Friday, June 14College Admissions News

SoFi Student Loan Review – Student Loan Hero

Social Finance — more commonly known as SoFi — became the first company to refinance both federal and private student loans in 2012 and has remained an industry leader. More recently, in 2019, the online lender began providing student loans for current students and their parents.

While sometimes restrictive with its eligibility requirements, SoFi reviews and improves its products to reward members with competitive interest rates, a high degree of repayment flexibility and unique, company-exclusive benefits.

SoFi student loan refinance review

SoFi is one of the largest student loan refinancing companies in the industry. The online lender has refinanced over $30 billion worth of student loans for more than 375,000 members, while delivering many features not offered by banks, credit unions and other traditional lenders.

SoFi student loan refinancing is a good fit for borrowers with an associate’s degree or higher who seek a lower interest rate on their debt, while also maintaining access to a bevy of loan repayment options, including deferment and forbearance. It’s less advantageous, however, for borrowers who want to combine student loan debt with their spouse.

SoFi student loan refinance review: The basics

SoFi’s approach to refinancing student loans is different from those of many other lenders. Along with competitive repayment terms, the company also offers career support and wealth management services to its members. With these perks, SoFi offers you an opportunity for more than just repaying your student loans.

Here are some other features of a SoFi refinancing loan:

  • Check your eligibility, rates without submitting to a hard credit check
  • APR starting at 1.74% for variable loans and 3.49% for fixed loans
  • 0.25% interest rate discount if you enroll in AutoPay
  • Repayment terms of Up to 20
  • Deferment and forbearance option for those who experience financial hardship, endure disability rehabilitation, go back to school or serve in the military
  • No origination fees or prepayment penalties
  • Minimum loan amount of $5,000, with no maximum borrowing amount
  • Loan discharge in the case of the borrower’s permanent disability or death

SoFi also offers an additional benefit for medical and dental residents: They can refinance and make affordable $100 monthly payments for up to four years (although residency location loans aren’t eligible for SoFi refinancing).

APRs ● Fixed APR rates: 3.49% – 7.99%
● Variable APR rates: 1.74% – 7.99%
Basics ● Prequalify and check rates without affecting your credit
● Borrow as little as $5,000 and as much as your cost of attendance
Eligibility ● Be at least 18 years old (or your respective state’s age of majority)
● Citizenship, permanent resident or holder of one of several eligible visas
○ Nonpermanent residents must show valid documentation demonstrating that their immigration status is current
● Debt must be from a Title IV accredited college or university
● Completed associate’s degree or higher
● Employed or proof that your employment will start in the next 90 days
Applying ● Option to apply with a cosigner
● No application or origination fees
Repayment ● Standard six-month grace period
● No prepayment penalties
● Reduce your interest rate by 0.25 percentage points if you enroll in autopay
● Three in-school repayment options, including full deferment
● Repayment term option: Up to 20
● Release your cosigner after 24 months of prompt payments and meeting other criteria (however, cosigner release is not available for borrowers with loans disbursed prior to May 1, 2019)
Support ● SoFi offers deferments and forbearances in cases of financial hardship, disability rehabilitation, returning to school or military service
● Forgiveness offered in the case of the primary borrower’s death or permanent disability

What to like about SoFi refinance for student loans

As you can see from our research and other SoFi reviews, the lender is one of the leading student loan refinancers in the country — and it’s not hard to see why. Here are some of the advantages you may find at SoFi.

Accessible to associate’s degree-holders

Unlike many student loan refinancing companies, SoFi doesn’t insist on a bachelor’s degree for you to qualify — an associate’s degree is all that’s needed.

If you’re an associate’s degree-holder currently combing through this and other SoFi reviews, keep in mind that other lenders will work with you too. Splash Financial is among lenders willing to refinance for borrowers with an associate’s degree.

Deferment and forbearance options

Not all refinancing lenders allow you to temporarily pause your payments through student loan deferment. However, SoFi reviews your situation generously and allows you, for example, to defer your loans while in graduate school, as long as you’re enrolled at least half time. Similarly, you can defer your loans for active duty military service or if you are on disability rehabilitation.

