren’t controlled by the government, they are not eligible for federal loan forgiveness programs. Though private lenders will often work with borrowers to avoid default, private student loans are rarely forgiven. Generally, it only happens if the borrower becomes permanently disabled or dies.

Should You Consider Private Student Loans?

There are many different types of student loans. It’s generally a good idea to maximize federal student loans before turning to private student loans. That way, you’ll have access to income-driven repayment plans, loan forgiveness programs, and extended deferment and forbearance periods.

If you still need money to cover tuition or other expenses, and you (or your cosigner) has strong credit, a private student loan can make sense.

Private student loans can also be useful if your expenses suddenly go up and you’ve already maxed out federal student loans, since they allow you to access additional funding relatively quickly. You might also consider a private student loan if you don’t qualify for federal loans. If you’re an international student, for example, a private loan may be your only college funding option.

Another scenario where private student loans can make sense is if you only plan to take out the loan short-term. If you’ll be able to repay the loan over a few years, private student loans could end up costing less overall.

Recommended: When to Apply for Student Loans

How to Get a Private Student Loan

Here’s a look at the steps involved in getting a private student loan.

1.    Shop around. Your school may have a list of preferred lenders, but you’re not restricted to this list. You can also do your own research to find top lenders. As you evaluate lenders, consider factors like interest rates, how much you can borrow, the loan term, when you must start repayment, any fees, and if the lender offers any hardship programs.

2.    See if you can prequalify. Some lenders allow borrowers to get a quote by filling out a prequalification application. This generally involves a soft credit inquiry (which won’t impact your credit score) and tells you what interest rates and terms you may qualify for. Completing this step can help you decide if you need a cosigner.

3.    Gather your information. To officially apply for a private student loan, you typically need to provide your Social Security number, birthdate, and home address, as well as proof of employment and income. You may also need to provide other financial information, such as your assets, rent or mortgage, and tax returns. If you have a cosigner, you’ll have to provide their personal and financial details as well.

4.    Submit your application. Once you’ve completed your application, the lender will typically contact your school to verify your information and eligibility. They will then process the student loan and notify you about your approval and disbursement of your money.


💡 Quick Tip: Parents and sponsors with strong credit and income may find much lower rates on no-fee private parent student loans than federal parent PLUS loans. Federal PLUS loans also come with an origination fee.

Does Everyone Get Approved for Private Student Loans?

No. Requirements for private student loans will vary depending on the lender, but generally to qualify you need to:

•   Attend an accredited school (this typically includes four-year colleges and, sometimes, two-year community colleges and trade schools).

•   Have a strong credit score (usually in the mid-600s or higher).

•   Have a steady income that can cover your expenses.

If you don’t meet these qualifications you can apply with a cosigner who does.

Apply for a Private Student Loan with SoFi

Private student loans are offered by banks, credit unions, and online lenders to help college students cover their educational expenses. They are not part of the federal student loan program, and generally do not feature the flexible repayment terms or borrower protections offered by federal student loans. However, private student loans come with higher loan limits, and the borrowing costs are sometimes lower compared to their federal counterparts. If you’re thinking about a private student loan for college, it pays to shop around to find the best rates and terms.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

FAQ

Why would someone get a private student loan?

Students typically turn to private student loans when federal loans won’t cover all of their costs. Private student loans come with higher borrowing limits than their federal counterparts. The aggregate max you can borrow from the government for your entire undergraduate education is $31,000. With private loans, on the other hand, you can typically borrow up to the total cost of attendance, minus any financial aid received, every year. This gives you more flexibility to get the financing you need.

Will private student loans be forgiven?

Private student loans aren’t funded by the government, so they don’t offer the same forgiveness programs. In fact, private student loan forgiveness is rare.

If you experience financial hardship, however, many lenders will work with you to stay out of default. They may agree to temporarily lower your payments, waive a payment, or switch to interest-only payments. Or, you might qualify for deferment or forbearance, which temporarily postpones your payments (though interest continues to accrue).

Are private student loans paid to you or the school?

Typically, lenders will send your private student loan money to your school, which will apply the loan to your current charges. The school will then transfer any balance to you to use towards other costs, such as school supplies and other living expenses.


