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Sallie Mae student loans review

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Sallie Mae® Smart Option Student Loan for Undergraduates
Finder score
4.50% to 15.49%
Max. Loan Amount
Cost of attendance less financial aid
Min. Credit Score
Not stated

Our verdict

8+ options for undergrads, grad students and parents. Funding for college and more.

Sallie Mae's tailor-made student loans can suit most students' needs, especially if you have the credit score to qualify for a low interest rate. This lender can provide your funding for a wide array of educational endeavors, from undergrad to med school to studying for the bar exam.

However, you aren't able to prequalify for a student loan online. Meaning you can't get an estimate of what rates you qualify for without a hard credit check. And there are also no minimum income or credit score requirements available online.

Before you apply, check out our list of other private student loan providers to see how Sallie Mae stacks up to the competition.


  • Available for students studying less than half time
  • Six-month grace period
  • Autopay discount available


  • Not transparent about credit requirements
  • Potentially high late fees
  • Preapproval unavailable

In this guide

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  • Best for students with good credit or a creditworthy cosigner.
  • Pick something else if you want to prequalify to see what rates you might expect.


Product details

Product Name Sallie Mae® Smart Option Student Loan for Undergraduates
Minimum Loan Amount $1,000
Max. Loan Amount Cost of attendance less financial aid
APR 4.50% to 15.49%
Interest Rate Type Variable
Fixed rate 4.50% to 14.83%
Minimum Loan Term 5 years
Maximum Loan Term 15 years
Requirements US citizens, US permanent residents and international students residing in the US with an unexpired government-issued ID and creditworthy cosigner who is a US citizen or permanent resident

First, am I eligible?

Sallie Mae doesn’t have many restrictions on who can apply for an undergraduate or graduate loan.

  • Student or cosigner at least 18 years old
  • US citizen or permanent resident
  • International student living in the US with a creditworthy US citizen or permanent resident as a cosigner

How do Sallie Mae student loans work?

Sallie Mae is a direct lender and provides a range of loans to pay for undergraduate and graduate education. You can borrow up to 100% of the school-certified cost of your education, including housing, books and tuition. Eligible students can borrow up to $200,000 with repayment terms of up to 20 years. In addition, Sallie Mae also offers loans for dental residency, medical residency and bar exams.

You also have some say in how you repay your loan through competitive fixed or variable rates. Loans come with interest rate reductions with autopay, no origination fees, deferment and helpful tools to track your financial health.

What students loans does Sallie Mae offer?

Sallie Mae student loans are designed to provide funding when your savings, scholarships and federal student aid fall short. Your wide range of loan options include:

  • Undergraduate student loans. Fund your two- or four-year degree or pay for a certificate program.
  • Career-training student loans. Pay for professional or technical training that doesn’t necessarily result in a degree.
  • Graduate and MBA student loans. Get a loan to pursue a master’s or doctorate degree with terms as long as 15 years and variable APRs of 2.12% to 11.64% with autopay discount. Typical repayment examples can be found on the provider’s site.
  • Law school loans. No yearly or lifetime amount limit means you can get up to 100% of your school-certified costs covered.
  • Health profession graduate loans. Find options customized for nursing, pharmacy and graduate medical degrees.
  • Dental and medical school loans. Fund your dental degree or other medical studies.
  • Medical and dental residency student loans. Pay for the fees that come with your residency — like exams, travel and moving costs.
  • Bar study loans for law students. Cover everyday expenses while you study for the bar exam.

Does Sallie Mae offer parent loans?

Yes, Sallie Mae offers loans for parents looking to pay for their child’s education. Like its undergraduate and graduate student loans, you can finance up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attending school less financial aid you’re eligible for. When you borrow, you’ll be able to choose from interest-only payments or full payments while your child is in school. And depending on your credit, you may qualify for a fixed APR of 5.49% to 13.87% with autopay or a variable APR of 3.37% to 12.99% with autopay.

About to finish medical school? Check out Sallie Mae’s residency relocation loans

Sallie Mae is one of only a handful of student loan providers that offers financing for career-related expenses after you leave school. Its residency relocation loans for medical and dental students cover the cost of traveling, studying for and taking board exams, as well as interviews and moving costs associated with a residency.

Final year M.D., D.O., D.V.M., V.M.D., or D.P.M. students can apply for a medical residency relocation loan and D.D.S. or D.M.D. students can apply for a dental residency relocation loan. If you’ve graduated within the past 12 months, you may still qualify.

Variable APRs range from 2.90% to 9.51% with autopay for both types of loans, and students can defer repayments for up to three years after graduation. You can apply for cosigner release after making only 12 on-time repayments in a row.

How much do Sallie Mae student loans cost?

Since none of these loans come with an origination fee or prepayment penalty, the main cost you need to worry about is interest. Sallie Mae offers the choice between variable or fixed interest rates on most of its student loan offerings.

Its undergraduate student loans have variable APRs ranging from 5.37% to 15.7% with autopay and fixed APRs ranging from 4.50% to 14.83% with autopay. Graduate students can expect a variable APR of 2.12% to 11.64% with autopay and fixed APR between 4.75% and 12.11% with autopay, although the exact APR you can expect will depend on your field and may change if you’re in an MBA, medical, dental or law program.

Does Sallie Mae offer discounts?

You can qualify for a 0.25 percentage point discount on your interest rate by signing up for automatic payments. This automatic deduction is worked into the rates shown on Sallie Mae’s website, so keep it in mind when you’re comparing lenders. If you don’t want to use automatic payments, your APR will be slightly higher.

What are my repayment options?