Here are all the types of deferment and forbearance made available by SoFi student loan servicer MOHELA:

Deferment Forbearance
● Returning to school
● Disability rehabilitation training
● Unemployment
● Economic hardship
● Military service
● Residency or internship deferment
● Unemployment
● Economic hardship
● Military mobilization
● Natural disaster
● National emergency (i.e. COVID-19)

Notes, however, that interest will still accrue during deferment or forbearance, and your loan will be reamortized to adjust for this.

What you need to begin the refinancing process with SoFi
● Information regarding your original student loans (e.g., servicer, amount of debt)
● Documents verifying your income (e.g., W-2, tax documents)
● Contact information (e.g., name, email, phone number)
● A credit score and history that meets SoFi’s requirements

Possible to transfer parent PLUS Loans

If you’re a parent who took out parent PLUS loans or private loans to pay for your child’s education, SoFi has available solutions for you, too. It offers refinancing services for parent loans, helping you manage the debt you took on to help your child.

In addition, your child could refinance your parent PLUS Loans into their name — so long as they’re the primary applicant. Transferring parent loans to your child is also possible with other refinancing lenders, including Laurel Road.

Repayment benefits for medical, dental school residents

If you’re a doctor- or dentist-in-training and want to keep your loan costs low, SoFi probably sounds like the real deal. By refinancing with them, you could:

Be sure to run the numbers to understand how these lower payments will increase the overall cost of your loan (interest wouldn’t compound, but it would accrue). In addition, look into competing lenders with similar options to SoFi’s: Splash Financial, for example, promises $100 payments during your residency or fellowship and for six months afterward.

Career coaching, wealth management among unique perks

When you refinance with SoFi loans, you get access to free career coaching. You can schedule one-on-one sessions with career coaches and get help setting career goals, learn about personal branding and even receive tips for creating or improving your resume.

This career strategy also comes into play as part of the lender’s job loss protection program. If you lose your job and enter your loans into forbearance, you could use the career strategy services offered by SoFi. The company is invested in getting you back on your feet so you can comfortably manage your student loan debt.

Not only can you get help with your career, but SoFi also offers its members access to wealth planning services. Through a combination of digital and person-to-person advising, you can set money goals and get help achieving those goals.

SoFi’s investment services help you manage your student loans and build wealth through tools like diversification, portfolio selection and automatic rebalancing of your investments.

What to keep in mind about SoFi refinance for student loans

Even though SoFi is a respected lender, there are some potential disadvantages, depending on your financial situation. Here’s what you should know.

Vague about credit requirements

While SoFi outlines other criteria needed to qualify for a student loan refinance, the lender isn’t so clear about what kind of credit score borrowers will need. Instead, SoFi merely specifies that various factors will be considered, including your credit score, financial history and debt-to-income ratio. You may not qualify to refinance student loans if you have a low credit score.

What is a “good or excellent” credit score?
FICO®’s credit score ranges include:
Good: 670-739
Very good: 740-799
Exceptional: 800-plus
Still not sure about the strength of your application? Take our student loan refinancing eligibility quiz.

If you’ve had credit problems in the past, you can increase your chances of approval by adding a cosigner to your SoFi loan. A qualified student loan cosigner can improve your chances of becoming eligible — and help you get a better interest rate. However, it can also add time to the student loan refinancing process.

No cosigner release for loans disbursed prior to May 1, 2019

While SoFi does allow for cosigner release, this does not apply to refinanced or in-school student loans that were disbursed before May 1, 2019. However, if your loans were disbursed after this date, you may apply for cosigner release once you’ve made 24 consecutive payments on time.

Degree required for refinance

What if you attended school, but didn’t complete your degree? Unfortunately, SoFi student loan refinancing won’t be an option for you.

Unless you have at least an associate’s degree, you won’t qualify for refinancing with this lender.

With that said, not all lenders require a diploma. At Citizens Bank, for example, you could be eligible to refinance without a degree if you’ve made at least a year’s worth of timely payments since leaving campus.