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 Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


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.

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.

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How Do I Get My Student Loan Tax Form?

What Is a Student Loan Tax Form? How Do You Get One?

If you’re a borrower who paid interest on a qualified student loan, it’s possible to deduct some or all of that interest on your federal income tax return with a special tax form for student loans.

To do so, you’ll need to acquire a student loan tax form commonly known as IRS Form 1098-E. You can use this form to report how much you paid in student loan interest. One copy will go to the IRS, and you’ll keep the other.

To learn how to get your hands on your student loan tax form, when to deduct student loan interest and how to file a student tax form, keep reading.

What Are the Tax Forms for Student Loans?

The IRS Form 1098-E is a tax form for student loans that’s sent out by your loan servicer, or the company that collects your student loan payments. Sometimes, your lender services their own loans. Other times, they hire an outside service to collect their payments for them.

The loan servicer is required to send borrowers a 1098-E to complete their taxes if the borrower owes at least $600 in student loan interest. Typically, they’ll get them out by the end of January, since the interest forms for student loans and tax season coincide.

If you have more than one loan servicer, you’ll receive a 1098-E form from each.

The Purpose of a Student Tax Form

The student loan tax form is designed to give people with student loan debt the opportunity to deduct some or potentially all of the interest the debt accrues on their federal income tax return.

If you paid at least $600 in interest on a qualified student loan, the lender you paid that interest to should send you a 1098-E. Regardless of how many student loans you have, the $600 threshold still applies.

Recommended: What is the Average Student Loan Debt After College?

Uses of a Student Loan Tax Form

The student loan tax form is used to calculate your student tax interest deduction on your tax return.

As long as you meet certain conditions, you may be eligible to deduct up to $2,500 in student loan interest from your taxable income:

•   You are filing separately and/or not married

•   Your income is below the annual limit

•   You are legally obligated to pay the interest, not someone else

•   If you’re filing a joint return, neither you nor your spouse is being claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return

The eligibility for the student loan interest deduction is determined based on a borrower’s modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), or their adjusted gross income (AGI) after factoring in any tax penalties incurred and allowable deductions. At a certain higher income bracket, the deduction is reduced or eliminated.

•   For taxpayers filing as single: The deduction is reduced once they have $75,000 of modified AGI and it’s eliminated at $90,000.

•   For taxpayers filing jointly: The deduction is reduced at $150,000 of modified AGI and it’s eliminated at $180,000.

Getting Your Student Tax Form

To obtain your college student tax form and ensure you aren’t missing any tax documents this season, there are a few steps you can take:

1.    Go directly to your loan servicer ’s website, where a downloadable 1098-E form will likely be available.

2.    Contact your loan servicer via telephone if you’re unable to visit their website.

3.    If you don’t know who your loan servicer is, visit StudentAid.gov or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID, then complete steps 1 and 2.

Finally, note that student tuition tax form 1098-E is not available for download through the Federal Student Aid website .

There are plenty of useful tools on the site to get you where you need to go, but, ultimately, you can’t download your student loan tax form directly from the website.

If you have private student loans, contact your lender directly.

Recommended: What Is IRS Form 1098?

Filling Out a Student Loan Interest Tax Form

When it comes to filling out a college student loan tax form, the IRS provides detailed instructions for the 2023 tax season to help financial, educational, and governmental institutions and borrowers cover all their bases.

At the most basic level, according to the IRS , if a loan servicer receives student loan interest of $600 or more from an individual during the year in the course of their trade or business, they must:

•   File a 1098-E form and;

•   Provide a statement or acceptable substitute, on paper or electronically, to the borrower

There are two boxes on the 1098-E form:

•   Box 1 is the amount of student loan interest received by the lender. It’s important to note, this figure represents interest paid, not loan payments made.

•   Box 2, if checked, denotes the fact that the amount in Box 1 does not include loan origination fees and/or capitalized interest for loans made before September 1, 2004.

Once you receive the 1098-E form, it’s up to you to include it when you file your taxes.

When to Deduct Student Loan Interest?

