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Student Loans

How to Get a Student Loan Without Parents

Paying for college can be a challenge without parental help. 

But borrowers can get a student loan without relying on their parents. More than 40% of enrolled students in the United States obtained student loans without a parent’s help in 2019 – 2020. 

We’ve researched ways to get a federal or private student loan without parents.

In this guide:

How to get a loan for college without parents

With the soaring cost of college tuition, getting a student loan is a popular way to cover tuition and other educational expenses. Federal and private loans are two standard options, and there are several distinctions between the two:.

Federal student loansPrivate student loans
Who issues?U.S. governmentBanks, credit unions, and other financial entities
Qualifying conditionsApply via FAFSA

Credit scores not considered in most cases
Apply with individual lenders

Credit score and history are often considered
Interest ratesFixed

Standardized by U.S. government. (See current student loan interest rates.)
Fixed or variable

Lenders assign rates (often based on credit score and history)
Repayment optionsMore flexible (allow for income-based repayment and loan forgiveness)More rigid

Income-based repayment and forgiveness are rare

When it comes to financing your college education, federal student loans offer many advantages that can save money and benefit borrowers over the long run, including fixed interest rates, flexible repayment options, and other protections many private student loans lack. 

With the cost of higher education on the rise, federal loans can be a more economical choice since the government controls interest rates.

How to get a federal student loan without parents

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form allows students to demonstrate their eligibility for financial aid. The answers help determine a student’s status as independent or dependent.

A student is classified as independent if they meet any of the following requirements:

  • 24 years or older
  • Masters or doctoral student
  • Married or separated (but not divorced)
  • Have dependents 
  • Veteran or active-duty service member
  • Orphan, in foster care, or court-appointed ward
  • Minor granted emancipation or legal guardianship
  • Unaccompanied youth who is unhoused or at risk of not having a home

Dependency status plays a significant role in determining a student’s college expenses. The government assumes the dependent student’s parents or guardians will assist with their educational costs. They’re eligible for less financial aid since their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is higher. 

Independent students, such as those who are older, married, or have children, may be eligible for more financial aid.

You may be able to cover college costs if your parents are unwilling or unable to provide support. But if you don’t include your parents’ information, your application will be rejected, and you won’t qualify for federal student aid.

If you don’t meet the qualifications of an independent student, take the following steps when filling out your FAFSA: 

  1. Select the option: “I am unable to provide information about my parent(s).”
  2. Select the accurate “special circumstance” or the option that says you don’t have a special circumstance, but you still can’t provide parent information.
  3. Agree that you understand that you’ll be ineligible for other federal student aid besides an Unsubsidized Direct Loan. (Your school’s financial aid office determines whether you’re eligible for an Unsubsidized loan.)

You won’t get an EFC, which limits financial aid. Contact your college’s financial aid office as soon as possible. Depending on what the financial aid office decides, you may be able to borrow an Unsubsidized Direct Loan. 

The financial aid office may request a written statement from your parents if they refuse to provide the necessary information on the FAFSA form. This document should demonstrate that your parents are no longer:

  • Providing a place to live
  • Covering expenses such as car insurance and health insurance
  • Supplying you with a car to drive regularly
  • Financing your tuition and fees

It’s important to include all relevant details in this letter so the financial aid office can assess your situation. You’ll ensure the office bases any subsequent decisions about financial aid on an accurate assessment of the resources available to you.

Additionally, financial aid is typically on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner you can reach out, the more likely they will have funds to give.

How to get a private student loan without parents

Students with limited access to parental support may be able to secure private student loans. However, unlike government-backed federal loans, most private lenders require a cosigner for students without an established credit history or qualifying income.

An adult who is not a parent can cosign for you if they have excellent credit and are willing. The key is to find someone who trusts your commitment enough to sign their name beside yours, such as a mentor or grandparent. A cosigner is responsible for paying back the loans if you don’t, so it’s crucial to discuss this with them.