No spousal consolidation loans

SoFi doesn’t provide the option for you and your spouse to combine student loan debt, which some couples see as a route to a simpler repayment.

If combining your debt with your spouse could simplify monthly bills, or even lower your interest rate, check out competing lenders with this option — PenFed Credit Union is one such among them.

Refinancing federal student loans always poses a risk

While refinancing could offer you a lower interest rate, note that you will lose certain borrower protections if you refinance federal student loans. Because the federal government doesn’t currently offer refinancing, any refinancing — including through SoFi — will turn your federal loans into private loans.

As a result, you won’t qualify for income-driven repayment plans or federal student loan forgiveness programs after you refinance with SoFi. If you’re trying to get forgiveness or worried that you might need an income-based repayment plan, it may not make sense to refinance your student loans.

How SoFi student loan refinance compares

Before settling on one lender, it’s wise to compare SoFi vs. Earnest or SoFi vs. Citizens Bank, among other competing lenders.

Imagine receiving different refinancing offers from three or four companies — you’d be in a better position to choose the best overall loan.

SoFi Earnest Citizens Bank
SLH rating 4.8/5 4.5/5 4.6/5
Products ● Student loan refinancing
● Parent PLUS loan refinancing
● Medical resident refinancing
● Law and MBA refinancing
● Student loan refinancing
● Parent PLUS loan refinancing
● Student loan refinancing
Eligibility requirements ● Good or excellent credit score
● No minimum income
● Nonpermanent residents without eligibles visas can apply with a citizen or permanent resident cosigner
● Associate’s degree or higher
● 650 minimum credit score (700 if you didn’t graduate)
● Employment, consistent income
● Be at least 18 years old
● U.S. citizenship or permanent residency
● 700 credit score
● $24,000 income
● Citizenship, permanent residency or have a Social Security number
● Bachelor’s or advanced degree
● Associate degree-holders and nongraduates must make 12 monthly payments before applying
APRs Variable starting at 1.74% and fixed starting at 3.49% Variable starting at 1.74% and fixed starting at 2.99% Variable starting at 1.99% and fixed starting at 2.99%
Minimum loan amount $5,000 $5,000 $10,000
Repayment terms available Up to 20 years Up to 20 years Up to 20 years
Apply with a cosigner Yes No Yes

Is refinancing student loans with SoFi right for you?

To sum up our SoFi review, the lender might be a good choice if you:

  • Can show consistent monthly income and comfortably afford the payments
  • Have a good-to-excellent credit score
  • Don’t plan to use income-driven repayment or federal student loan forgiveness on your federal loans
  • Have higher interest rates on your current student loans than what SoFi offers
  • Want access to program perks like career coaching and wealth management

As you can see from our SoFi review, these loans come with many perks and advantages that student loan borrowers could benefit from.

But before you choose to work with SoFi, compare top student loan refinancing options. Carefully considering your circumstances and financial needs as you decide whether student loan refinancing can potentially save you a good deal of money in the long run.

How to apply for refinancing with SoFi

If you’re interested in refinancing your student loans with SoFi, you’ll be able to check your rates without going through a hard-credit check. To begin the application, you’ll need to provide the following:

  • Your basic information
  • Your contact information
  • Your refinancing goal
  • Information on your current loan(s)
  • Information regarding your income
  • Your credit score

From there, SoFi can provide you with an initial answer as to whether you qualify to refinance your student loans and what kind of rates you may receive. From there, you’ll need to verify your information and income with SoFi.

Once this is verified, you’ll have to officially accept the offer from SoFi. Afterward, your funds will be disbursed.

SoFi student loans review

Since its April 2019 student loan product launch, SoFi has promised a seamless prequalification process to go along with competitive rates for undergraduate, graduate and professional students, as well as parent borrowers.

SoFi student loans are a good fit for borrowers enrolled at least half time who have good credit (or a cosigner who does) and value repayment flexibility while in school and after graduation. The lender’s slow-moving cosigner release policy, however, is a shortcoming.