Student loan interest tax deduction is a type of federal income tax deduction that lets student loan borrowers deduct up to $2,500 of the interest paid on qualified student loans from their taxable income. It’s one of many tax breaks available to students and their parents to help them pay for college.

To know when to deduct student loan interest, it’s important to know if you meet the necessary qualifications:

•   Your student loan was taken out for the taxpayer (you), your spouse, or your dependent(s).

•   Your student loan was taken out when you were enrolled at least half-time in an academic program that led to a degree, certificate, or recognized credential.

•   Your student loan was used for qualifying education expenses such as tuition, textbooks, supplies, fees, or equipment (not including room and board, insurance, or transportation).

•   Your student loan was used within a “reasonable period of time,” and its proceeds were disbursed 90 days before the beginning of the academic period in which they were used or 90 days after it ended.

•   The college or school where you were enrolled is considered an eligible institution that participates in student aid programs managed by the U.S. Department of Education.

Do International Students Have a Different Tax Form?

For international students, it’s possible to deduct student loan interest from a foreign country, as long as their student loan is qualified (meeting the requirements listed above) and they’re legally obligated to make student loan payments on that loan.

There’s no need for international students to acquire a special international student tax form, however. The year-end financial statement from their loan servicer is typically sufficient enough proof for them to claim the student loan interest.

The Takeaway

If you paid interest on a qualified student loan for yourself or a dependent, you can likely deduct that interest on this year’s tax return. Once you’ve determined when and whether you’re able to deduct student loan interest and how to file a student loan interest form, you can simply wait for your loan servicer to send along a copy of your 1098-E or visit their website.

When you work with a private student loan lender like SoFi, you can access your 1098-E online, making it even easier to file your taxes and deduct student loan interest without waiting by your mailbox.

Photo credit: iStock/FG Trade


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


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.

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.

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

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.

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What Is the Dean’s List?

What Is the Dean’s List? Typical Dean’s List Requirements & Benefits

The dean’s list is a list of undergraduate students recognized for outstanding academic achievement in a given semester, quarter, or year. Each college and university has different dean’s list requirements, but students who finish the term with a high grade point average (GPA) and are in the top percentile of their class for academic performance can earn a spot on the dean’s list.

Not only is having the dean’s list award on your transcript a remarkable personal achievement, but it could also make a big impact on grad school admissions and future employers.

Dean’s List Meaning

The dean’s list is a scholarly award for undergraduate students who achieved high scholastic standing during the academic year. The award is released after each semester, quarter, or academic year and is typically based on a student’s GPA. However, specific dean’s list requirements will vary by institution and can change each term.

Dean’s List Requirements

Dean’s list requirements vary by college and can change each term, but there are typical conditions that a student must meet. To meet basic dean’s list requirements, students must:

•   Meet the minimum GPA requirements set by the school.

•   Be in the top percentile of their class for academic achievement.

•   Be taking a minimum number of credit hours. Most schools require students to be enrolled full-time, but some schools may include part-time students in the dean’s list.

•   Have zero incompletes, no shows, or late grades.

What GPA Is Needed to Make the Dean’s List?

While schools may base eligibility for the dean’s list on the student’s GPA, the award is comparative rather than absolute. The award is only given to the top percentile of students rather than everyone who earns a certain GPA. This means that the required GPA can change each semester based on the academic performance of the student body.

Students can strive for a GPA of 3.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale and be taking a minimum of 12 credit hours, but this may be different depending on your school and your degree program. Check with your school to determine the minimum GPA requirement to make the dean’s list.

Recommended: How Much Does GPA Matter When Applying to College?

What Is the Benefit of Being on the Dean’s List?

Earning a spot on the dean’s list is one of the highest levels of recognition for academic achievement. Students who earn the award can enjoy a variety of benefits that can continue throughout their educational career and beyond.

Personal Achievement

Making it onto the dean’s list requires academic commitment and dedication. Being on the dean’s list means you’ve ranked in the top percentile amongst your peers, which will be noted on your school record and should be seen as a great personal achievement.

