To get a student loan without a parent, you will need to be considered an independent student — or find other resources to finance your education.

While qualifying can be difficult, an independent student loan may not be out of reach. As long as you fill out the FAFSA, stay in contact with your school’s financial aid office and explore private loans, you may be able to get student loans without parents being involved in the process.

How to get federal student loans without a parent

Always start with federal student loans before you consider private loans.  Both federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans have borrower protections and don’t have the same credit requirements as private loans.

To apply for a federal student loan, you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA. Your answers to questions on the FAFSA determine your dependency status, influencing whether you can take out a student loan without a parent and how much you can borrow.

How to tell if you’re a dependent or independent student

If you’re a dependent student, the U.S. Department of Education typically evaluates your financial aid based on your and your parents’ income, even if your parents won’t financially contribute to your college education.

All graduate and professional degree-seeking students are considered independent, while undergraduate students must fit the eligibility requirements outlined by the Department of Education to be considered independent.

You may be considered an independent student — and won’t need to include your parents’ income details — if you fit one or more of these requirements:

  • You’re at least 24 years old on Jan. 1 of the year you’re applying for financial aid.
  • You’re married or separated.
  • You’re working on a master’s degree or doctorate program.
  • You’re a veteran of the U.S. armed forces or you’re on active duty for purposes other than training.
  • You have children or dependents who receive more than half of their support from you during the award year.
  • Since you turned 13, both of your parents are deceased, you were in foster care or you were a dependent or ward of the court.
  • A court has determined that you’re an emancipated minor, or someone other than your parent or stepparent has legal guardianship of you.
  • You’re experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness.

How to apply for federal student loans as an independent student

To get a federal student loan without a parent, provide financial information for only yourself on the FAFSA form.

You will need the following documents when filling out the form as an independent student:

  • Social Security card.
  • State-issued ID, such as a driver’s license.
  • Most recent W-2 forms.
  • Most recent federal income tax return.
  • Most recent bank statements.

How to apply for federal student loans as a dependent student

Dependent students will need to submit the documents above and include paperwork for their parents’ income, too. If you’re missing these details, however, you still have options. While you must fill out the FAFSA form to receive federal financial aid, you may be able to apply without your parents’ information. Here are your two possible options:

  • Request a dependency override. You can ask the Department of Education to consider you an independent student based on an unusual circumstance, such as an abusive family environment. The department approves these requests on a case-by-case basis and requires documentation.
  • Fill out the FAFSA without your parents. If your parents are unable or unwilling to provide their information and you can’t claim a dependency override, you can choose this option on the FAFSA: “I am unable to provide information about my parent(s).”

In both cases, contact your school’s financial aid office after submitting the FAFSA. The financial aid office will determine your dependency status and what aid you qualify for.

How to get private student loans without a parent

If federal student loans, scholarships and grants won’t cover all of your education costs, private student loans can help fillbe a good option for filling in the gaps. Private student loans often require borrowers to have an established credit history or add a co-signer. That makes approval more difficult, but you have a few options.

Ask another relative to co-sign the loan

If your parents won’t co-sign a private student loan, you can ask another relative or a trusted friend to sign the loan documents. Eligibility requirements vary depending on the lender and the loan you want to take out, but generally, the co-signer will need a regular source of income and a good credit score to qualify.

The co-signer is agreeing to take over the loan payments if you fall behind, so they will need enough room in their budget for this possibility.

Find a lender that doesn’t require a co-signer

Some private lenders don’t require a co-signer for borrowers with thin credit history. Instead, they consider factors like academic merit or future potential income.

For instance, Ascent and Funding U cater to students without a co-signer. They offer private student loans based on factors like GPA, school, program, graduation date and major.

Increase your credit score

Some larger lenders may accept students without a co-signer if they have strong credit and a steady income. If you’re new to credit or your credit score could use a boost, here are some steps to improve it:

  • Get a credit card. You may qualify for a student credit card if you have income or someone willing to co-sign the card agreement. Using the card responsibly — keeping the balance low and making on-time payments — will help you start building healthy credit. If you already have a credit card and a good score, consider using another card to increase your credit limit while keeping your credit use low.
  • Become an authorized user. If you don’t yet qualify for a credit card, consider asking a friend or relative with excellent credit to add you to their account as an authorized user. Their positive credit use will also be reported on your credit reports, which can help increase your credit score. Just make sure you’re on top of your payments since any missed payments on your part will negatively impact their score.
  • Add alternative data to your credit report. You can add your rent or utility bills to your credit reports, and the on-time payments may boost your credit score.

Should you get a student loan without a parent?

Although you can take out a student loan without parents, you will face extra challenges. You may have difficulty qualifying for a federal student loan without your parents unless you’re considered an independent student.

With private student loans, you will have to go through extra steps to qualify without a co-signer. You may also likely pay higher interest rates because the loan is riskier for the lender, and you may struggle with payments if your income is low.

Determining if the degree you want to pursue — or the school you want to attend — is worth the financial strain will depend on several factors. But if you know the program will be worthwhile, it can be good to consider your options without your parents’ involvement.

The bottom line

While it may be more difficult to get approved without a parent, a student loan can help you finance your degree. This, in turn, can open career and salary advancement opportunities and help you build credit.

To make the best decision for you, figure out which loans you qualify for, weigh the pros and cons and craft a repayment plan before taking out a student loan without a parent.