Graduate school can be expensive — so where do you find the best private graduate student loans once you’ve exhausted other alternatives?Like undergrad, you want to first use any grant, scholarship, and fellowship money before considering loans. Then it’s time to pursue funds through federal loan programs before exploring private student loan options.Let’s compare the best private graduate student loans to see how they size up against one another.Brief Overview of Federal Options vs Private Student Loans for Graduate SchoolThere are two main solutions for funding your graduate school education when borrowing money. First, the federal direct and PLUS loan programs that are funded by the US Department of Education and, second, private student loans from the consumer marketplace.Similar to undergrad, you will get the same advice to exhaust your federal loan options before accessing the private lending market. This is a good rule of thumb, since the federal program carries a more impressive list of benefits, borrower protections, and repayment options.However, on the downside, as of July 2022 federal direct unsubsidized graduate school loans have an origination fee of over 1% and PLUS loans have an origination fee of over 4%.Private loans don’t have application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties.Federal Direct Unsubsidized Graduate School LoansLike all federal loans, direct unsubsidized graduate school loans are obtained through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process. Here are more details on federal direct unsubsidized graduate school loans:You can borrow up to $20,500 annually and $138,500 in total (which includes undergraduate loans).Federal loans tend to have lower interest rates set by CongressIt’s good to exhaust direct unsubsidized loans before PLUS loans since they have lower fees and interest ratesFederal loans are not credit-based and don’t require a cosigner, so they’re good for graduate students who have minimal credit history or a low credit score.These loans offer the same interest rate to everyone regardless of financial history.The loans have an origination fee of 1.057% as of July 2022 (as set by Congress).Loan terms are 10 to 25 years (based on repayment plan).You must be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible.Forbearance is available in some circumstances for up to three years.Federal Grad PLUS LoansAnother federal loan option for graduate school is Federal Grad PLUS loans. Here are some key features of Grad PLUS Loans:Higher interest rates and fees than direct unsubsidized federal loans.You can borrow more money – possibly up to the total cost of your degree, minus any other aid received.PLUS loans are good as a supplement once you have reached the maximum for direct unsubsidized loans.The loans have an origination fee of 4.228%.PLUS loans require a credit check.Loan terms are 10 to 25 years (based on repayment plan).Forbearance is available in some circumstances for up to three years.Federal Health Professions Student LoansFor those pursuing graduate work in healthcare, federal health professions student loans include the following benefits:They are primarily for physicians, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, and veterinarians.To qualify, you will have to demonstrate financial need.Other eligible degree programs include advanced nursing and paraprofessional degrees, like Nurse Practitioners, as well as Physician’s Assistants.Offers competitive interest rates.Loans offer a 12-month grace period following graduation.May cover up to the cost of attendance, less any other loans or sources of funding.Not eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness or income-driven repayment plans unless consolidated into a direct loan.Private Student LoansIn the next section, we will review specific private student loan benefits by company, including any pros and cons. Here are some attributes common to all private lenders:No hard credit check to see your rates. They only pull a ‘soft credit’ history which will not negatively affect your credit score.No pre-payment penalties.No application or origination fees.Most private student loan lenders offer both fixed and variable rates.Comparing Private Student Loans for Graduate SchoolWhen considering private student loans for graduate school, it’s important to compare the pros and cons, as well as to understand each company’s unique programs, benefits, and special offers. From there, you can obtain pre-qualified rate quotes from lenders to determine your best option.Read on for an overview of the top private student loan lenders to see which programs meet your needs.College AveTerms:Available terms include 5, 8, 10, and 15 yearsFixed and variable ratesLoan limit up to the total cost of attendancePros:Loans available if attending less than half-time (which is good if you work full-time and only take a class or two each term)Minimum credit score requirement in the mid-600sUp to 12 months of forbearance in three-month incrementsInternational students can qualify with a cosigner$150 cash bonus upon graduationCons:Loan servicing is done by a third partyNo clear forbearance policy; awarded case-by-caseRepayment term before cosigner release could be shorterAscentTerms:Available terms include 7, 10, 12, 15 and 20 yearsFixed and variable rates availableMaximum loan amount of $400,000ProsAllows cosignersOffers non-cosigned outcomes-based loans, which consider GPA, major, school and other non-credit factors to determine eligibilityUp to 24 months of forbearance possible in three-month increments1% cash back reward after graduationForbearance up to 12 months for financial hardship three months at a timeInternational and DACA students can qualify with a cosignerConsMust be enrolled at least half-timeCosigner release not available to international studentsEarnestTerms:Available terms include 5, 7, 10, 12, and 15 yearsFixed and variable rates availableLoan limit up to the total cost of attendanceProsAbility to skip one payment per yearForbearance available for up to 12 months9-month grace period following graduationMust be in school at least half-timeInternational students can qualify with a cosignerNo late feesIn-house loan servicing from start to finishConsNo cosigner release, refinance needed to drop a cosignerELFITerms:Available terms include 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 yearsFixed and variable rates availableLoan limit up to the total cost of attendance for the requested academic periodPros:Excellent customer service with weekend hoursDedicated Personal Loan Advisor to guide you through the loan processForbearance up to 12 months with financial hardship or medical issueAllows greater than minimum payments via autopayNo application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penaltiesCons:No cosigner release availableMust be enrolled at least half-timeCustom ChoiceTerms:Loan terms 7, 10, or 15 yearsFixed and variable rate loans availableLoan limit is $99,000 annually, up to $180,000 totalPros:2% graduation reward through principal reductionReturning borrower advantage program makes it easier to apply for a new loan if you have already been approved by Custom ChoiceFlexible repayment options (deferred, flat payments, interest only, and immediate repayment)Allows biweekly payments and greater than minimum payments via autopayEligible for cosigner release after 36 consecutive, on-time payments if you meet eligibility criteria on your ownAvailable to students enrolled less than half-timeCons:No specific eligibility requirements provided up frontHow to Find the Best Private Graduate Student Loans for Your CircumstancesNow that you know a bit about the various lenders that want to compete for your business, let’s talk about how to find the best deal for your private graduate student loan.Rather than go to each lender’s site and fill out a separate quote application, you can visit our rate comparison page to get pre-qualified offers from several lenders.All you do is enter some basic information about yourself and your cosigner (if you are using one) like your demographic information, income, school you are attending, and degree program.After submitting the form, you’ll undergo a soft credit pull (which has no impact on your credit score) and receive offers from multiple lenders at once, making it easy to compare options.