Prestige

Having your name on the dean’s list, especially for multiple terms, is one way to help you stand out from the crowd. The dean’s list award is a testament to your academic success and has traditionally been looked upon favorably by the school’s administration as well as by other students.

Recognition

Some schools recognize students who made it onto the dean’s list by posting students’ names on the school website and sometimes local publications. Outstanding academic performance can also help you build relationships with your professors, who may be able to write letters of recommendation and references later on.

Special Events

Because your GPA is ranked among the top of your class, you might receive invitations to special events. These are typically networking events with top company executives. Networking can allow you to form connections with other people in your field of study and open the door to possible employment opportunities.

Attract Prospective Employers

Some colleges may include your dean’s list award on your school transcript, and you can also attract potential employers by mentioning this award on your resume. However, employment website Indeed doesn’t recommend adding this achievement to your resume if you were only on the dean’s list for one or two semesters or inconsistently.

Even if you don’t include the dean’s list on your resume, prospective employers may still consider your GPA when making hiring decisions. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook 2022 Spring Update report, 43.5% of employers screen by GPA when making interviewing and hiring decisions.

Scholarships

While being on the dean’s list doesn’t guarantee any financial aid, a high GPA could make you eligible for merit scholarships. Merit-based scholarships typically use your GPA, test scores, leadership capabilities, and other factors to determine your eligibility.

Are There Any Student Loan Benefits When Getting on the Dean’s List?

There usually aren’t any financial perks for getting on the dean’s list with federal student loans or most private lenders. Some private lenders may offer a reward for a certain GPA, but most lenders typically only consider your GPA if it’s too low.

Your GPA could affect your eligibility for other types of financial aid, like scholarships and grants, though. You’re required to make Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) to meet the basic eligibility criteria for certain types of financial aid. A higher GPA also makes it easier for you to receive more financial aid.


💡 Quick Tip: You can fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

What Other Academic Awards Can You Earn in College?

The dean’s list isn’t the only academic award that you can earn in college. There are several other awards that are given to students in recognition of outstanding achievement and as a means to further encourage academic excellence. Here are a few academic awards for college students.

The Honors List

The honors list is similar to the dean’s list; however, it may have different GPA requirements — usually lower. For example, students may be eligible for a spot on the dean’s list if their GPA is 3.5 or higher, while students on the honors list have a GPA between 3.25 and 3.5.

The President’s List

Undergraduate students earn the president’s list award if they get straight A’s in college and earn a 4.0 GPA. Part-time and full-time students may be eligible for this award.

The Chancellor’s List

At schools that offer this award, the chancellor’s list is typically ranked slightly higher than the dean’s list. Both full-time and part-time undergraduate students may usually qualify for the chancellor’s list.

Ways to Pay for College

If you’re aiming to see your name on the dean’s list, financial stress can hinder your ability to succeed academically. According to Inside Higher Ed, 48% of students who experienced financial challenges while in school admitted they had difficulties focusing on their academics.

Luckily, there are options out there for prospective and current students who are struggling with how to pay for college. Here are a few options:

•   Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) to see if you qualify for financial aid. Make sure to read our FAFSA Guide and fill this out as soon as possible because many colleges award money on a first-come, first-served basis.

•   Search for scholarships, which are a form of merit aid to help pay for tuition and other education expenses. There are thousands of available scholarships to students with some even offering a full-ride to a four-year institution.

•   Apply for grants. Grants are another form of financial aid that doesn’t need to be repaid. Students can apply for federal, state, or school grants.

•   Find a work-study position. The federal work-study program offers funds for part-time employment to help college students in financial need.

•   Look at student loans. If you are still struggling to afford school-related expenses after exhausting all other forms of financial aid, there are a variety of federal and private student loan options to help.

Recommended: FAFSA 101: How to Complete the FAFSA

The Takeaway

Students who make the dean’s list are recognized for outstanding academic achievement. Benefits include personal achievement, prestige, public recognition, the opportunity to attend special events, being granted scholarships, and standing out on job applications.

And, students who are less stressed financially tend to do better in school. Options for paying for college include scholarships, grants, federal student loans, and private student loans.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

FAQ

What GPA is required to get on the dean’s list?

