If you’re an undergraduate student, a student loan may be the first type of loan you apply for. Private lenders typically consider your income and credit to assess whether you can repay your loan — two things you might be short on. Applying with a cosigner can increase your approval odds and possibly get a lower interest rate — but if you can’t find a cosigner, don’t worry.
Most federal student loans don’t require you to have a cosigner. But if you max out your federal student loan limit, your only option may be to take out a private student loan without a cosigner.
With Credible, you can compare private student loan rates from various lenders in minutes.
- How to find a student loan without a cosigner
- Do you need a parent to cosign a student loan?
- How do you get student loans if your parents make too much money?
- Advantages of taking out student loans with a cosigner
- How to improve your chances of getting a student loan without a cosigner
A cosigner is a person who agrees to repay a loan if you don’t make your payments — anyone who meets a lender's eligibility requirements can cosign a student loan for you. When you apply for a student loan, you have two options: private and federal.
The federal government offers federal student loans. Most federal student loans don’t require you to have a cosigner. And they typically don’t require a credit check, so it may be easier to qualify.
Private lenders offer private student loans, which aren’t backed by the federal government. Although most private student loan lenders require a cosigner, some give loans to borrowers without a cosigner if they meet certain requirements. Even if you have to initially apply for a private student loan with a cosigner, most lenders give you the option to release or remove a cosigner after you’ve made a certain number of on-time payments.
Federal student loans that don’t require a cosigner
The U.S. Department of Education offers four types of federal student loans that you can get without a cosigner. Before you apply for one, you’ll first need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which determines what financial aid you may qualify for. Most federal student loans don’t require a credit check, so having minimal or bad credit won’t prevent you from qualifying.
- Direct Subsidized Loans — Undergraduates who meet certain income requirements may qualify for this federal loan. While you’re in school, the federal government pays the interest on your loan. Your school determines the amount you can borrow based on your financial need. Undergraduate students can borrow a maximum of $5,500 to $12,500 in Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans (the actual number depends on your dependency status and year in school).
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans — Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students may qualify for this type of student loan. Unlike Direct Subsidized loans, your eligibility isn’t tied to your financial need. Your loan amount is also determined by the school and depends on the cost of attendance and any amount of federal student aid or scholarships you receive. Graduate students or professional students can take out up to $20,500 in Direct Unsubsidized Loans per year.
- Direct PLUS Loans — Direct PLUS Loans are designed for graduate and professional students. Parents can take out a Parent PLUS Loan for their undergraduate dependents. Unlike the loans mentioned above, a credit check is required. The amount you can borrow also depends on your school’s cost of attendance and the amount of federal student aid and scholarships you receive.
- Direct Consolidation Loans — If you have more than one federal loan and prefer a single monthly payment, you can merge them into one loan by taking out a Direct Consolidation Loan. Your new interest rate will be a weighted average of all your existing loans, so you might not necessarily get a lower rate by consolidating. But having just one loan to keep track of can simplify your student loan repayment.
Although maximum loan amounts vary, federal student loans do come with lifetime loan limits. Dependent undergraduate students are allowed to borrow up to $31,000. If you’re an independent undergraduate, you can borrow more money — up to $57,500. Graduate or professional students can borrow up to $138,500.
Private student loans without a cosigner: What to know
Since most private student loan lenders require a cosigner, it may be difficult for you to get a private loan if you don’t have one. To qualify for a private loan without a cosigner, you’ll likely need good to excellent credit (a minimum credit score of 670) and must meet any income requirements set by the lender.
If you have bad credit or minimal credit history, applying with a cosigner with good or excellent credit could help you qualify for a loan and possibly get a lower interest rate.
Credible lets you compare student loan rates from private lenders, without affecting your credit.
You don’t need a parent to cosign a student loan, especially if you’re taking out a federal loan. Most federal student loans are available without one. But if you apply for a federal Direct PLUS Loan, you may need an endorser (which is similar to a cosigner) if you have poor credit.
If you apply for a private student loan, most lenders will require you to have a cosigner. To qualify on your own, you’ll need to have good credit and a solid income — two things you might be short on if you’re still a student.
Who can be a cosigner on a student loan?
A cosigner doesn’t have to be one of your parents — a family member, spouse, or any adult can cosign a student loan for you. To become a cosigner, they must meet a lender’s eligibility requirements. Although requirements vary by lender, this usually means they must have a certain income, debt-to-income ratio, and credit score.
Before someone cosigns, make sure they understand their responsibility as a cosigner. They’ll be held legally responsible for repaying the loan if you can’t repay it. And if you make a late payment, it can damage their credit.
Some types of federal student loans are need-based, like Direct Subsidized Loans. If you’re a dependent student and your parents make too much money, you won’t qualify. But you can still apply for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan since it’s not based on financial need.
You could also apply for a private student loan — your eligibility isn’t based on financial need for private loans either. And since many private lenders have income requirements, your parents’ income could help you get approved for a loan, or one with better rates, if you add a parent as a cosigner.
Taking out a private student loan with a cosigner does have some benefits to consider:
- You may receive a lower interest rate. Adding a cosigner who has good credit and a decent income could help you qualify for a better interest rate.
- It could help you build your credit. Repaying debt on time accounts for 35% of your FICO Score. If you repay your student loan on time, it’ll add positive payment history to your credit report.
- You may not have to pay fees. Federal student loans come with origination fees that are deducted from the total loan amount you receive. If you apply for a private student loan that doesn’t charge an origination fee, you can put more money toward your school expenses. (Just keep in mind that a private student loan will likely come with a higher interest rate than a federal student loan.)
Before you take out a private student loan, make sure to max out your federal loan options first. Federal student loans come with benefits that private student loans don’t, like income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs.
If you’ve exhausted your federal student loan options and need to cover the gap, you can compare private student loan rates with Credible.
You can boost your chances of qualifying for a non-cosigner private student loan by working on these key factors lenders consider:
- Credit score — A lender reviews your credit score to assess how likely you are to default on the loan. The higher your credit score is, the better your chances of being approved and securing a lower interest rate. Paying any outstanding debt you have on time can help you boost your score over time.
- Income — Some lenders have minimum income requirements. To improve your chances of qualifying, consider picking up a side hustle or part-time job, if you have time.
- Credit history — Lenders will review your credit history to assess how well you’ve managed debt. If you have minimal or no credit history, you’ll have a tougher time getting approved. Consider taking out a secured credit card or credit-builder loan, which can help you establish credit.