Your loan term and repayment options differ depending on the type of loan you borrow. For undergraduate loans, you can choose one of three repayment plans:

  • Deferred repayments. Deferring repayments until after you’re out of school can be the most affordable choice in the short term, but it’s the most expensive in the long run. Interest that accrues while you’re in school is added to your loan principal, so you’re essentially paying interest on interest.
  • Interest-only repayments. Rather than letting interest pile up while you’re in school, you can choose to pay off the interest that accumulates each month. This means you graduate with less interest and can shave thousands of dollars off the cost of your loan.
  • Small fixed repayments. Sallie Mae allows you to make $25 fixed monthly repayments while you’re in school and during your six-month grace period. See the provider’s site for typical repayment examples.

Does Sallie Mae offer deferment or forbearance?

Sallie Mae offers in-school deferment followed by a standard grace period of at least six months once you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment. You may also be eligible for deferment if you return to school or start an internship, fellowship or residency. Check with Sallie Mae to see if you qualify.

Forbearance is also available if you’re having trouble making repayments due to a job loss or other unexpected event. You can apply to postpone repayments for up to three months at a time for a total of 12 months during your loan term.

To qualify, you’ll have to meet a few requirements and make a “good faith” payment of $50 per loan toward your current balance. While it can be helpful if you hit a rough patch, remember that interest continues to accrue, so you’ll owe more on your loan when you get out of forbearance than when you started.

Top reasons to consider Sallie Mae student loans

You’ll find many benefits beyond competitive fixed and variable rates with Sallie Mae, including:

  • Autopay discount. Reduce your rate by 0.25 percentage point by signing up for autopay.
  • Deferment and forbearance available. Sallie Mae may let you hold off on repayments if you decide to go back to school, start an internship or hit a temporary financial setback.
  • Cosigner release. You can apply to take your cosigner off your loan after making 12 on-time repayments in a row, provided you meet its eligibility criteria.
  • Track your FICO score. You and your cosigner can track your FICO score online for free.

Drawbacks to borrowing from Sallie Mae

A student loan from Sallie Mae could be just what you need to fill any funding gaps, but there are a few potential drawbacks to consider:

  • Potentially high rates. Sallie Mae’s rates aren’t as competitive as what you’d find with some federal loans, especially if you have poor credit.
  • Not transparent about eligibility requirements. Unlike other lenders, Sallie Mae isn’t transparent about what credit score or minimum income you need to qualify.
  • Can’t prequalify. You’ll have to fill out a full application, which requires a hard credit check, to see what rates you qualify for — it doesn’t offer a preapproval option.

What to expect when signing up

Before you apply, confirm you and your cosigner are eligible for a loan. Then follow these steps to apply online:

  1. Visit Sallie Mae’s website and click I’m ready to apply.
  2. Select your status: Student, cosigner or parent. Follow the prompts, selecting the program you need to fund, the state your school is in and your school’s name.
  3. Select the type of loan you’re interested in and fill out information about yourself and your school.
  4. Calculate your loan amount based on the financial assistance you have, then enter the loan amount you want to borrow.
  5. Select your employment status and enter details about your employer, if applicable. If you have additional financial information or assets, provide information about them.
  6. Enter the name, phone number and relationship of two personal contacts.
  7. Select if you plan on applying individually or with a cosigner. Keep in mind that having a cosigner may increase your chances of approval.
  8. Read the electronic delivery consent form, the information about rates and the Sallie Mae privacy policy before you submit your application.

Sallie Mae will process your application, which may take a few minutes. You’ll receive details on your approval or rejection shortly after. If approved, Sallie Mae will give your more information on how to finalize your loan and the next steps you’ll need to take.

What information do I need to apply?

Have the following information on hand to speed up the application process:

  • Your complete name, residential address and Social Security number
  • Your enrollment status, course of study and degree
  • The academic period of enrollment
  • Your employer’s name and your income
  • Financial information, such as rent payments and savings
  • Details of two personal contacts other than your possible cosigner

Any cosigner needs to submit similar information with your application.

Who services Sallie Mae student loans?

Sallie Mae services its own student loans. While it has relatively few complaints compared to other student loan servicers of its size, its not without its share of problems. Some borrowers reported issues changing their repayment plan or having incorrect information show up on their credit report. You can learn more about what to expect with Sallie Mae servicing and out how to avoid these common problems with our guide.

More about Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae was founded in 1972 as the Student Loan Marketing Association to support the Guaranteed Student Loan Program set forth in the Higher Education Act of 1965. Today, it’s helped more than 35 million Americans plan, pay and save for education through flexible private loans. As of 2014, Sallie Mae only services private loans.

Unlike many banks and other lenders, it offers one of the widest selections of private student loans available. It also hosts a number of resources that help borrowers understand the student loan process and promote financial responsibility.

Check out our guide to student loans to compare other lenders and learn your options.

Frequently asked questions

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We rate student loan providers on a scale of 1 to 5 stars based on factors like transparency, costs and customer experience. We don’t take into account elements like eligibility criteria, state availability or payment frequency — we save that for our reviews.

Read Sallie Mae’s disclosures for typical repayment examples, autopay discounts, and eligibility.

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June 20, 2019

I am uncertain how this works for my daughter – would she borrow the amount she needs for all 4 years at once or just the current year of school and if its just the current year – what if she needs more in her next 3 years of school


Jeni Finder

June 20, 2019

Hi Dianne,

Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

Some applicants were able to get fund for their four-year degree program. As per this page you’re looking at, the loan varies on various factors like the student’s program, student/parent’s eligibility etc. This lender provides a range of flexible loans therefore, it is best to get in touch with them or visit their official page to learn more on their offered products. Once you decided to apply online, please make sure that you’ve read the relevant T&Cs or PDS of the loan products before making a decision and consider whether the product is right for you or your daughter.

I hope this helps.

Thank you and have a wonderful day!



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