SoFi student loans reviews: The basics

Like other online-only lenders looking to disrupt the student loan market, SoFi offers a wide range of loan and repayment options.

APRs ● Undergraduate loans: 3.22% – 12.30% (fixed); 2.01% – 13.29% (variable)
● Graduate loans: 4.35% – 12.30% (fixed); 2.71% – 13.29% (variable)
● Law and MBA loans: 4.43% – 11.01% (fixed); 2.64% – 11.77% (variable)
● Parent loans:4.23% – 12.80% (fixed); 1.80% – 13.79% (variable)
Basics ● Prequalify and check rates without affecting your credit
● Borrow as little as $1,000 and as much as your cost of attendance
Eligibility ● Must be at least 18 years old or the age of majority in their state of residence (if not, cosigner that is age of majority is required)
● Must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or nonpermanent resident (such as DACA recipients and asylum seekers; )
● Borrower or cosigner must be employed or have income
● Loan must be used at an eligible institution
● Loan must be used for undergraduate, graduate, law or MBA degrees (not available for associate degrees)
● Must be enrolled at least half time
● Must meet academic standards (certified by school)
Applying ● Option to apply with a cosigner
● No application, origination or other fees
● No late fees
Repayment ● Standard six-month grace period
● No prepayment penalties
● Reduce your interest rate by 0.25 percentage points if you enroll in autopay
● Three in-school repayment options, as well as full deferment
● Repayment term option: 5, 10, 15 years
● Release your cosigner after 24 months of prompt payments (and meeting other criteria)
Support ● SoFi offers economic hardship deferments and discretionary forbearances whether you’re going back to school or experiencing financial hardship
● Forgiveness offered only the case of the primary borrower’s death

What to like about SoFi student loans

SoFi reviews and updates its loan product continuously and has done exactly that since its 2019 launch. As of April 2022, here are the primary advantages of borrowing from this lender.

Competitive interest rates and zero fees

Competitive rates make SoFi worthy of your attention. With strong credit, student and parent borrowers may be able to score lower rates here than with other top-ranked private lenders.

Undergraduate Graduate Law/MBA Parent
Fixed* 3.22% – 12.30% 4.35% – 12.30% 4.43% – 11.01% 4.23% – 12.80%
Variable* 2.01%– 13.29% 2.71% – 13.29% 2.64% – 11.77% 3.65% – 11.25%

Aside from low fixed and variable rates, other hallmarks of SoFi student loans revolve around the application process, company-exclusive programs and lack of fees.

SoFi doesn’t charge origination or application fees, nor does it charge prepayment penalties or late fees. For instance, those who take out the SoFi parent loan can skip the fees that are typically associated with other parent loans — such as the parent PLUS loan, which charges a one-time loan fee of 4.228%.

Prequalify without harming your credit

As you shop around, understand the differences between a soft and hard credit check. A hard check can ding your credit score (mildly) when you apply for a student loan.

However, SoFi allows you to prequalify, submitting to only a soft check that won’t harm your credit. The company says you could be approved and check rates within three minutes.

And if you elect to proceed, you can complete the more formal student loan application process from your smartphone. You would take and upload pictures of your required documents and sign your application electronically.

Keep in mind that while the preapproval process takes minutes, the timeline for your more formal loan application could span four to six weeks, depending on your school.

Variety of in-school repayment options

Making in-school loan payments, when possible, is always beneficial. And for its part, SoFi makes it more possible for its members.

The lender provides borrowers with four in-school repayment options:

1. Deferred Wait until after your six-month, post-graduation grace period to begin making full payments.
2. Interest only Submit interest-only payments while you’re enrolled to ensure your balance doesn’t grow until you leave school.
3. Partial Send along $25 payments every month to avoid seeing your balance balloon while you’re busy studying.
4. Immediate Start fully repaying your loan as soon as it’s disbursed, putting you in the best possible position to end your debt ahead of schedule.
Note: Parents borrowing on behalf of students are limited to the interest only and immediate repayment options.

