How to Find a Cosigner for Your Student Loans When Your Parents Aren’t an Option

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Students and graduates needing to find a cosigner typically don’t search for more than a few minutes. They ask Mom or Dad.

But what if your parents are out of the picture? That’s where it can become more complicated.

On the plus side, private lenders are pretty flexible about who can serve as the guarantor of your loan agreement. They simply need to be a U.S. (or permanent) citizen with good credit and steady income.

On the downside, it’s still a big ask for someone to support you through (or after) school. To review your options if you need to find a cosigner, let’s go over the following topics:

Why you might need to find a cosigner in the first place

Almost all federal loans can be applied for and granted without a cosigner, one of many reasons to rely on them first. Private loans for undergraduates, on the other hand, almost always require a cosigner.

In fact, 91% of undergraduate loans carry a cosigner, according to MeasureOne. Those that don’t might have higher interest rates as a result; the lender likely took on more risk in the transaction.

That’s what a good cosigner or co-borrower does: improve their applicant profile with their superior credit history. Cosigners are also keenly aware that they’d be responsible for loan repayment if the primary borrower fails to keep up.

In a sunnier scenario, the primary borrower can build up their own credit history by making on-time payments. Their cosigner could rest easy behind the scenes, serving as a safety net.

It’s a lot of responsibility, which helps to explain why typically only those closest to you are willing to take it on.

How to find a U.S. cosigner for international students

If you’re on a student visa and are looking to fund your next semester of education in the states, you might have trouble initially. After all, permanent residency is a requirement of federal student aid, and most banks, credit unions and other private lenders won’t offer loans if you’re applying on your own.

To find a cosigner for an international student loan, it would help to have connections in the U.S. A creditworthy aunt or uncle who lives in the country, for example, could help you qualify.

MPOWER Financing is a rare example of a reputable lender that won’t require you to find a cosigner, but keep in mind that you’ll likely face a higher interest rate without piggybacking onto someone else’s thicker credit file.

How to find a cosigner for a student loan, beyond your parents

After unsuccessfully asking family for a loan or cosigning, you do have options for nontraditional cosigners. Here are some safe options for people willing to cosign a loan, plus some you should avoid.

Consider other people willing to cosign a loan

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 become 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 or professor you grew close to could be convinced to help you further your study. This could be true if you’ve exhausted every other avenue to funding and simply need a smaller private loan to push you over the hump.

Be wary of an online cosigner

There are many reasons to avoid finding an online cosigner via Craigslist (or similar online classifieds that lack security). You should also be wary of companies that claim to specialize specifically in matching needy students with people willing to cosign a loan at a cost.

Websites like HireACosigner.com and CosignerFinder.com would ask you to submit a free application, including your personal information and detailing your loan amount.

Then you could be asked to pay a fee of some kind. HireACosigner.com, for example, asks between $29.99 and $39.99 for connecting with these professional cosigners based on their credit score or location.

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, for example. 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 online cosigner at all. Many CosignerFinder.com users requested refunds, according to 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 same kind of tests you’d give to a lender. Don’t take advertising — that’s what homepages are — at face value. If they call for you to pay someone to cosign a loan, be skeptical.

How to get a cosigner to pick up the pen

Once you’ve identified people willing to cosign a loan, make sure they’re eligible. College Ave Student Loans, for example, has a prequalification tool that can help your prospective cosigner verify their residency status, income and credit score.

The question of how to find a cosigner for a student loan then becomes how to get a cosigner to sign on the dotted line.

When you’ve found an eligible target, state your case like a Ph.D. student would defend their thesis. Come prepared, and be honest about the risks. Even cite research that says that a minority of cosigners often lose money.

Then explain how your cosigner will end up in the majority. Answering these five questions should strengthen your case:

1. Why do you need the loan amount?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 necessary expense.
2. What is your plan for repayment?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.
3. How are you equipped to handle repayment on your own?Don’t be shy about sharing your finances with a person you trust. If you have other loans (or plans to take out additional debts), they might like to know that your exposure goes beyond the loan they’re cosigning.
4. How would you navigate your worst-case repayment scenario?Make sure to answer any questions they have about their own liability. They need to know, for example, that the lender will hold them accountable for loan payments if you can no longer make them.
5. What is your plan for seeking cosigner release?More positively, tell your prospective guarantor about the benefits of cosigner release and your plan to work toward it.

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.

Consider lenders offering private student loans without cosigner requirements

As you’re looking to finance your college or graduate school education, it’s important to know that you have options to find a cosigner other than your parents. They’re not all great options, of course. But finding a relative or friend offline — without paying for it — will generally be the best way to go.

Rest assured that if you can’t find a helping hand, there are ways to secure student loans without cosigner support.

Fortunately, there are private loan companies that lend to individual borrowers without access to cosigners. Just ensure you’d be able to meet their eligibility requirements.

Stated eligibility criteriaNote that …
Ascent2 years of credit history, $24,000 minimum incomeIf you don’t meet those requirements, you could still qualify for an Ascent income-share agreement-like loan
Citizens BankGood credit, no prior student loan defaultNoncitizens and non-permanent residents have to find a cosigner
College AveCredit score of 660 or aboveIf you’re unsure about qualifying on your own, try the lender’s prequalification tool
DiscoverGood creditInternational students are required to have a cosigner
EarnestCredit score of at least 650, annual income of $35,000+ and three years of credit historyNoncitizen students without permanent resident status (who have a Social Security number) are eligible with a cosigner
Education Loan FinanceCredit score of at least 680, annual income of $35,000+ and 3 years of credit historyELFI has a minimum loan amount of $10,000
Funding UniversityGPA and school graduate rates vary by your year in the degree programYour academic success, job experience and projected postgraduate income determine the fate of your loan application
MPOWER FinancingAttend a degree program in the U.S. or Canada and be within 2 years of graduationYour future earning potential, not your credit score, is used to determine your eligibility
PNC“Satisfactory” credit, meet unspecified debt-to-income criteriaStudents must be citizens or permanent residents living in the U.S. for at least 2 years, enrolled at least half time; cosigner required for 17-year-olds
Prodigy FinanceAttend an eligible graduate school in an eligible stateInternational students and American students studying abroad are eligible to borrow
SoFiGood creditHalf-time enrollment is required for all SoFi loans

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