How to Take Out Student Loans Without Parents

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Rates starting at 1.04%

1.04% to 11.98% 1
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1.13% to 11.23% 2
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3.84% to 9.40% 3
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  • Variable APR

There are simple steps for how to take out student loans without parents. You should start with accepting all federal loans possible. Then, look to lenders that offer private student loans without a cosigner or consider finding a different relative or friend to cosign your loan. While it may seem daunting, it is possible to pay for college without parents.

How to get federal student loans without parents
How to get private student loans without parents
6 steps to minimize how much money you need for college

How to get federal student loans without parents

The first step you should take is to fill out the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for federal student loans.

Determine whether you’re an independent or dependent student

When you fill out the FAFSA, questions regarding your dependency will determine whether you are considered an independent or dependent student. The FAFSA doesn’t consider other factors in determining dependency status, such as whether you live with your parents or whether or not they’ll contribute financially to your education.

You’re considered an independent student and won’t have to provide your parents’ information on your FAFSA form if you respond ‘yes’ to at least one of the following dependency questions on the 2020-21 FAFSA form:

  • Were you born before Jan. 1, 1997?
  • As of today, are you married? (Separated still counts as yes)
  • Will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program in 2020-2021?
  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training?
  • Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?
  • Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you, now and through June 30, 2021?
  • Do you now have—or will you have—children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021 [during the award year]?
  • At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
  • Has it been determined by a court in your state of legal residence that you are an emancipated minor or that someone other than your parent or step-parent has legal guardianship of you? (You also should answer ‘yes’ if you are now an adult but were in legal guardianship or were an emancipated minor immediately before you reached the age of majority in your state. Answer ‘no’ if the court papers say “custody” rather than “guardianship.”)
  • At any time on or after July 1, 2019, were you determined to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, as determined by (a) your high school or district homeless liaison, (b) the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or (c) the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program?

If your parents are unwilling or unable to provide their information, you may qualify for unsubsidized loans through the federal government if you meet a special circumstance, such as if your parents are incarcerated. After reporting in the FAFSA that you are unable to gather information from your parents, you will need to contact your school’s financial aid office to get final approval for unsubsidized loan borrowing. Note that you won’t get an Expected Family Contribution if your parents are unwilling to share info.

Apply for federal unsubsidized or subsidized loans

Independent and dependent students should start with borrowing federal student loans first, as they don’t require the same credit standards that private student loans often do.

Independent students, or those who file the FAFSA without their parents, generally qualify for more student loan borrowing than dependent undergraduate students. Here are the 2019-2020 borrowing limits for independent students compared to dependent students:

YearIndependent Student Annual Loan LimitsDependent Student Annual Loan Limits
First-year undergraduate$9,500 ($3,500 can be subsidized loans)$5,500 ($3,500 can be subsidized loans)
Second-year undergraduate$10,500 ($4,500 can be subsidized loans)$6,500 ($4,500 can be subsidized loans)
Third-year (and beyond) undergraduate$12,500 ($5,500 can be subsidized loans)$7,500 ($5,500 can be subsidized loans)
Graduate or professional student$20,500 (unsubsidized only)N/A (Graduate and professional students are all considered independent)

The aggregate, or total, limit for independent student loans for undergraduate students is $57,500. Up to $23,000 can be from subsidized loans. Dependent undergraduate students, on the other hand, can qualify for up to $31,000 in loans, with up to $23,000 from subsidized loans.

Note that dependent undergraduate students can qualify for the same loan limits as independent undergraduate students if their parents don’t qualify for parent PLUS loans.

“Thus, if you are a dependent student, you may benefit from your parents applying and getting denied for federal parent PLUS loans,” said Colleen Krumwiede, co-founder of college affordability platform Quatromoney.

How to get private student loans without parents

Federal unsubsidized and subsidized loans are preferable to private student loans for interest rates and repayment options, but private student loans are a good option for filling in funding gaps after scholarships and free resources are exhausted.

Unlike with federal student loans, private student loans often require an established credit history or a cosigner, though. Here’s how you can secure private student loans without a parent.

Find a different relative or friend to cosign your loan

One way to pay for college without your parents is to ask another relative or a friend who has good income and an excellent credit score to cosign a loan for you. An aunt, uncle or grandparent may be likely options.

Find a lender that doesn’t require a cosigner or solid credit

It’s also possible to get student loans with no cosigner, says Krumwiede. Lenders such as Sixup and Funding U offer private student loans without a cosigner and no credit history, but they do have other limitations and aren’t available in all 50 states, she says.

For instance, Sixup requires at least a 3.0 GPA in one of 18 states where it offers loans. Funding U, which offers loans in 30 states, bases eligibility on factors such as GPA and school graduation rates. Full-time status is generally required, and your future earning potential and when you enter the workforce after graduation are also typically factors in most of these loans.

Larger lenders like Sallie Mae may accept students with a good credit score who are also working, said Richard Castellano, a spokesperson for Sallie Mae. Having more than a year of work experience is helpful. Ultimately, each loan is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Both Castellano and Krumwiede advised that if you can’t get a loan for what you need to attend a certain school, you may want to consider choosing another. You may also want to focus on boosting your credit score through tactics such as:

  • Getting a student credit card. This will help you start building your credit history.
  • Making on-time payments. Payment history determines about 35% of your FICO® score.
  • Keeping your credit card balance low. About 30% of your credit score is based on the amount you owe compared to your credit limit.
  • Becoming an authorized user on a credit card of someone you know with a credit score of 700+. Their credit history will show up on your credit reports and in your score.
  • Adding utilities to your credit report. Adding your utility bills to your credit report to use your on-time payments to boost your credit score.

6 steps to minimize how much money you need for college

  1. Search for scholarships. Don’t stop searching for scholarships after your first year. You may qualify for scholarships in your junior and senior year that you didn’t qualify for before picking your major or boosting your GPA.
  2. Apply for as many scholarships as possible. This is one of the best ways to figure out how to pay for college without parents. This may include everything from federal grants to scholarships.
  3. Pass out of classes. AP, CLEP and Dantes tests allow students to get college credit for courses they’ve taken or knowledge they’ve acquired elsewhere. For instance, the cost of a CLEP test is $89 to pass out of at least three college credits. If the cost of the same three credits were $1,000 at their college, that student would save over $900 in tuition by testing out of just one course.
  4. Consider starting out at a community college. Taking early college credits isn’t just a good way to save money. You also may get into a more selective school if the community college you attend has a transfer agreement.
  5. Minimize the cost of textbooks. Share them, rent them or get them on reserve from your library, said Krumwiede. Buying used books online through sites like Amazon and eBay can also reduce costs, especially compared to what the school bookstore may charge.
  6. Budget carefully. Personal expenses—from groceries to clothing—can be budget hogs. Budget carefully to reduce the chance of overspending in any category.

Kat Tretina contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing your Parent PLUS loans into your child's name?

Here are the top lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APR 
1.89% – 6.15%1

Visit Splash

1.99% – 5.64%2

Visit Earnest

1.99% – 6.84%3

Visit CommonBond

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of May 1, 2021.


2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.


3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. ‍All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.


Need a student loan?

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Variable APRDegrees That QualifyMore Info
1.04% – 11.98%1 Undergraduate
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