The minimum GPA for the dean’s list varies by school and it can change every term. However, most schools require at least a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

What does it mean when you get on the dean’s list?

What it means to be on the dean’s list is that you’ve ranked in the top percentile of your class. The dean’s list is one of the highest levels of recognition for scholarly achievement.

What is the benefit of being on the dean’s list?

Earning a spot on the dean’s list comes with several benefits. Not only is it a prestigious award and a significant personal achievement, but you could be invited to special events, network with others in your field of study, and attract prospective employers.


Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


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.

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

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.

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Private vs. Public College: The Pros & Cons of Both

When it comes to selecting a college, one big consideration is whether to attend a private vs. public college. A key difference between private and public colleges lies in how they are funded and operated. Public colleges get much of their funding from local and state governments, while private ones are largely sustained with tuition, fees, and donations.

Going the public route is the most common scenario. In the fall of 2023, approximately 13.5 million students attended public institutions while 5.1 million were enrolled in private institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Students who are debating between private and public colleges may want to consider factors like cost, quality of education, campus life, and how they plan to pay for college. Read on for more information on each of these categories.

Public vs Private Colleges: Factors to Consider

Choosing a college is a personal decision, so it’s important to factor in individual goals and needs as you compare private vs. public colleges. In addition to the factors below, things like what you hope to study and how close you’d like to be to home will influence how you choose a college.

Now, let’s dig into more about potential advantages and drawbacks of public vs private colleges.

The Cost of Public vs Private Colleges

Many students wonder if they should choose a college based on price. One reason that attending public colleges is the more popular route is that they are often less expensive than private institutions. Public institutions are often especially affordable for in-state students, who typically get a break on tuition.

According to research by the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees at a public college with in-state tuition during the 2023-2024 school year was $11,260, and $29,150 for out-of-state students. At private colleges, the average tuition and fees was $41,540.

That said, private colleges and universities may also offer scholarships, fellowships, and other kinds of need- or merit-based financial aid. And, even some top-tier universities have virtually done away with tuition for students whose families have certain levels of family income. So, high-achieving students might actually get a better or comparable deal at a private institution depending on their family’s financial situation.

Recommended: The Average Cost of College Tuition in 2023

Differences in Educational Quality

According to U.S. News, the highest ranking public schools in the country include UCLA, UC Berkeley, the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At these schools and many others, students can get a top-notch education at a fair price if they qualify for in-state tuition.

However, many public schools have enormous student populations, which can mean large class sizes, difficulty getting into your most desired classes, and less personal attention from faculty and administrators. For example, the University of Central Florida has just over 59,000 undergraduates, resulting in a student-to-faculty ratio of 29 to 1.

By comparison, Pomona College in Southern California has a population of just under 1,800 students (fall 2022) and a student-to-faculty ratio of just eight students to one faculty member, according to U.S. News. Beyond class size, some private institutions are often able to deliver a world-class education. In fact, every one of the top 10 highest-ranking schools in the country are all private schools.

Specific Majors or Programs of Study Available

Private colleges, particularly smaller liberal arts colleges, may have fewer majors or programs available to students than larger public universities. As you are evaluating schools, consider the field(s) of study you are most interested in and understand the options available at the schools you are considering.

On a related note, students interested in pursuing research opportunities may have a better chance of conducting research at a larger university. However, private universities are likely conducting research, too. It’s best to consider the programs you are specifically interested in and ask an admissions counselor what research opportunities are available to undergraduates in that field or major.

Recommended: A Guide to Choosing the Right College Major

Campus Life

For some students, the large size of many public institutions is a factor in the pro column. This environment means there are a great variety of potential groups to join, activities to participate in, or classmates to become friends with.

A large school means many different classes and majors to choose from. If this appeals to you, it can expand your network and make your college experience much more interesting. Private schools are also likely to have clubs and activities available for students, too, though it may be on a smaller scale.

Both public and private schools can be a great choice for students interested in athletics. Public schools are most likely to have a wide variety of active sports teams, and most of the top-ranking colleges for student athletes are public.

