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Wednesday, June 29th
SoFi got its start back in 2011 as an alumni-funded lending model founded by Stanford business school students, and in 2012 they became the first company offering refinancing options for both federal and private student loans. SoFi launched its own student loans program in 2019, with the goal of helping students cover educational costs more easily. Across all of their financial products, which include personal loans, mortgages, and even crypto, SoFi has over two million members and more than $50 billion in funded loans. This is clearly a company that knows how to lend money!
Broad eligibility requirements
Most students will qualify for a loan with SoFi. Residents of all 50 states and DC are eligible for SoFi loans, which range from basic undergraduate studies to graduate programs, medical school, and so on. You also only have to be enrolled half-time (or more): a big plus over lenders that require full-time enrollment to get a loan. However, students enrolled in associate's degree programs aren't eligible for student loans here.
Minimum loan of $5,000, no fees
You can borrow up to 100% of your school-certified attendance costs, which covers everything from tuition and books to room and board, travel, and laptops or other necessary equipment. The minimum loan amount, regardless of the type of student loan (i.e. undergraduate, graduate, dental school, etc.) is $5,000. We love that this provider charges absolutely no fees: you'll never be charged for applying, for your loan's origination, or even for an "insufficient funds" situation.
No credit score impact to check your rates
Checking your loan rates won't affect your credit score, but you'll need to create an account to see them. The process will ask you for your contact information, your date of birth and citizenship, whether you're applying as a student/parent/cosigner, your school and estimated graduation date, year in school, and several other details. (As an aside, it was interesting to see how much SoFi had funded for different schools: over $30 million to students and alumni of University of Central Florida, over $260 million for Harvard students, and so on.) We encourage you to go through this process to find all of the rates and options you prequalify for. In our case, on a $12,000 loan, we were given fixed-rate loan offers and variable-rate loan offers that seemed to be on the higher side (despite having a credit score of 800+ and sufficient income).
Many combinations of loan types and repayment terms
SoFi's student loans have terms of 5, 7, 10 or 15 years. You'll typically choose among four repayment plans on student loans here: full immediate repayment, interest-only payments while in school, fixed $25/month payments while in school, or no payments while in school and up to 6 months after graduation. SoFi makes it easy to see every possible combination of rates, interest rates, and repayment terms until you're left with a list just with the student loans that best match your needs.
Get perks that help you succeed
SoFi student loans come with an attractive array of perks. You'll get the 0.25% autopay discount offered by most lenders, but if you're a SoFi member with another product (like auto insurance or investment accounts) you'll get an additional discount on the interest rate on your student loan. Also, SoFi has several partners, like Grammarly, Coursera and Evernote; you'll get 3-6 months of access to those services with your loan. That demonstrates an admirable commitment to student success that goes above and beyond what many financial institutions offer.
Some mixed feedback about loans
How about reputation? Because SoFi has so many financial products, including several types of loans, most client feedback isn't limited strictly to educational funding. Overall, SoFi is about average. They've got an "A+" with the Better Business Bureau but no accreditation; that could be related to the number of complaints filed there (150 over the last 12 months alone) or the fact that there was an FTC action that wasn't resolved until 2019. The majority of the negative comments on the BBB site mention frozen accounts, missing referral bonuses, or delays in disbursing loan funds. Going beyond the BBB listing, we found students who said that loans were funded slowly (up to six weeks) and that interest rates were much higher than rival lenders' - and higher than what students expected based on the rates advertised while going through the prequalification process. That lines up with our experience as well.
Good enough for most students
SoFi winds up with a better-than-average rating, mostly because they offer so many possible combinations of loan types and repayment terms, and because their student loans are available even to students who aren't enrolled in school full-time. However, SoFi's higher-than-most interest rates and somewhat lackluster client feedback keep this lender from earning the best ranking among providers of educational loans.
With 45% of high school graduates finding it necessary to take on student debt to finance their higher learning, that's an important question to answer. While most student loan debt comes from federal loans, some people discover that their government loans just aren't enough to cover the full costs of tuition, room and board, expensive textbooks, and everything else necessary for their college education.
If you find yourself in that situation - for your studies or your children's - you might get overwhelmed trying to figure out where the money will come from. And even once you've selected a lender, you still need to decide what repayment terms are best. Fixed- or variable-rate? Interest-only or small fixed repayments while still in school or fully deferred for 6-9 months after graduation? Repaying over five years or twenty? There are a lot of factors to consider that are unique to you.
Fortunately, there are quite a few providers of student loans that can help you not only figure out those answers but also connect you with the money you need to pay for school. Many of them can even prequalify you for a loan with just your name, address and birthdate, with no impact on your credit report. Rest assured that millions of students (and many of their parents) have successfully navigated this process - and you can too.
Here are several aspects of student loan providers to keep in mind as you decide which ones merit further consideration:
To help you get the funds you need for your education, TopConsumerReviews.com has evaluated and ranked the best options for student loans today. We're confident that this information will make it possible to find the right way to cover the costs of your tuition, books and more!
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