Should I Get a Federal or a Private Student Loan?

Paying for college can be difficult because the cost is so high, and it can also be hard to understand. There’s a ton of terminology like loans, grants, scholarships, financial aid, file the FAFSA, etc. to learn about as well. If you are paying for college on your own, the entire process can be even more daunting. That being said, have no fear! There are a variety of resources throughout our site to help you. This post specifically focuses on explaining and detailing whether you should get federal or private student loans. Additionally, we discuss which one might be the best for you as an individual since each person has different financial needs. 

A jar of coins with four coins scattered on the side.

Federal Student Loan

So, what is a federal student loan? These loans are given through the US Department of Education to students, as long as they themselves (or their parents) meet certain requirements for. Federal student loans have a fixed interest rate. That interest rate itself is often lower than interest rates connected to private loans. You do not necessarily have to have someone to cosign your loan. There are a variety of ways you can go about paying off these loans when you have finished college. Who knows, you may also be eligible for a loan forgiveness program. However, that depends on the industry you end up working in after graduating college. This is not all-encompassing but hopefully helps to give you a better understanding of what a federal student loan is.

Private Student Loan

A private student loan, on the other hand, can be any loan that is not offered through the federal government. These loans often do not have a fixed interest rate, meaning the amount that you will have to pay back can raise. Banks, credit unions, and other lenders are the people giving out these loans. A private student loan also has fewer options for how you can pay back the loans. It has fewer options to reduce or forgive them, either. Similar to federal loans, you and/or your family will likely have to meet certain requirements to even qualify for receiving a private loan.

Your Student Loan, Your Way.

Variable rates from 6.00% - 14.22% APR


So Which One?

While every student’s situation will vary, all students should really consider taking out a federal loan first, before taking out private loans. The federal student loan gives students much more flexibility and stability, through multiple repayments, reductions, and forgiveness options, and fixed interest rates. Private student loans could be considered riskier. Your interest rate is likely to go up and how you repay the loans is set in a tougher stone.

While this article has hopefully helped you gain a better understanding of the difference between federal and private student loans, we do have more articles on student loans that can be found on our site. Check out and browse our site for any of your other concerns. Be sure to use our college match tool to find the best schools for you, and see your personalized net price estimate for each school in the country.


Lender Rates (APR) Eligibility
Citizens logo.
5.98%-16.48%* Variable
4.39%-15.46%* Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Sallie Mae logo.
5.37% - 15.70% Variable
4.15% - 15.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Credibe company logo.
5.37% - 16.85% Variable
4.04% - 16.69% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Lendkey company logo.
5.98% - 13.74% Variable
3.99% - 12.61% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Ascent company logo.
5.99% - 15.85% Variable
3.79% - 15.41% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
6.54% - 11.08% Variable
3.70% - 8.24% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Earnest company logo.
5.62% - 16.85% Variable
4.17% - 16.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
6.00% - 14.22% Variable
4.50% - 14.22% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
College Raptor is not a loan lender and does not assume responsibility for suggesting a loan to a user who may not be eligible for it. Rates, terms, conditions, eligibility, approval, and other considerations are the decisions of the lenders and may vary depending on which lender or marketplace the user selects. We urge users to carefully consider and review all loan options and terms before committing to taking out a loan.

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