While some parents can help their children with college fees, others are unable to foot the bill or provide their financial details when applying for federal aid. Getting a student loan without your parents’ information or your credit history can be difficult, but it is possible.
Independent students and some dependent students can take out federal student loans without parental assistance. Borrowers can also look into private student loans, which may or may not require a credit history. Here’s an overview of how to get student loans without parents so you can get help paying for your college education.
How to Get Federal Student Loans Without a Parent
Students interested in student loans should first borrow federal student loans, as these loans have borrower protection and do not come with the same credit requirements as private loans.
To apply for a federal student loan, you must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA. Your answers to the questions on the FAFSA form determine your dependency status, which determines whether you can take out a student loan without a parent and how much you can borrow.
How to know if you are a dependent or independent student
If you are a dependent student, the US Department of Education generally assesses your financial aid based on your income and that of your parents, even if your parents do not contribute financially to your college education.
All graduate and professional degree-seeking students are considered independent, while undergraduate students must meet eligibility criteria set by the Department of Education. You can qualify as an independent student – and you won’t need to include details of your parents’ income – if you meet one or more of these conditions:
- You are at least 24 years old on January 1 of the year of your application for financial assistance.
- You are married or separated.
- You are working on a master’s or doctoral program.
- You are a veteran of the United States Armed Forces or are on active duty for purposes other than training.
- You have children or dependents who receive more than half of their support from you in the award year.
- Since you turned 13, both of your parents died, you were in foster care, or you were a dependent or ward of court.
- A court has determined that you are an emancipated minor, or someone other than your parent or step-parent has legal guardianship of you.
- You are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
How to Apply for a Federal Student Loan as an Independent Student
To get an independent student loan, you will need to provide financial information for yourself on the FAFSA form. This is the best way to get a student loan without a parent. You will need the following documents to complete the form as an independent student:
- Social security card.
- State-issued identification, such as a driver’s license.
- Most recent W-2 forms.
- Most recent federal income tax return.
- Most recent bank statements.
How to Apply for a Federal Student Loan as a Dependent Student
Dependent students will need to submit the above documents and also include their parent’s income documents. If you miss those details, however, you still have options. Although you must complete the FAFSA form to receive federal financial aid, in some cases you may be able to apply without your parents’ information. Here are your two possible options:
- Request a dependency replacement. You can ask the Department of Education to consider you an independent student due to unusual circumstances, such as an abusive home environment. The ministry approves these requests on a case-by-case basis and requires supporting documentation.
- Complete the FAFSA without your parents. If your parents are unable or unwilling to provide their information and you cannot apply for a dependency waiver, you can choose this option on the FAFSA: “I am unable to provide information about my parents”.
In both of these cases, contact your financial aid office after submitting the FAFSA. The financial aid office will determine your dependent status and what help you are entitled to.
How to Get Private Student Loans Without a Parent
If federal student loans, scholarships, and grants don’t cover all of your education costs, private student loans may be a good option to fill the gap. Private student loans often require borrowers to have an established credit history or add a co-signer to the loan. This makes it harder to get approved, but you have a few options.
Ask another parent to co-sign the loan
If your parents are not co-signing a private student loan, you can ask another relative or trusted friend to sign the loan documents. Eligibility requirements vary depending on the lender and the loan you want to take out, but generally the co-signer will need income and a good credit score to qualify. Keep in mind: the co-signer agrees to cover the loan repayments if you fall behind, so they will need to have enough room in their budget for this possibility.
Find a lender that doesn’t require a co-signer
Some private lenders do not require a co-signer for borrowers with a poor credit history, but instead consider factors such as academic merit or potential future earnings. For example, Ascent and Funding U cater to students without a co-signer and offer private student loans to borrowers based on factors such as GPA, school, program, graduation date, and major.
Increase your credit score
Some major lenders may accept students without a co-signer if they have strong credit and a stable income. If you’re new to credit or your credit score needs improvement, here are some steps you can take to improve it:
- Get a credit card. You may qualify for a student credit card if you have an income or if someone is willing to co-sign the card contract. Responsible card use – keeping a low balance and making payments on time – will help you start building healthy credit. If you already have a credit card and a good score, consider getting another card to increase your credit limit while limiting your credit usage.
- Become an authorized user. If you don’t yet qualify for a credit card, consider asking a friend or relative with excellent credit to add you to their account as an authorized user. Their positive credit usage will also be flagged on your credit reports, which can help boost your own credit score. Just make sure you are on top of your payments as any missed payments from you will negatively impact their score.
- Add alternative data to your credit report. You can add your rent or utility bills to your credit reports, and on-time payments can boost your credit score.
Should you get a student loan without a parent?
Although you can take out a student loan without your parents, you may face additional challenges. You may have difficulty qualifying for a federal student loan without your parents unless you qualify as an independent student. With private student loans, you will need to go through additional steps to qualify without a co-signer. You’ll also likely pay higher interest rates because the loan is riskier for the lender, and you may struggle to pay if your income is low.
However, while it may be harder to get approval without a parent, a student loan can help fund your degree. This, in turn, can open up opportunities for career and salary advancement and help you build your credit along the way. To make the best decision for you, figure out which loans you qualify for, weigh the pros and cons, and develop a repayment plan before taking out a parentless student loan.