Key takeaways

  • Each private student loan lender will have slightly different requirements, but they will all look at similar factors to consider applicants.
  • To be eligible for private student loans, applicants generally must meet certain enrollment, income, credit score, age and expense requirements.
  • If you have bad credit, it will be more difficult to qualify for private student loans, but it’s not impossible.

Private student loans can help students fill financial aid gaps, but their qualification requirements are stricter than federal student loans’ are. Federal student loans don’t require a co-signer and some don’t even require a credit check. That isn’t the case with most private student loans.

Requirements for private student loans will vary depending on the lender. Borrowers also need to know the rules on how they can use the funds before taking out the loan.

Private student loan eligibility requirements

After applying for federal student loans, you may still need to cover leftover expenses with private student loans.

Private student loans generally have tougher eligibility requirements than federal loans. In addition to age, income and credit score minimums, students must be enrolled at an eligible school and use funds for specific expenses.

Students who do not qualify independently may qualify by adding a co-signer.

Before applying for a private student loan, it’s a good idea to check whether you meet the basic requirements. The five private student loan requirements below are the most common among lenders, although all lenders have different standards.


Private lenders typically start with the basics.

They’ll first require that you’re a student pursuing education. You’ll also need to attend an accredited school, which typically includes four-year colleges and sometimes two-year community colleges and trade schools.

Most lenders also require you to be enrolled at least half time at your school. However, some lenders have private student loans specifically designed for part-time or career-training students.

How to prepare
If you’re not sure whether your school qualifies, ask the lender for a list of acceptable schools or ask about the specific school you’re interested in attending. Your school’s financial aid office can also give you tips on paying for your education.

Credit score

Private lenders typically check a borrower’s financial standing to help them analyze the risk they take by lending money. They’ll run a credit check to see how you’ve handled debt in the past.

It can be tough to qualify independently without a credit history or a limited one. Because few students have a well-established credit history, many lenders require a co-signer (such as a parent or guardian). Your co-signer’s credit matters more than yours.

Many lenders won’t advertise a specific minimum credit score, but a score in the mid-600s or higher can help you or your co-signer meet private student loan credit score requirements.

As your credit score increases, you’ll have more borrowing options and may receive a lower interest rate.

If you do not have a co-signer and also lack a high credit score, look into no-co-signer student loans. Some lenders, such as Ascent, consider your grades and future earning potential when approving you for a loan.

How to prepare
If you don’t have the credit history to qualify for a private student loan, you might consider holding off on your application for a few months. Improve your credit to qualify for the loan and get a good interest rate. If you don’t have the time, you may need to apply with a co-signer who meets the lender’s credit requirements.


In addition to credit requirements, lenders typically require a minimum income. Sometimes, it can be as little as $24,000, but the higher your income, the better.

Lenders typically ask for documentation showing your and your co-signer’s employment status and earnings. They will calculate your debt-to-income ratio to see how much of your monthly income goes toward debt.

How to prepare
If you don’t have the income to qualify, look for jobs you can take on while enrolled in school. Alternatively, you can apply with a co-signer willing to take on the responsibility of paying your student loans if you can’t.

Qualified expenses

Private student loans are designed to cover your cost of attendance, which usually includes:

  • Tuition and fees.
  • Housing expenses.
  • Transportation to and from school.
  • Meals.
  • Textbooks and supplies.

Your lender determines your cost of attendance by contacting your school’s financial aid office after you apply. The school will confirm the cost of attendance, certify the amount you’re asking to borrow and disclose other financial aid you’ve received.

How to prepare
While a private student loan can be a convenient way to cover expenses while in school, it will eventually need to be repaid. Consider paying for some of your costs with savings, income from a part-time job or college scholarships and grants. These options can minimize your postgraduation costs.

Age and citizenship

Most lenders also include requirements surrounding age and citizenship status. An applicant must usually have a Social Security number and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Borrowers must also be at least 18 with a high school diploma or equivalent, such as a GED. Some states set the minimum age at 19.

How to prepare
If you don’t meet age requirements, ask the lender if you can qualify with an older co-signer. If you’re an international student, you may still be able to qualify for a private student loan with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen.

How to qualify for a private student loan if you have bad credit

If you’re new to credit or recovering from a setback in your credit history, you might not be in a good enough place to qualify for a private student loan on your own. Most lenders require applicants to have good credit, but you may be able to qualify even with bad credit.

Apply with a co-signer

One common way to get a student loan with bad credit is to apply with a co-signer who has good credit. A co-signer agrees to repay the loan if you can’t, so you share the responsibility for repayment. If you default on the loan, it’ll hurt both your credit score and your co-signer’s credit score.

Consider applying with a lender that has a low minimum credit score requirement

If you cannot find a co-signer, consider applying with a lender with a low minimum credit score requirement. For example, Earnest’s minimum credit score requirement is 650, though you’ll need an income of $35,000 to qualify. In addition, lenders like Ascent offer loans based on factors beyond credit, such as your major and GPA.

The bottom line

Many private student loans require a minimum income or credit score, so borrowers should be prepared for a credit check. They will also want to be sure that their school and enrollment qualify for private loans before borrowing. Many states also set a minimum age for borrowing these types of loans.

Students who are not eligible to borrow on their own may be able to do so with the help of a co-signer.

Comparing private student loan rates, requirements and terms is an important part of choosing a lender. Companies can have different eligibility requirements and repayment terms, so knowing the nuances can save borrowers time and money.

Frequently asked questions

  • Different lenders have different borrowing requirements for private student loans. Before applying, ask your lender for eligibility information to see if you are likely to qualify.
  • Yes, most lenders will allow you to apply for a private student loan at any time of year. Your eligibility for a loan may depend on your enrollment status, so be mindful of your lender’s requirements.
  • It’s generally best to max out your federal student loan eligibility first before considering private loans. Federal student loans come with access to benefits such as income-driven repayment (IDR) plans and student loan forgiveness programs. Plus, federal student loans have fixed rates typically lower than those private lenders offer.