More than 90% of private student loans are cosigned. Cosigners are a common requirement for private student loans as they mitigate risk when lending to borrowers without a solid credit history or established income. Many private lenders allow you to remove a cosigner after a year or two of adequate repayment history.

You also have options to get a student loan without a cosigner. These private loans often have higher interest rates, especially if you can’t provide proof of consistent income or good credit. It’s wise to start building credit as soon as possible. A strong credit history can open more doors to loan approval.

What happens to a loan if a borrower doesn’t include their parents?

Federal student loan limits vary depending on whether the student is classified as an independent or dependent on the FAFSA. 

Independent students aren’t required to provide parental information on the FAFSA, so their Federal Direct Loan limits are higher. This increased loan limit can be a lifeline for students who need to finance their education without help from family.

This table displays Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan amounts as well as loan limitations based on dependent status. Interest rates are set by Congress for each year and do not change based on a student’s dependent status. 

Annual loan limit by yearDependentIndependent
First-year undergraduate$5,500 total

$3,500 Subsidized
$9,500 total

$3,500 Subsidized
Second-year undergraduate$6,500 total

$4,500 Subsidized
$10,500 total

$4,500 Subsidized
Third-year and beyond undergraduate$7,500 total

$5,500 Subsidized
$12,500 total

$5,500 Subsidized
Graduate or professional studentNot applicable $20,500 Unsubsidized only

The aggregate limits are as follows:

Aggregate limitsDependentIndependent
Subsidized and Unsubsidized$31,000 total

$23,000 Subsidized
Undergraduates: $57,500 total

$23,000 Subsidized

Graduate/professional: $138,500 total

$65,000 Subsidized
Note: The graduate aggregate limit includes all federal loans for undergraduate study as well.

It’s important to note that the average cost of a four-year university is typically about $25,000 a year. Even with federal student loans, you will be responsible for the remainder of the balance your loan doesn’t cover and may need to cover it with private loans or other programs. 

Research is critical to determine which college is within your budget. Using a website such as allows you to compare the total costs of schools by location or major.

Can I add people to my student loan besides my parents?

Your parents aren’t your only options for cosigners on your student loans. However, asking someone you have a close relationship with and are confident will say yes is essential. This could be a grandparent, aunt or uncle, foster parent, older sibling, or family friend. It could also be a former employer, mentor, or teacher. 

No rules state how long you must know someone before they can cosign a loan with you or what type of relationship you must have with them. 

Lenders will require the cosigner to: 

  • Be at least 18 years old 
  • Have a steady income
  • Have good or excellent credit
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent citizen 

The cosigner should understand the loan will appear on their credit report and could affect their ability to obtain financing. 

We don’t recommend finding a cosigner you don’t know personally through unsecured internet advertisements such as Craigslist or “find a cosigner” websites and services. However, vet the site and cosigner thoroughly if you choose this route. 

Alternatives to student loans without parents

College students can consider other options to finance their education without student loans. Scholarships, grants, and work-study programs are viable ways to obtain the funds you need for college tuition, fees, room and board, books, and supplies.

Scholarships and grants

In most cases, you don’t need to repay scholarships and grants. They are often merit- or need-based, so it’s essential to research how to qualify for these awards.

Work-study and part-time employment

Work-study programs provide part-time employment while in school, and the earnings can help cover educational expenses.

You can also look for a part-time job to help pay for school. Working while enrolled can be a terrific way to earn money and gain valuable skills. A part-time job may not cover all your expenses, but the extra income is helpful. 

Tuition reimbursement

Some employers provide tuition reimbursement—often for full-time employees. Rather than attending college full-time, you could work full-time and have your employer assist with tuition as you attend school part-time. 

This is a solid option for obtaining an associate’s degree until you qualify as an independent student. Then you could attend school for your bachelor’s degree full-time and fund it with student loans.

Financing college without your parents’ help can be daunting, but many options are available. From student loans, scholarships, and grants to work-study programs, part-time jobs, or full-time employment with tuition reimbursement, students have various resources at their disposal for tuition and expenses.