Getting a student loan without parental support is possible, but it’s important to understand the differences between how federal student loan and private student loan programs work.
In general, students can almost always qualify for a federal student loan, but there are borrowing limits, and you will usually have to include your parent’s information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are some exceptions if you can prove independent status. For private student loans, you can borrow without a parent, but getting a student loan without a co-signer can be a challenge.
How to Apply for a Federal Student Loan On Your Own
To qualify for a federal student loan, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Nearly all students who complete this form will be eligible to get a Federal Student loan, but there are limits on what you can borrow depending on your year in school, and whether you are considered dependent or independent.
Getting approved for student loans without parents depends on your personal situation, your financial and credit status, and whether or not you have someone else who can co-sign for you. Here’s how it breaks down for the different types of student loans.
While the majority of students are considered dependent (meaning your parents’ income will play a role in your financial aid eligibility), you could be considered an independent student if you are any one of the following:
- 24 years of age or older
- In graduate or professional school
- A veteran or member of the armed forces
- An orphan
- A ward of the court
- Someone who has legal dependents other than a spouse
- An emancipated minor
- Homeless or at risk of becoming homeless
In any of those cases, you will report your own information.
There are also a couple of special circumstances for which you can submit a FAFSA without parental information, including:
- Your parents are incarcerated
- You no longer live at home because of an abusive situation
- You have no contact with your parents
- You are between 21 and 24 years old, are unaccompanied, and are either homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless
Dependent or independent status matters not only for the application, but also because it impacts the amount of federal student loans that you can borrow.
|Yearly dependent loan limit||Yearly independent loan limit|
|Years 3 and 4||$7,500||$12,500|
Federal Direct Student Loans (or Stafford Loans) are the student’s responsibility to pay upon graduation, regardless of whether or not the parents’ information is included on the FAFSA. Parent PLUS Loans, on the other hand, are loans that parents take out to help pay for their children’s college expenses, and therefore, they are responsible for paying back.
Private Student Loans
Qualifying for a private student loan can be more challenging when you’re a student because lenders expect you to meet income requirements and have a minimum credit score. These requirements can be difficult to meet since most students do not earn enough income or have a solid credit history established.
In the rare case that a student does earn enough and meets the credit score requirement, it could be possible to qualify on their own. In most cases, though, to get a private student loan without a parent you’ll have to find someone else who is willing to co-sign for you. It could be a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, or good friend—but convincing them can be hard since they will be on the hook if you don’t make your payments.
If you get a private student loan with a co-signer, choose a loan that gives you the option to remove the co-signer after a period of time or after meeting certain requirements. Or, you can look into student loan refinancing after graduation, once you can meet the borrowing criteria on your own.
Alternatives to Student Loans
The path to college affordability doesn’t only come from student loan borrowing. There are other financial aid and funding opportunities that can be combined to help lower your cost.
This is a form of gift aid that does not have to be repaid. Awards can come from the college itself (called institutional aid), or from outside organizations. Scholarships are typically awarded to students for merit, meaning they meet a certain academic qualification. There are also scholarships for athletics and special talents, as well as those tied to affiliations with organizations or employers, ones aimed at students from specific ethnic groups, etc.
This is another form of gift aid similar to scholarships. The key difference is that grants are usually based on having financial need in addition to other requirements. Some colleges offer institutional grants so be sure to inquire about how to apply. You may also be able to get grants through your state education department. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators provides a handy list of state financial aid programs.
Emergency Student Loans
In the case of a last-minute circumstance that can prevent you from affording college, you can work with your school’s financial aid office to see if the school can offer emergency funds as a loan to you. Availability and school policies vary so be sure you understand repayment obligations before you accept.
Beyond these options, you could explore borrowing from family members directly, or opt for a full-time job while you take affordable classes part-time at a community college.
Tips for Managing Student Loan Debt
Managing student loan debt responsibility is important. Some strategies that can help keep you on track include:
- Make interest payments while you’re still in school. If you have the means, getting a jumpstart before you graduate can help ease your loan burden later on.
- Automate payments. Setting up your student loan payments to automatically come out of your checking account each month can help ensure that you don’t forget to pay. This will help protect you from paying late fees as well as keep your credit healthy since late payments can have a negative impact.
- Pay more when you can. If you have the means, try paying more than the minimum amount owed. This will help you pay off your student loans faster and save you some money in interest.
- Know your loan options. There are several federal student loan repayment options including ones that allow you to pay less during lower-earning periods, or that extend the loan term in order to lower the monthly payment. These options may be helpful if you are struggling to make payments, but be aware that they can result in paying more over the life of the loan. For private loans, if you have issues affording payments, get in touch with the loan servicer to discuss your options.
- Consider student loan consolidation. If you have several private loans, once you have a job and have a good credit score, you can look into consolidating and refinancing all of your loans into one. It can help simplify things by merging all of the loans into one payment, and if you can qualify for a lower interest rate, it can save you money as well.
Think twice before refinancing or consolidating federal student loans into private loans. If you do so, you’ll lose the ability to switch repayment plans as well as other benefits like public service-based loan forgiveness (if applicable), or any potential loan forgiveness or payment pauses offered by the government.
Best Student Loans Without a Parent
|Lender||APR Range||Loan Amounts||Notes|
|Funding U||Fixed: 7.49%-12.99%||Up to $20,000 per academic year||Minimum and maximum loan amounts vary by state|
|Iowa Student Loan (ISL) Education Lending||Fixed: 8.19%||Up to $17,500 per academic year||For Iowa and Illinois students|
|SoFi||Fixed: 4.49%-13.8% Variable: 4.99%-13.07%||No maximum; $1,000 minimum||Co-signer release after 24 months of on-time payments|
|Ascent||Fixed: 4.62%-16.24% Variable: 5.86%-15.89%||Up to $200,000 undergrad; up to $400,000 graduate||Borrower-only loans and co-signer loans with release after 12 months of on-time payments|
What Are the Eligibility Requirements for a Student Loan Without Parents?
For a private student loan, lenders have income and credit qualifications that must be met either by the applicant on their own, or with a co-signer. If parents are unable or unwilling to co-sign, you will need to show stable income as well as an established credit history to qualify on your own. Qualifications vary by lender and loan type, and since the interest rate is usually based on creditworthiness, you may pay a higher rate depending on your status.
What Types of Student Loans Are Available Without Parental Involvement?
You will likely qualify for federal student loans that are fully in your name, but there are caps on the amount you can borrow. You will also have to include your parents’ income information on the FAFSA, which is required to borrow, unless you can prove independent student status.
Private student loans do not necessarily require a parent to be involved, but either the student or another co-signer must meet loan eligibility. Since it’s often difficult for a student to have enough income and credit history on their own, it is likely that a co-signer will be needed.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Taking Out a Student Loan Without Parents?
Taking out a student loan—with or without parents—is a big decision with long-term financial implications. If you’re borrowing on your own, you will be obligated to make repayments and your credit alone will be impacted. The advantage is that you will have full control of your finances and not be beholden to another person. Consistent on-time payments can help build your credit, unlike a parent loan that isn’t in your name. For private loans, if you do end up with a co-signer that is not your parent, be aware that the person is legally responsible, so you will be damaging their credit, and possibly your relationship with them, if you miss payments.
StudentAid.gov. "Dependency Status."
StudentAid.gov. "My Parents Don’t Support Me Financially. Can I Fill Out the FAFSA Form as an Independent Student?"
StudentAid.gov. "Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans."
StudentAid.gov. "5 Ways to Pay Off Your Student Loans Faster."