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Last update: March 7, 2024

4 minutes read

What Can You Use A Private Student Loan For?

Learn what private student loans can cover. From tuition to personal expenses, take charge of your college finance journey.

By Brian Flaherty, B.A. Economics

Edited by Rachel Lauren, B.A. in Business and Political Economy

Ever wondered, "What can you use a private student loan for?" It's a question many soon-to-be students grapple with while exploring college finance. You can use a private student loan to cover many college-related expenses, ranging from tuition and accommodation to textbooks and transportation costs.

In this post, we'll dive deep into these specifics so you can better understand your borrowing options.

Key takeaways

  • Private student loans can be used to cover college expenses, including tuition, textbooks and more
  • Responsible use is crucial, because they'll need to be repaid with interest in the future
  • Comparing different loan offers is critical before making a choice

    What can you use a private student loan for?

    What can you use a private student loan for? Primarily, these loans are utilized to bridge the gap between your college costs and any other financing you may receive, like federal student loans or scholarships.

    Which college expenses can you use a private loan for?

    A private student loan is like an extra lifeline while in school, but using it properly requires a solid understanding of what can be covered with this kind of loan. Let's break it down:

    Tuition and fees

    • Tuition: The prime bill of your time at college. Despite the availability of grants and federal loans, sometimes it cannot cover the full amount - this is where private student loans come into play.
    • Fees: Labs, libraries, and other institutional facilities come with their own fees, often unmet by other financial aid, justifying the usage of private loans.

    Housing cost

    • On-Campus: Room, board, and other aspects of residential life on campus can make a big dent in your pocket. Don't sweat it. Private loans are here to help.
    • Off-Campus: Rent, utilities, groceries - all these can be covered using funds from your private student loan if you're living off-campus.

    Books and supplies

    • Textbooks: Subject-specific or specialized classes call for expensive books. An academic year can easily set you back about $1,000.
    • Classroom materials: These could include anything from calculators to lab coats, and can quickly add up over time.

    Transportation cost

    • Public transport and certain vehicle costs: Need to pay for tools or a bus pass to commute? Private loans can help fund that. Most student loans won’t allow you to purchase a car itself - and auto loans are usually a better option for doing that anyway.
    • Maintenance and related costs: If you already own a vehicle, gas, maintenance, and parking costs are legitimate expenses as well.

    Personal expenses

    • Essential electronics: Need a new laptop? Your private loan has got you covered.
    • Necessities: From toiletries to medication, essentials for a comfortable college life fall under the umbrella of legitimate expenses.

    Do’s and don'ts of using private student loans

    Private student loans can feel like walking a tightrope sometimes. You don't want to fall into unnecessary debt, but you also need to fund your education. To help, here's a simple table of do’s and don'ts when using private student loans.


    • Use loans for academic expenses

    • Compare loan offers

    • Budget your expenses

    • Borrow what's truly needed


    • Use loans for luxury items

    • Choose without prior research

    • Borrow more than you need

    • Neglect loan terms

    College costs can vary a lot from student to student, as well as by institution, geography, and degree program. This data table offers an easy way to see how costs can break down, and how private loans can potentially cover them.

    Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

    The amount you borrow should be guided by your financial need, cost of tuition, living expenses, and other college costs that aren't covered by your scholarships or federal loans. However, we recommend you only borrow what you need and can reasonably repay after graduation.

    Private student loans are mainly meant to cover your educational and related living expenses. While they might technically cover other costs, it wouldn’t be financially wise or sustainable to use them for unnecessary purchases or luxuries.

    If your lender discovers that you’ve used loan funds for non-approved expenses, they may assess penalties or other fees. Worse, the loan might go into immediate default. Aside from these punishments, spending the funds on non-educational or non-essential expenses can lead to financial difficulties down the line, as you'll eventually need to repay the loan with interest. It's wise to use your loan responsibly, keeping in mind its purpose and your future financial stability.

    Final thoughts

    Getting into college isn't easy, and figuring out how to pay for it adds another layer of challenge. Private student loans can be both a lifeline and a source of stress. The key lies in understanding what you can and can't use the money for. You're not alone, though. We at TuitionHero are committed to guiding you toward smart decisions about your education fund. Browse through our offerings today to start crafting your personalized college finance strategy.



    Brian Flaherty avatar

    Brian is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he earned a B.A. in Economics. After graduation, Brian spent four years working working at a wealth management firm advising high-net-worth investors and institutions. During his time there, he passed the rigorous Series 65 exam and rose to a high-level strategy position.


    Rachel Lauren avatar

    Rachel Lauren is the co-founder and COO of Debbie, a tech startup that offers an app to help people pay off their credit card debt for good through rewards and behavioral psychology. She was previously a venture capital investor at BDMI, as well as an equity research analyst at Credit Suisse.

    At TuitionHero, we're not just passionate about our work - we take immense pride in it. Our dedicated team of writers diligently follows strict editorial standards, ensuring that every piece of content we publish is accurate, current, and highly valuable. We don't just strive for quality; we aim for excellence.

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