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Student Loans

How to Get a Student Loan Without Parents

Paying for college on your own is entirely possible. As of the 2022 – 2023 academic year, the College Board reported that a substantial portion of students continue to rely on federal and private loans without parental assistance.

Explore the numerous options available for securing federal or private student loans on your own. With the right information and resources, we’re confident you can navigate the process and fund your education.

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 these are the distinctions between the two:

Who issues?U.S. governmentBanks & credit unions
How to applyFAFSAW/ individual lenders
Credit considered?Not in most casesYes, in most cases
Interest ratesFixed & standardized by U.S. gov’t.Fixed or variable; lenders assign based on credit score & history
Repayment optionsMore flexibleMore rigid

See more about current student loan interest rates.

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 because the government controls interest rates.

How to get a federal student loan without parents

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is essential for students seeking financial aid. This form helps determine whether you’re classified as an independent or dependent student.

Independent student criteria

You are considered independent if you meet any of these requirements:

  • 24 years or older
  • Masters or doctoral student
  • Married or separated (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

Why dependency status matters

Dependency status influences your Student Aid Index (SAI) and, consequently, your financial aid eligibility. Independent students may be eligible for more aid because they don’t expect to have parental support.

Steps to take if you’re not independent

  1. Indicate special circumstances on FAFSA: Select “I am unable to provide information about my parent(s).”
  2. Specify your situation: Choose the accurate “special circumstance” or state you cannot provide parent information.
  3. Acknowledge limited aid: Agree to being ineligible for other federal aid besides a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.

Contact your college’s financial aid office for guidance. It may ask for a written statement from your parents outlining their inability to provide support, which should include details such as:

  • Not providing a place to live
  • Not covering expenses such as car insurance and health insurance
  • Not supplying a car
  • Not financing tuition and fees

Act fast

Financial aid is often on a first-come, first-served basis. Reach out to your financial aid office early to maximize your chances of receiving aid.

By understanding your options and taking proactive steps, you can navigate the process of securing federal student loans without parental assistance.

How to get a private student loan without parents

Students with limited access to parental support can still secure private student loans. Unlike federal loans, most private lenders require a cosigner for students without an established credit history or qualifying income.

Find a cosigner

A cosigner can be an adult with excellent credit, not a parent, such as a mentor or grandparent. The key is to find someone who trusts your commitment to repay the loan. Discuss the responsibility involved because the cosigner is obligated to repay the loan if you don’t.

Importance of cosigners

The majority of private student loans are cosigned. Cosigners help mitigate risk for lenders when providing loans to borrowers without a solid credit history or established income. Many lenders allow cosigner release after a period of adequate repayment history.

How to get a loan without a cosigner

You can obtain a private student loan without a cosigner, but these loans often have higher interest rates, especially if you lack consistent income or good credit. It’s wise to start building credit as soon as possible. A strong credit history can improve your chances of loan approval.

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

Federal student loan limits depend on whether a student is classified as independent or dependent on the FAFSA.

Independent students and loan limits

Independent students aren’t required to provide parental information on the FAFSA, resulting in higher Federal Direct Loan limits. This increased loan limit can be crucial for students financing their education without family help.

Loan amounts based on dependent status

This table shows Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan amounts and limitations based on dependent status. Note that interest rates are set by Congress annually and do not change based on a student’s dependent status.

1st-year undergrad$5,500 total ($3,500 Subsidized)$9,500 total ($3,500 S)
2nd-year undergrad$6,500 total ($4,500 S)$10,500 total ($4,500 S)
3rd-year+ undergrad$7,500 total ($5,500 S)$12,500 total ($5,500 S)
Grad or professionalN/A $20,500 Unsubsidized only

Aggregate loan limits

Subsidized & Unsubsidized$31,000 total ($23,000 S)Undergrad: $57,500 total ($23,000 S); Grad & professional: $138,500 total ($65,000 S)

The graduate aggregate limit includes all federal loans for undergraduate study.

How to cover remaining costs

The average cost of college in the U.S. is $38,270 per year. Even with federal student loans, you might need to cover the remaining balance with private loans or other programs.

Research college costs

Research is critical to finding a college within your budget. Websites such as College Scorecard allow you to compare the total costs of schools by location or major. This helps in making an informed decision about college affordability.

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. If you choose this route, vet the site and cosigner thoroughly. 

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 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.

Students have various resources to fund their education without parents, including student loans, scholarships, grants, work-study programs, part-time jobs, and full-time employment with tuition reimbursement.