Student Loans Without a Cosigner: The Best Options and Alternatives

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Obtaining a student loan without a co-signer is possible but may be difficult if you are trying to qualify for private student loans and have limited or no credit. Before even considering private loans, you should max out all your federal student loan options—and you don't need a co-signer to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

If you've already gone through the federal loan process and still need additional funding, there are several private lenders that don't require a co-signer, including Ascent and College Ave. You'll need to have a good credit history to be approved, which means having a credit score of at least 650 with a low debt-to-income ratio. If you think you can qualify, we've included a list of the best private lenders for you to consider, as well as other alternatives to getting a private student loan without a co-signer.

Best Student Loans Without a Co-signer

Although many private student lenders advise that you apply with a co-signer, most lenders don't actually require one. However, finding a loan company that will grant you a loan with a reasonable rate will largely depend on your finances. In order to increase your odds of approval and better rates, apply to as many lenders as you can within a short time frame to limit the damage to your credit. Keep in mind that your credit score will temporarily lower as a result of hard checks on your credit history. But if you really need the extra funding and believe you can pay back loans with a potentially high interest rate, here are some of the best lenders to consider.

Ascent

Ascent
Ascent

Ascent is one of the only lenders that offers student loans specifically for those without a co-signer and little credit history. The independent student loan is only available to junior and senior undergraduate students, as they are closer to graduation with more information available on their financial futures. Instead of focusing on credit history, the lender looks at a student's financial future based on their school attendance, earning potential by major and savings.

Although Ascent can be a good option for borrowers without a co-signer, the company’s student loans have significantly higher APRs than other lenders, and you will definitely get a much better rate with a co-signer. In order to qualify, you must have at least a 2.5 GPA and you must not have any delinquencies of 60 or more days during the past two years.

College Ave

College Ave
College Ave

College Ave offers borrowers multiple student loan options with low variable rates and flexible repayment plans. The lender does not disclose its credit requirements, but it offers a free credit prequalification tool for you to see if you qualify without impacting your credit score. The student loan company will cover up to 100% of your school costs and gives you four different loan terms to choose from with no prepayment penalty.

Students that may struggle paying off their loans should not apply to College Ave. Unlike most lenders, College Ave doesn't have a specific policy in place for those who cannot meet the payments to repay their loan. Therefore, we don't recommend the lender for borrowers that may struggle financially, as there is no guarantee of qualifying for forbearance with the lender.

Other Student Lenders To Consider If You Have No Co-Signer

We recommend that you apply to as many lenders as you can to make sure that you're getting the best rate possible. Below, we have included other lenders that don't require a co-signer, although most encourage students to use one. These student loan companies could also be an option for borrowers with potential co-signers that will apply as long as they can be released from the loan at some point. All of these lenders offer co-signer release after a certain number of consecutive on-time monthly payments.

LenderFixed APRVariable APRCo-signer Release
Sallie Mae4.74% - 11.35%*3.37% - 10.75%*After 12 monthly payments
Citizens Bank4.72% - 12.19%3.15% - 11.41%After 36 monthly payments
SunTrust Bank3.819% - 11.050%2.893% - 10.426%After 36 monthly payments
Wells Fargo5.94% - 11.26%5.04% - 10.93%After 36 monthly payments
PNC Bank4.52% - 10.84%4.90% - 11.11%After 48 monthly payments

*Sallie Mae's lowest rates shown include Auto Debit discount.

How to Get a Student Loan Without a Co-signer

The best way to get a student loan without a co-signer is to improve or build your credit history. This could mean paying down your debt balances or applying for a new credit card or loan. To start, you'll have to look back at your credit history and examine any late payments or bills to see if the information is accurate. If not, you can dispute those records and request certain items to be taken off your report.

After cleaning up your history, you should start paying down your balances to reduce the amount you owe compared to how much credit you have, known as credit utilization. Ideally, you want to keep your credit utilization below 30%.

On the other hand, if you lack credit history, you can build your credit score by applying for a student or secured credit card, becoming an authorized user on a family member's account or getting a credit-builder loan. You can even combine these options to create greater diversity on your credit portfolio and improve your overall credit score. Be sure to meet monthly payments and keep your credit utilization below 30%, or else your credit score won't improve and may even lower.

Alternative Ways to Pay for Your School Expenses

There are several other ways to pay your tuition instead of taking out a private loan. However, keep in mind that some of these options may involve more work on your part but can cost you much less in the long run.

Scholarships

Schools are not the only place to get a scholarship. There are actually many companies and organizations that offer scholarships for students, ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars in awards. Many require you to write an essay as part of the process, but some just require a quick application. You can check out scholarships options from the Open Education Database website and scholarships.com, which gives you scholarship recommendations based on your major, GPA, state and enrollment level.

Alternative housing

To save some money while in school, you can choose to live in off-campus housing and split the cost with roommates. College dorms tend to be more expensive than apartments or houses off campus. You can look into your school's resources or check the Campus Cribz website to find available apartments. Alternatively, if you want to stay on campus, you should look into being a resident adviser (RA), as many schools offer reduced or free housing for taking an RA position.

Work study

When filling out your FAFSA, you can check the box that asks if you're interested in student employment, which will help fund your college expenses. Work-study jobs pay at least minimum wage and are part-time. If you’re eligible, you’ll be able to work for your school or an off-campus employer and choose a job that will give you some experience for your major. And if you don't qualify for work study, you can find a job the old-fashioned way to help pay for your school expenses.

Take a year off

Another way to save money for your school costs is to take a year off to work and save up money for your tuition. A common reason students drop out of school is because they don't have enough funds to continue. By waiting until you've built up some financing, you can decrease your chance of having to leave school. You can also use the time to decide what you really want to study and prepare for the upcoming year. And you can always enroll in a few courses at a community college or nearby school to get some college credit.

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