Denied a private student loan? 3 things you should do

Don’t panic — there are steps you can take to still get approved. (iStock)

Rejection hurts, especially when you’re asking to borrow money. Unfortunately, a number of college students get denied private student loans.

Every private lender has its own set of requirements for borrowers, which means getting approved for a private student loan isn’t always a slam-dunk. Nonetheless, there are a few common reasons why you can get denied a private student loan:

  • Your credit isn’t up to snuff. Federal student loans don’t usually require a credit check, but most private loans do, which is why they can be harder to get. And, if you’re like many young adults, you may not have a strong enough credit history to qualify for a private loan — or, if you do have some credit history established, your credit score may be too low for you to qualify. (However, if you're confident in your credit score, then you should insert it into Credible's online tool and see if you can qualify.)
  • You don't have enough income or employment history. Many private lenders decide whether to lend you money based on your current ability to repay the debt. That means they take into account your income when assessing your borrowing ability. So, if you don’t have a job or income history to speak of, private lenders may perceive you as too risky of a borrower.
  • You asked for too much money. Depending on the lender’s maximum loan balance, applying for a large private loan could cause your loan application to get rejected. To see what kind of rates you qualify for with your credit history, enter your desired loan amount into Credible's online marketplace.
  • Your field of study doesn’t bode well for loan repayment. Like federal lenders, private lenders want assurance that you’ll be able to pay back the debt. As a result, they may consider your prospective occupation when evaluating your loan application — and if your field of study is a historically low-paying industry, your private loan could get denied.


The silver lining? Depending on why your application was rejected, there may be steps you can take to still get approved for a private loan. Here are three options worth considering:

1. Enlist a credit-worthy co-signer. According to a recent report by National Affairs, about 94 percent of all undergraduate students who borrow a private loan use a cosigner — i.e., someone who agrees to repay your lender if you don’t. Applying with a co-signer reduces the risk to the lender, since the person will be on the hook if you can’t make your loan payments. Therefore, having a co-signer who has higher income or a better credit score than you can strengthen your loan application.

Make sure to do shop around with your co-signer before you commit to a particular lender. According to a 2017 study by Credible, the average difference between the high and low-interest rate on 10-year, fixed-rate loans was 1.7 percentage points. For a fixed-rate $15,000 loan, choosing the loan with the lower rate would yield $2,769 in lifetime savings.

2. Look at scholarships, grants and federal student loan options. Every year roughly $46 billion in grants and scholarships is awarded by the U.S. Department of Education and the nation’s colleges and universities, reported, so don’t overlook these free financial aid opportunities.

In addition, you’ll want to apply for federal loans, which typically offer lower interest rates than private loans and repayment benefits, such as the ability to qualify for income-based repayment or loan forgiveness. Federal aid includes Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans (sometimes called "Stafford Loans"), Federal Direct Subsidized Loans, Graduate PLUS loans, Parent PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans.

3. Evaluate your credit report. If a private lender says that your loan was rejected because you have poor credit, check your credit report. (According to a 2013 Federal Trade Commission survey, one in four consumers said they spotted errors on their reports.) You’re entitled to a free copy of your report from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — at


Keep in mind: Although student loans are designed to help pay for tuition and fees, there are other ways you can use them to pay for college. After taking out tuition and fees (plus room and board if you live on-campus), your college can forward any excess funds to you, which you can use to pay the following expenses: housing and housing supplies; textbooks and school supplies; transportation to and from school; child care; and study abroad costs.