Students wondering how to find a cosigner typically don’t wonder for more than a few minutes. They ask Mom or Dad.
But if your parents are out of the picture, you might not know how to get a cosigner.
On the plus side, private lenders are pretty flexible about who can serve as the guarantor of your loan agreement. They need to be a U.S. (or permanent) citizen with good credit and steady income. On the downside, it’s still a lot to ask someone to support you through school.
Here’s how to find a cosigner for your student loans (if you need one).
Why you might not need to find a cosigner at all
When it comes to most federal student loans, you don’t have to find a cosigner. That’s one of the many reasons to rely on them first.
Private loans, on the other hand, almost always require a cosigner when you don’t meet their credit requirements for approval. Also, if you’re not from the U.S., you’ll likely have to find a cosigner as an international student.
College Ave, a top-rated student loan lender, reported that more than 90 percent of private loans have a cosigner. Those that don’t might have higher interest rates as a result; the lender likely took on more risk.
A good cosigner helps improve your loan application with their superior credit history. They can help you qualify for lower interest rates.
As you make payments, you can build up your credit history. Meanwhile, your cosigner could rest easy behind the scenes, serving as your safety net.
There is a lot of risk in being a cosigner, though. For example, if you fail to keep up with repayment, they can be held responsible. That explains why typically only those closest to you are willing to be a cosigner.
How to find a cosigner for a student loan
Short of a parent or a spouse who might feel more obligated to support you through school, you do have options for a nontraditional cosigner. Here are some safe options, plus some you should avoid.
Safe options for an atypical cosigner
First, think about those in your inner circle. Maybe you have an aunt, uncle, or grandparent who’s set financially and wouldn’t mind staking their credit report on you. The senior members of your family could be in a better position to take on this kind of risk.
Calling on siblings or cousins can be more tricky. They might want to keep their borrowing history clear to prepare for their own big purchases, such as applying for a mortgage.
Beyond your relatives, consider the people in your life who would go to bat for you. Lifelong friends and mentors might be willing to back you up even though you don’t share the same last name. (If you have to go through your social media network to find them, the relationship likely isn’t strong enough for cosigning.)
If you’re going to graduate school, a former teacher you grew close to could be convinced to help you further your studies. This could be true if you have exhausted every other avenue to funding and need a smaller private loan to push you over the hump.
Cosigner options to avoid at all costs
There are many reasons to avoid finding a cosigner on Craigslist (or similar online classifieds that lack security). You should also be wary of companies that claim to specialize in matching needy students with strangers willing to cosign loans at a cost.
Websites such as Hire A Cosigner and Cosigner Finder ask you to submit a free application, including your personal information and loan amount.
Then, you could be asked to pay a fee of some kind. Hire A Cosigner costs $149 for 30 days of access to its peer-to-peer platform. Cosigner Finder charges customers based on how fast they’d likely be matched with a cosigner — $99.99 for within a week, for example.
From there, you’d need to make it worth the stranger’s while. In exchange for serving as your cosigner, they could ask for a portion of your loan. In fact, you might be asked whether you’re open to sharing your loan amount on your initial application.
That’s if you’re matched with a legitimate cosigner at all. Some Cosigner Finder users requested refunds via the Better Business Bureau. Crowdsourced sites like the Ripoff Report also don’t speak highly of the website or its competitors.
If you’re thinking about how to find a cosigner for a student loan online, put the service (and the cosigner) through the wringer. Don’t take advertising at face value. If it seems sketchy at first glance, it probably is.
How to get a cosigner to pick up the pen
Before zeroing in on a cosigner candidate, ensure they’re eligible. College Ave, for example, has a pre-qualification tool that can help your prospective cosigner verify their residency status, income, and credit score.
If they qualify, the question of how to find a cosigner for a student loan becomes how to convince your potential cosigner to sign on the dotted line.
When you’ve found an eligible cosigner, state your case like a Ph.D. student would defend their thesis. Come prepared, and be honest about the risks. For example, you can cite a 2016 CreditCards.com survey that says 38 percent of cosigners on credit cards and loans lose money.
Then, explain how your cosigner will end up in the majority. Answer these five questions to strengthen your case:
- Why do you need the loan amount?
- What is your plan for repayment?
- How are you equipped to handle repayment on your own?
- How would you navigate your worst-case repayment scenario?
- What is your plan for seeking cosigner release?
When possible, answer these questions with facts, not just niceties. Your cosigner is hitching themselves to your wagon, so they deserve to know the destination and how you’re going to get there.
If you need a $10,000 private loan to cover your junior year, for example, explain what exactly the money will be put toward, whether it’s tuition, housing, or another expense.
Open up about the details of your loan repayment plan. Show them with data (and maybe the help of our monthly payment calculator) how your estimated postgraduate income and savings will cover your future loan payments.
Also, don’t be shy about sharing your finances with a person you trust. If you have other loans (or plans to take out additional debt), they might like to know that your exposure goes beyond the loan they’re cosigning.
Finally, make sure to answer any questions they have about their liability. They need to know, for example, that the lender will hold them accountable for loan payments if you are unable to make them.
Close the deal with cosigner release
Now that you know how to get a cosigner listening to your plea, tell them about the benefits of cosigner release and your plan to work toward it.
As you’re looking to finance your college or graduate school education, it’s important to know that you have options for finding a cosigner other than your parents. They’re not all great options. But finding a relative or friend offline will generally be the best way to go.
Rest assured that if you can’t find someone like that, there are ways to get loans without a cosigner.
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