How to get a student loan if you’re a single parent

If you’re a single parent who wants to attend college, learn about all the financial aid available to you

Our goal here at Credible Operations, Inc., NMLS Number 1681276, referred to as "Credible" below, is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Although we do promote products from our partner lenders who compensate us for our services, all opinions are our own.

Scholarships, grants, and student loans for single parents are available for those who want to attend college.  (Shutterstock)

Many non-traditional college students, like single parents, have trouble paying for higher-education costs. This is often because they historically haven’t had the same access to scholarships as recent high school graduates. 

But now, more options are available to single parents and other non-traditional students pursuing a college degree. 

Private student loans are one way for single parents to fund their education. Credible lets you compare private student loan rates from multiple lenders, all in one place.

Start with the FAFSA

You can apply for federal student aid to help pay for college tuition and costs by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Schools use the information from the FAFSA to determine what types of federal aid you’re eligible for.

Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Alien registration number (for non-U.S. citizens)
  • Tax returns
  • Records of any untaxed income, such as child support
  • Checking and savings account balances
  • Any investments, such as stocks, bonds, and real estate
  • Any business or farm assets

You need to complete your FAFSA during the submission period, which generally runs from Oct. 1 through June 30 for the following school year. But some states have different deadlines. You can check your state’s deadline on the website.

You’ll also need to contact the colleges you’re interested in attending, as they may have specific deadlines that differ from the federal FAFSA deadlines. Financial aid is limited, so it’s best to complete your FAFSA as early as possible.


Financial aid for single parents

Single parents who need financial assistance to pay for a college education have a few options, including scholarships, grants, and student loans — both federal and private.

Start with grants and scholarships, since these don’t need to be repaid and will reduce your overall education expenses. You can search millions of scholarships by using Sallie Mae’s Scholarship Search tool. These scholarships are broken down into categories to match an applicant’s circumstances and skills. 

For example, women and single mothers looking to get a job in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, or math) can apply for awards from industry groups. Scholarships are also available for single moms who want to attend nursing school.

You might also consider private student loans to help cover your education costs. Visit Credible to compare private student loan rates from various lenders in minutes.

Government grants for single parents

Single parents with financial need can apply for grants. The biggest grant provider is the federal government. But states, corporations, and private organizations offer them as well. Like scholarships, grants don’t need to be paid back.

These are some federal grants that are available for single parents:

  • Federal Pell Grant This grant is for undergraduate students with financial need. For the 2022-23 award year (July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023), the maximum amount is $6,895. The maximum amount awarded changes yearly. Additionally, the amount can change depending on your Expected Family Contribution, the cost of attendance, your status as a full-time or part-time student, and your plans to attend for a full academic year or less.
  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) This grant differs from the Pell Grant in that funds are limited each year and are awarded only until the funding runs out, making it important to apply as early as possible. You can receive between $100 and $4,000 a year depending on your financial need, the time you apply, the amount of other aid you receive, and the availability of funds at your school.
  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant This grant is for undergraduate and graduate students who meet certain academic requirements and who will spend four years teaching in a low-income school. If you don’t complete your obligation, the grant will convert to a Direct Unsubsidized Loan that must be repaid, with interest. The TEACH Grant Program awards up to $4,000 a year.


Federal student loans for single parents

Single parents also have access to some of the same federal student loans as recent high school graduates. The Department of Education offers three types of federal loans:  

  • Direct Subsidized Loans — These loans are for undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to be used for college or vocational school. The government pays the interest that accrues while you’re in school at least half-time, during deferment, and for six months after you graduate.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans — Undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for these loans, and they don’t have to demonstrate financial need. You pay all the interest that accrues, including while you’re in school.
  • Direct PLUS Loans — These loans are for graduate students and parents of dependent undergraduate students.

Consider private student loans

You may be able to get a private student loan from a bank, credit union, or online lender if you don’t want to fill out the FAFSA, if you missed the FAFSA deadline, or if you need additional funds after you’ve exhausted your federal aid options.

Private student loans are based on your credit. If you have excellent credit, the interest rate you’re offered might be better than a federal loan’s interest rate. It pays to compare loan options from multiple lenders, including loan amounts, interest rates, and repayment terms. You might also want to ask whether the lender offers any discounts for single parents.

With Credible, you can compare private student loan rates without affecting your credit.