Sallie Mae Student Loans: 2021 Review

Courtesy of Sallie Mae
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Sallie Mae is one of the more well-known student loan companies out there, offering private loans for undergraduates and graduates in a variety of degree programs. While it doesn’t offer student loan refinancing, its college planning tools put it a cut above competitors in terms of the borrowing experience as a whole. With scholarships, college planning calculators and educational articles, not to mention competitive rates, Sallie Mae is a good choice for new student loan borrowers looking for a well-rounded lender.

Sallie Mae features

Sallie Mae’s private student loan offerings include undergraduate, MBA, medical school, medical residency, dental school, dental residency, health professions, law school, bar study and graduate school loans. It also offers career training student loans and parent loans.

Low rates, few fees and flexible repayment options make this lender worth considering. Sallie Mae can cover up to 100 percent of your school-certified costs of attendance, and you may be able to take advantage of extra benefits — like four months of free Chegg study help.

Sallie Mae student loan snapshot

Loan types Undergraduate, graduate, MBA, medical, medical residency, dental, dental residency, health professions, law, bar study, career training, parent
Loan amounts $1,000 to 100% of total cost of attendance
Interest rates Undergraduate: 1.14% to 11.23% variable APR, 3.50% to 12.60% fixed APR (with autopay)
Graduate: 2.12% to 11.64% variable APR, 4.75% to 12.11% fixed APR (with autopay)
Repayment terms Undergraduate: 10 to 15 years
Graduate: 15 to 20 years
Grace period 6 months to 3 years
Co-signer required? No

Pros and cons of Sallie Mae student loans

Here are a few of the positives and negatives you should be aware of before applying for a Sallie Mae student loan.


  • Large loan amounts: You could get 100 percent of your school-certified costs covered at an approved school or institution.
  • No origination fees: Sallie Mae doesn’t charge any origination fees, which can save thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.
  • Educational resources: Sallie Mae supports students at multiple points in their educational journey, with free study help and college expense calculators available to current and prospective borrowers.
  • Variety of programs supported: Most lenders require you to be attending school at least half time, but Sallie Mae offers loans for students attending less than half time, students attending online or summer classes, students studying abroad and students enrolled in professional certification courses.


  • Limited forbearance: Sallie Mae’s forbearance is limited to 12 months, shorter than what some other lenders offer.
  • Website lacks transparency: Sallie Mae doesn’t list many eligibility requirements, like a minimum credit score, on its website.

Sallie Mae student loan requirements

Qualification requirements to take out a loan vary by loan type, and Sallie Mae’s website is scarce on exact requirements. In general, borrowers must have a history of borrowing money and paying it back on time; if you don’t have a lot of credit to your name, you can also apply with a creditworthy co-signer. You also must be applying for a loan from an eligible school, which you can see by starting an application.

Sallie Mae accepts applications from students attending:

  • Full time, half time or less than half time.
  • Online or on-campus classes.
  • Winter or summer classes.
  • Study abroad.
  • Professional certification courses.
  • School in a foreign country.

Non-U.S. citizens residing in and attending school in the U.S. may also qualify for a loan if they have a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Who is this loan good for?

Sallie Mae is a great option for those interested in borrowing from a well-established lender with low rates, few fees and a variety of loan options. Borrowers with more unique educational needs, like funds for an online certification course, may have more luck finding a loan with Sallie Mae than with similar lenders.

Interest rates and terms

Sallie Mae offers one discount of 0.25 percent if you enroll in autopay. The rates presented below include this discount:

Loan product Variable rate Fixed rate
Undergraduate student loans 1.25% to 11.35% APR 3.50% to 12.60% APR
Graduate student loans 2.25% to 11.76% APR 4.75% to 12.11% APR
MBA student loans 2.25% to 11.76% APR 4.75% to 12.11% APR
Health profession student loans 2.25% to 11.76% APR 4.75% to 12.11% APR
Law school student loans 2.25% to 11.61% APR 4.75% to 11.98% APR
Medical residency student loans 3.03% to 9.62% APR 6.52% to 12.00% APR
Bar exam student loans 3.02% to 9.96% APR 5.75% to 12.68% APR
Career training student loans 4.25% to 11.64% APR 6.62% to 13.83% APR
Parent loans 3.50% to 13.12% APR 5.49% to 13.87% APR
Medical school student loans 2.25% to 11.60% APR 4.75% to 11.97% APR
Dental residency student loans 3.03% to 9.62% APR 6.52% to 12.00% APR