However, many private universities have successful teams, as well. If it’s important to you, or you’re a student athlete yourself, you could check out the strength of specific sports programs at the colleges you’re considering.

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Financing Your Education

Some students and their families cover tuition costs (or a portion of costs) with savings, but there are a variety of other sources of finances to help students pay for college. As mentioned, public universities generally have a less expensive sticker price than private schools, but private schools may offer more financial aid to students. So, don’t rule out a private school on cost alone.

To apply for federal student aid, the first step is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Colleges will use this information to help determine how much aid, and what types, a student qualifies for. Federal aid includes things like Pell Grants for low-income students, work-study, and federal student loans. Both private and public schools may offer scholarships to students, as well.

Federal Student Loans

Federal loan options include Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and Direct PLUS Loans.

For the 2023-2024 school year, the interest rate on Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized loans for undergraduates is 5.50%, the rate on Direct Unsubsidized loans for graduate and professional students is 7.05%, and the rate on Direct PLUS loans for graduate students, professional students, and parents is 8.05%. The interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and are set annually by Congress.

Private Student Loans

For students who still need additional funding, a variety of lenders offer private student loans. Private student loans typically take the borrower’s credit history, and that of any cosigner, into consideration. And while federal student loan interest rates are always fixed, private student loan interest rates can be fixed or variable.

Keep in mind, though, that private student loans do not offer the same benefits as federal student loans, such as income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness. If possible, it’s wise to exhaust all federal aid options before seeking private student loans.

The Takeaway

Both public and private colleges and universities can offer an excellent education to students. Differences to consider when deciding between a private or public school include the cost, the programs of study available to students, the quality of education, campus life, and sources of funding for school. Depending on individual preferences and circumstances, students may find a public school better suits their needs or vice versa.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.



SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


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.

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

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.

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Can You Consolidate Student Loans and Credit Card Debt Together?

After attending college, you might have a hefty student loan you need to pay off, and you might also have some credit card debt you’re ready to eliminate.

Having two (or more) separate payments each month, as well as more than one interest rate, can get messy, and could negatively impact your credit if you don’t make all the minimum payments required. You may be wondering if it’s possible to consolidate student loans and credit card debt together to make things easier.

We’ll look at the differences between debt consolidation, debt refinancing, student loan consolidation, and student loan refinancing, plus explore your options to lower your interest rates and possibly get one single payment for all your student loan and credit card debts.

What Is Debt Consolidation?

There are two different ways you can change what your debt looks like: debt consolidation and debt refinancing.

It’s important to understand that when it comes to loans and credit cards, consolidating is different from refinancing. Refinancing refers to changing the financial terms of a debt. Maybe when you took out your student loan, for example, interest rates were higher than they are now. You might be able to refinance your loan with current, lower rates or you could refinance to extend the loan term.

Debt consolidation, on the other hand, refers to combining more than one debt into a new loan with a single payment. Maybe you have three different credit card balances and you take out a new loan to pay them off. Now, those three credit cards have a zero balance and you’re left with a single monthly payment and a new interest rate and terms with the new loan.

But is consolidating credit cards and student loans together possible? Or are they two different animals?

Consolidating Student Loans

The U.S. Department of Education offers what’s called a Direct Consolidation Loan, which consolidates all your federal education loans that qualify into one new loan with a single interest rate, typically the average of the loans you’re consolidating. When you consolidate federal student loans, you keep federal benefits, such as income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness.

Student loan consolidation may be useful if you have federal loans from different lenders and are making more than one payment per month. However, your interest rate won’t necessarily be lowered, nor will you be allowed to consolidate private student loans or credit card debt.

So, what can you do if you have private student loans you want to consolidate or other loans that don’t qualify for the Direct Consolidation Loan? And what if you want to consolidate student loans and credit card debt together?

Before we get to the solution, let’s talk about consolidating credit cards.


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

Consolidating Credit Cards

Just like with student loans, you may have multiple credit cards each with their own balance, interest rate, and minimum payment due each month. This can make paying off all this debt next to impossible and feel like you’re treading water as you pay the minimum amount due on each card.