Many ways to pause repayment

When you borrow federal student loans, you enjoy government-exclusive perks like income-driven repayment that can keep you afloat if you struggle to make payments after leaving school. Unfortunately, IDR is rare or nonexistent among private lenders.

However, SoFi does offer a collection of perks that you’d be hard-pressed to find among some other private lenders. Most notably, its company-wide unemployment protection program would allow you to postpone your monthly payments for a total of up to 12 months (for three months at a time) if you lost your job involuntarily.

Other deferment and forbearance options available through SoFi student loan servicer MOHELA include:

Deferment Forbearance
● Returning to school
● Disability rehabilitation training
● Unemployment
● Economic hardship
● Military service
● Unemployment
● Economic hardship
● Military mobilization
● Natural disaster
● National emergency (i.e. COVID-19)

Unique SoFi membership perks

Less specific to student loan repayment, SoFi’s other member perks are even more unique:

  • Career services: Whether or not you’re unemployed, being a SoFi borrower entitles you to one-on-one career coaching sessions at no charge.
  • Financial planning: Schedule free sessions with a certified financial planner to discuss your loans or other money-related goals.

Other member benefits include referral bonuses, shopping discounts and networking opportunities.

Can’t find a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or permanent resident cosigner? Prodigy Finance is among lenders assisting international student borrowers
Not attending an eligible degree-granting school? Check out options for non-degree-seeking student loans
Not attending classes at least half time? There are lenders with part-time student loan options

What to keep in mind about SoFi student loans

SoFi reviews might make the lender sound like the right fit for your borrowing needs. However, no one lender is the best option for everyone, and in some ways, SoFi may fall short of your needs.

Credit requirements unclear

Unfortunately, just getting in the door could be a challenge. SoFi doesn’t state its specific credit requirements online, but your credit score is a heavily weighted factor when it comes to qualifying for a student loan. Of course, applying with a creditworthy cosigner makes borrowing possible for students with thin credit histories.

Some other lenders are more transparent about their criteria. Ascent, for example, accepts credit scores as low as 540.

Not accessible for students enrolled less than half time

Beyond its financial qualifications, SoFi has eligibility rules that sometimes limit access. You must be attending school at least half time, for example. If you’re studying less than half time, you might find a better opportunity with competing lender College Ave.

Cosigner release takes two years

If you’re an undergraduate student, it’s likely that you’ll need a cosigner to qualify with SoFi. A student loan cosigner agrees to repay your loan in the case that you became unable to pay on your own.

Unfortunately, SoFi doesn’t offer you the ability to release your cosigner until after you’ve made two years of prompt payments.

If an even faster path to cosigner release is important to you, consider borrowing instead from a competitor like Sallie Mae — it allows you to remove a cosigner from your loan agreement after making just 12 monthly payments on time.

How SoFi student loans compare

Even if SoFi sounds like your best bet, it’s wise to compare multiple lenders before signing anything — then you can improve your chances of scoring the best overall loan.

The following table should be especially helpful if you’re looking to compare SoFi vs. Earnest or Sallie Mae.

SoFi Earnest Sallie Mae
SLH rating 4.8/5 4.6/5 4.4/5
Loans for… ● Undergraduate and graduate students
● MBA and law school students
● Parents
● Undergraduate and graduate students
● Parents
● Law school
● Medical school
● Undergraduate and graduate students
● Career training
● Dental school, residency
● Graduate students
● Health professions
● Law school, bar study
● Medical school, residency
APRs Variable starting at 2.01% and fixed starting at 3.22% Variable starting at 0.94% and fixed starting at 3.24% Variable starting at 1.87%  and fixed starting at 3.75%
Ability to prequalify without affecting credit Yes No — you can only check eligibility, not rates No
Borrowing amount $5,000 to 100% of your cost of attendance $1,000 to 100% of your cost of attendance Up to the cost of attendance
In-school repayment options 4 4 1-2
Repayment terms 5, 10, 15 years 5, 10, 15, 20 years 5, 10, 15 years
Cosigner release available Yes — after 24 months of timely payments (and meeting other criteria) No Yes — after 12 months of timely payments

You’ll very likely be better off if you shop around beyond a few lenders. Make sure you learn all about the best options for your specific needs.