Fees and penalties

There’s no origination fee, application fee or prepayment penalty with loans from Sallie Mae. It will, however, charge a late payment fee of 5 percent of the past-due amount up to $25 and a returned check fee of up to $20.

What are repayment terms and grace period for Sallie Mae?

Undergraduate, graduate, MBA, health professions, dental school, medical school and law school student loans offer three main repayment options:

  • Deferred: With the deferred option, you make no payments while in school and during the grace period after leaving school. After that period of time, you pay principal and interest.
  • Fixed: The fixed option requires you to pay $25 per month while you’re in school and during the grace period.
  • Interest: With the interest-only option, you pay only the interest on your loan while you’re in school and during the grace period. After that period, you pay interest and principal on your loan.

Undergraduate, graduate, MBA and health profession loans have a six-month grace period. Law school loans have a nine-month grace period, dental school loans have a 12-month grace period and medical school loans have a 36-month grace period.

Parent student loans have slightly different options — you can either pay principal and interest while your student is in school or elect to pay only interest while your student is in school for up to 48 months.

Bar study loans have the option of deferred repayment while you’re in school at least half time and during the nine-month grace period. Medical and dental residency loans increase this grace period to three years if you remain enrolled at least half time.

Customer service

Sallie Mae gets an “A+” rating from the Better Business Bureau, the highest possible grade. The rating takes into account complaint history and whether the business has appropriately responded to complaints, resolved them in a timely manner and made a good faith effort to resolve those complaints.

Sallie Mae’s customer service department is available via phone or mail. New student loan customers may call 855-756-5626 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET Monday through Thursday or from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET on Fridays.

How to apply for a loan with Sallie Mae

Though Sallie Mae has several different loan options, the process for applying is generally the same across the board. Primary borrowers or co-signers can start the application process through the lender’s website.

In order to get started, you’ll need your address, Social Security number, school information (field of study, enrollment status and degree), period of enrollment, requested loan amount, employment information and financial information, as well as two personal contacts and any financial aid or scholarships you’ll be receiving.

Here are the main steps to apply for a loan through Sallie Mae:

  1. Start the process on Sallie Mae’s website. After clicking “Apply for a Loan,” you’ll provide your loan purpose, school information, name, Social Security number and contact information.
  2. Complete the loan application. Answer questions and information about the loan amount desired, employment info, financial aid info and personal contacts.
  3. Add a co-signer if needed. You can choose to add a co-signer or apply on your own. Sallie Mae will review your credit history after you submit your application.
  4. Finish the loan process. After you complete the application, Sallie Mae might request additional info. If approved, you’ll choose a variable or fixed interest rate option and repayment option. Co-signers will need to accept the terms and sign as well. Your eligibility will be certified with your school.

What to do if your application gets turned down

Contact the lender and ask for the reason why you were rejected for a loan. It could be that there was a processing error, or it could be that your credit isn’t strong enough. Either way, it’s important to know why your application was turned down so you can correct those errors before applying with other lenders.

Remember, there are plenty of lenders offering student loans, and they are competing for your business. Discover, LendKey and SoFi, for example, all offer competitive rates, low fees and a variety of student loan options.

It’s important to shop around for the best deal. Getting a lower interest rate can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

How Bankrate rates Sallie Mae

Overall Score 4.3
Repayment Options 4.6
Affordability 3.8
Customer Experience 4.5

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the lender’s website for the most current information.

Written by
Hanneh Bareham
Student loans reporter
Hanneh Bareham specializes in everything related to student loans and helping you finance your next educational endeavor. She aims to help others reach their collegiate and financial goals through making student loans easier to understand.