With credit card consolidation, you take out a new personal loan and pay off all outstanding credit card debt.
You then have one payment and one interest rate (which may often be significantly lower than some astronomically high rates for credit cards). You’re now making one monthly payment for all your credit card debt. Sounds good, right?

How to Consolidate Student Loans and Credit Card Debts

As discussed, with a Direct Consolidation Loan, you can’t add credit card debt to the consolidation loan. Direct Consolidation Loans are reserved for federal student loans only.

However, if you’re wanting to consolidate both student loans and credit card debts, there are options you can consider.

Personal Loan

One way to pay off different types of debt is with a personal loan. While personal loans may have higher interest rates than you’re paying for your student loans, the rates for personal loans may be significantly lower than credit card interest rates if your credit is good.

By taking out a personal loan, you may be able to pay off all of your student loans and credit card debt. Your debt is now rolled up into one monthly payment with one interest rate.

The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate you may qualify for with a personal loan. But even if you don’t get a fantastic rate, you can extend the loan term to make your payments more manageable. And, of course, you can usually pay off a personal loan early without penalty, which can cut down on what you’d otherwise pay in interest.

Balance Transfer

If a personal loan isn’t for you, check to see if you have a credit card with a balance transfer offer. Often, credit cards will offer a promotion of 0% on any balances from other credit cards or loans transferred. Take note though: often these promotions end after a year, and then you’re stuck with the interest payment on the remaining balance.

A balance transfer makes sense if you know you can pay off your debts within a year. If you have a large amount of credit card debt or a high student loan, this may not be the best solution if you can’t pay it off quickly. Instead, you might consider transferring the amount of your debts that you know you can pay off within the timeframe.

Alternatives to Consolidation

If you’re hoping to consolidate student loans and credit card debt together, taking out a personal loan or using a transfer balance are two options to explore.

You might also look at a debt reduction strategy, such as the Avalanche Method or the Snowball Method.

The Avalanche Method

The Avalanche Method focuses on paying off your debts with the highest interest rates first. Once those are paid off, you put that money toward the debts with the next highest interest rates, and so on and so forth, until they are all paid off.

The Snowball Method

With the Snowball Method, you focus on the largest balance first. Put extra money toward paying that off, then when it’s paid off, move to the next largest balance.

Continue Payments

Whatever strategy you choose, the key is to keep making payments. And if possible, pay more than the minimum amount due. Even paying an additional $25 a month on a debt will help you pay it off faster and reduce the total amount of interest you pay overall.

Student Loan Refinance Tips from SoFi

Because student loans are often the largest debts people carry (even if they don’t have the highest interest rate), you may want to have a separate strategy for paying off your student loans.

When you refinance student loans, look for loans that offer a longer time period if you want a smaller monthly payment. However, keep in mind that with a longer loan term, you’re likely to pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

Also, if you plan on using federal benefits, it’s not recommended to refinance with a private lender. Instead, look into a Direct Consolidation Loan or refinance your student loans once you’re no longer using federal benefits.


💡 Quick Tip: When rates are low, refinancing student loans could make a lot of sense. How much could you save? Find out using our student loan refi calculator.

The Takeaway

While it may be challenging to consolidate student loans and credit card debt together, you may be able to do so with a personal loan or a credit card balance transfer. Using one of these methods allows you to transfer these debts into a single loan with a single payment and interest rate.

However, if a personal loan or balance transfer credit card isn’t an option, you could consider refinancing your student loans to possibly lower your interest rate and save money each month. The money you save could then be put toward paying off your credit card debt.

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

FAQ

Do I lose my credit cards if I consolidate?

Consolidating credit card debt does not cause you to lose your credit cards. It merely wipes out the debt on each card you include in the consolidation.

Will consolidating my student loans lower my credit score?

If you use the Direct Consolidation Loan, this will not impact your credit score. However, if you consolidate your student loans with a personal loan or through student loan refinancing, it may impact your credit.

Can my student loans be forgiven if I consolidate?

If you consolidate your loans with a Direct Consolidation Loan, you’re still eligible for student loan forgiveness. However, if you refinance your student loans with a private lender, you are no longer eligible for federal benefits, including loan forgiveness.


Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

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.

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.

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