How to Get Student Loans When You Don’t Have a Credit History

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Even if you’ve saved up money and won scholarships, you might need to borrow student loans to pay for college. But without a credit history, you’ll likely need to prioritize student loans with no credit check.

Fortunately, there are college loans for students with no credit history. Here’s what you need to know:

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Getting federal student loans with no credit

There’s no credit check when you apply for undergraduate federal student loans. Instead, what you borrow is based on financial need and/or how much it costs to attend your school.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows you to access federal student loans. You provide information about how much money you make, and what you have saved up. Your parents’ incomes and assets are also considered. Other considerations, like whether you have a scholarship offer, are also taken into account.

Once you fill out the FAFSA, the information is sent to the schools of your choice. They put together a financial aid package, which can include grants as well as subsidized or unsubsidized students loans.

In order to keep taking advantage of federal student loans with no credit check, you have to fill out the FAFSA each year. Otherwise, you’ll only get enough money in loans to get you through a single year of schooling.

Completing the FAFSA each year allows your school to reassess your ability to pay for college. If you have siblings attending college or if your family’s financial situation has changed, you could be offered a different financial aid package the next year. No matter what, though, you won’t need to go through a credit check to qualify.

Note that while undergraduate student loans don’t take credit into account, PLUS loans for graduate students and parents do. PLUS loans don’t require that you have great credit; they just ask that you don’t have “adverse credit.” If you do, however, you could try applying with an endorser.

Getting private college loans for students with no credit history

Unfortunately, there are situations where federal help just isn’t enough to pay for your college-related expenses. If you’ve hit the borrowing limit for federal student loans, you might have to turn to private student loans.

Private lenders are more pickier about your credit situation. Because private lenders have underwriting requirements, it can be tricky to get college loans as a student with no credit history. So, how do you get student loans with no credit when private lenders care so much about it?

The answer: a cosigner. If you don’t have a credit history, a cosigner with good credit can save the day. Note that the cosigner becomes just as responsible for the loan as you are.

What’s more, private loans can come with higher interest rates than federal ones. They also don’t usually have flexible repayment terms like federal loans do. Make sure you understand the terms of your private loan before you or your cosigner sign on the dotted line.

Finding a cosigner

A cosigner is one way to close your college funding shortfall without having a credit history. Most students enlist a parent. Family and friends are more likely to cosign for you because they know you and your goals.

As you look for a cosigner, point out your ability to repay the loan later. Back up your assertions with the fact that you have met other obligations in the past. Showing that you are responsible and willing to repay the debt can go a long way toward helping you secure a cosigner.

Even though cosigners take on responsibility for the loan, they might be willing to brave the risk to help you. Agree to remove their name from the loan or refinance your student loans when you finish school and have a job.

Work on building your credit throughout college so you have the ability to take on your obligations without help. That way, your cosigner knows they won’t be on the hook forever.

Using an income-share agreement

Rather than trying to get student loans with no credit, it’s possible to turn to an income-share agreement. Some schools are trying out these arrangements in which students promise a percentage of their future earnings to investors willing to pay for their schooling.

It’s not exactly a loan, though. You promise that a percentage of your income will go to a benefactor for a specific number of years. Depending on the terms of the income-share agreement, you could end up paying less than if you borrowed the money otherwise, thanks to interest saved over the course of several years — especially if your alternative is a private student loan with a higher interest rate.

Looking for ways to pay for college

In the end, paying for college is about assembling your resources. If you have time, you can save up using something like a 529 plan to reduce your need for student loans. You can also work part time during school or apply to be a resident advisor in exchange for the free housing.

Student loans are only part of the puzzle when it comes to paying for your higher education. They are an important part, but they aren’t the only part.

Review your options and get creative. If you can avoid getting student loans, or reduce what you borrow, your credit becomes less important — and you can avoid some of the interest costs that come with loans.

One great way to reduce the amount of student loans you need to borrow is to apply for grants and scholarships.

Rebecca Safier contributed to this report.

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