Are SoFi student loans right for you?

SoFi student loans come with no fees, low rates and a high degree of flexibility. You could choose whether and how to make in-school payments in addition to selecting one of multiple loan terms.

Unfortunately, the lender known for refinancing is less forgiving during the application process. You’ll need especially strong credit (or a cosigner) and at least half-time class attendance, among other eligibility requirements.

To decide whether SoFi is right for you, take some time to think about your ideal loan, then see if SoFi fulfills everything you’re seeking. If it comes up short, you could always compare the lender to some of the other noteworthy private student loan options available.

How to apply with SoFi

Through its prequalification services, prospective borrowers can check their rates with SoFi without submitting to a hard-credit check. To do this, you’ll need to provide basic information about yourself, the school you graduated from, your loan needs and your estimated credit score.

If you’re eligible for a SoFi private student loan and want to move forward, you’ll need to fill out an application (along with your cosigner, if you have one). You can receive an answer within three minutes.

Once that is complete, you will need to verify the information you provided. You may need to give SoFi the following:

  • A government-issued ID (drivers license, passport, etc.)
  • Documents verifying your or your cosigner’s income (W-2s, tax filings, etc.)
  • Documents verifying your school enrollment

If you’re approved for a loan and want to move forward with SoFi, you’ll need to wait for your school to certify your loan amount. It can take four to six weeks for funds to be sent to the school.

How to contact SoFi

For SoFi support, you can use its website’s Help Center to answer many of your questions. If you still need help, here are additional ways to reach this online-only company:

Phone 855-456-7634 ● Monday–Thursday: 5 a.m.–7 p.m. PT
● Friday–Sunday: 5 a.m.–5 p.m. PT
P.O. Box 1022
Chesterfield, MO 63006-1022

Frequently asked questions about SoFi student loans

If you didn’t find your question answered in our SoFi reviews, see the following FAQs:

Is SoFi legit?

Yes, SoFi is a legitimate financial technology company that, among other products, refinances and lends student loans. While every lender has hiccups, SoFi is a well-vetted lender that has more than 3 million customers.

How long does it take to get a SoFi student loan?

Whether you’re applying for student loan refinancing or a new private student loan, SoFi reviews your initial information within minutes and promises instant credit decisions. You just have to create an account and enter basic details about your situation.

Actually receiving the loan, however, takes additional time.

  • For refinancing, you can quicken the pace by promptly requesting debt payoff letters from your existing loan servicers and lenders.
  • For private student loans, the entire process is more dependent on your school and can take four to six weeks to complete.

Miranda Marquit, Amanda Push and Kat Tretina contributed to this post.

Methodology for ratings

To come up with our star rating (ranging from 0 to 5) for student loan refinancing lenders and companies/private student loan lenders and companies, Student Loan Hero asks hard questions — 20 of them, in fact. These questions span three categories: Accessibility, Rates & Terms and Repayment Experience. That’s because we want to judge financial institutions on their products and services from start to finish: when our users are shopping around, filing applications and paying down their debt. A top-rated lender, for instance, has inclusive eligibility criteria, allows you to prequalify and check rates without harming your credit score and is supportive as you face monthly payments.

The answers that we get to our 20 questions — either from the lenders themselves or by combing through their fine print — determine their overall rating. We score answers consistently, sometimes awarding partial points, to ensure that you can make equal comparisons between all lenders that we put under the microscope.

Student Loan Hero isn’t paid for conducting these reviews, and lenders don’t have a say in their content. The goal with our reviews and ratings, along with everything else we do, is to give our users the most comprehensive and up-to-date information available to make the best decisions according to their borrowing needs.

Student Loan Hero has independently collected the above information related to SoFi student loans, which is current as of April 2022, unless otherwise noted. None of the financial institutions named has either provided or reviewed the information shared in this article.