How to Choose and Apply for Student Loans — Without Your Parents’ Help

Kat Tretina

If you need to take out student loans to pay for college but don’t have the help of your parents, you’re part of a growing majority.

According to the Office of Federal Student Aid, over 53 percent of federal aid applicants were independent, meaning they are over the age of 24, married, working on a master’s or graduate degree, serving in active duty in the military, are a military veteran, have children, are an orphan or in foster care, or are an emancipated minor.

Whether you’re estranged from your parents or are a married adult, getting student loans without help from parents can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. It just requires a little extra work and research.

Here’s how to take out student loans without parents’ assistance.

Types of student loans available

If you don’t have the help of your parents, you still have two main options when it comes to student loans: federal and private loans.

Federal student loans

Federal student loans will probably be the easiest type of loans for you to get as an independent student. Federal loans don’t require a credit check or a cosigner, nor do they have a minimum income requirement.

As an independent student, you can qualify for both Direct Subsidized and Subsidized Loans.

With Direct Subsidized Loans, the Department of Education covers the interest that accrues on your account while you’re in school, during the six months immediately following your graduation date, and during any periods of forbearance.

By contrast, you’re responsible for all interest that accrues on Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

As of the 2019-2020 school year, independent students can borrow up to the following limits:

Year Maximum Amount
First-year undergraduate annual limit $9,500 (Maximum of $3,500 in subsidized loans)
Second-year undergraduate annual limit $10,500 (Maximum of $4,500 in subsidized loans)
Third-year and beyond annual limit $12,500 (Maximum of $5,500 in subsidized loans)
Graduate or professional degree student annual limit $20,500 (unsubsidized only)

To qualify as an independent student, you must meet the federal criteria. If your parents won’t help you, but you’re still technically dependent, you can still apply for federal loans on your own. However, your loan options may be more limited.

Private student loans

With federal loans, there is an aggregate limit — meaning a cap on how much you can borrow for your entire college career. For undergraduates, the limit is $57,500, and no more than $23,000 of that number can be in subsidized loans.

Unfortunately, that amount may not be enough to cover the total cost of your education, room and board, and fees.

If that’s the case, private student loans can play an important role in completing your degree. Private student loans are offered by individual banks, companies, and online lenders. With a private student loan, you can borrow up to the total cost of attendance.

Because private lenders typically base their decision on your credit score, getting approved for student loans without a cosigner can be difficult. However, there are lenders out there that can help you if adding a cosigner to your application isn’t an option.

For example, Ascent offers private student loans with loans specifically designed for borrowers who don’t have cosigners. If you don’t have a cosigner, Ascent will look at your school, program, the cost of attendance at your university, and your credit report to determine your loan eligibility. And, if you have less than two years of credit history, there is no minimum income requirement.

How to take out student loans without parents’ help

Now that you’ve learned what options exist, you can move forward with actually applying for loans. Follow these four steps to take out student loans without parents’ assistance.

1. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid

Your first step should be to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The FAFSA is what the government and schools use to determine what financial aid you’re eligible for including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans.

The FAFSA application is available starting on October 1 the year before you plan to attend school, and it must be submitted by June 30. However, some financial aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. If you can, submit your FAFSA information as close to October 1 to ensure you get as much aid as possible.

The FAFSA will ask you questions about your household finances. If you’re technically dependent on your parents, but they won’t help you with your application, don’t give up! On the application under the parent section, click the box that says, —I am unable to provide information about my parent(s).”

If you choose this option, you won’t qualify for subsidized loans. But, you may still qualify for unsubsidized loans, which have low interest rates and generous repayment terms.

2. Contact the school’s financial aid office

If your parents refuse to help you or provide you with information for the FAFSA, contact your selected college’s financial aid office after you submit your FAFSA. Explain your situation, and that you are looking to take out student loans without parental input.

In some cases, they may ask for a written statement from your parents or a guidance counselor that says they won’t help you, but it’s not always necessary.

The financial aid office can decide that you are eligible for federal loans without your parents’ involvement. And they may have other options for you, such as school-based funds for students like you.

3. Explore private student loans

Once you’ve exhausted all the federal and institutional aid available, you can also look for a private student loan to help with any remaining financial support.

Use Purefy’s Compare Rates tool to get quotes from multiple lenders without impacting your credit score. Once you find a lender that works for you, you can submit your loan application online — quickly and easily.

4. Consider adding a cosigner

Adding a cosigner to your application can increase your chances of getting approved for a loan and qualifying for a low interest rate. Your cosigner doesn’t have to be a parent; it can be any relative or even a friend, as long as they have good credit and stable income. If at all possible, consider asking a loved one to cosign a loan. It’s not a necessary requirement, but it can certainly help your application.

Paying for college

Figuring out how to take out student loans without parents’ help can be hard. But if you’re a student who needs to borrow money and doesn’t have access to a cosigner, there are multiple options available to you. By applying for both federal and private student loans, you can get the money you need to get your degree and begin your career.

Still need help? Check out this easy step-by-step guide on how to apply for student loans.

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