If you plan to apply for a private student loan and have little or no income and not-so-strong credit, you will likely need a loan co-signer. A co-signer can be a parent, spouse or family friend who agrees to share the responsibility for repaying the loan if you are unable to make those payments. But if you don’t have someone who is willing to co-sign, there are options for getting private student loans without a co-signer.

Understand the purpose of a co-signer.

A co-signer decreases a lender’s risk that a private student loan won’t be paid back. But a co-signer also brings you benefits, including faster approval of your loan and a lower interest rate than you’d get if you applied without a co-signer.

Student loan options without a co-signer.

Before you consider a private loan that requires a co-signer, take advantage of federal student loans like Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans and PLUS Loans. These student loans do not require a co-signer or a credit check. You won’t need to repay your federal student loans until you leave college or change to part-time attendance. And in some cases, the government pays your student loan interest while you are in school. To see whether you are eligible for any of these options, you must complete the Free Applications for Student Aid (FAFSA).

Strengthen your changes for qualifying for a private loan.

If you want to secure a private loan to pay for college and don’t have a co-signer, student loan lenders may be able to help. But it is difficult. According to student loan research firm MeasureOne, in 2015-16, only 6 percent of undergrads were able to get a private student loan without a co-signer.

You can strengthen your chances for qualifying for a private student loan without a co-signer by having:

  • Good credit. Most private student loan lenders look for people with a credit score of 660 or above.
  • Good income. An earning history is important and most lenders will require that you earn at least $25,000 annually.
  • Being a U.S. citizen is a criterion to secure a loan from most private student loan lenders.

College funding without a loan.

There are other ways to afford college without a loan. If you work during school, you can pay some expenses for college as you go. And grants and scholarships provide money that you don’t have to repay. Grants and scholarships are available from the federal government, your state, the school you want to attend and many community and service groups. For example, The $5,000 Nitro College Scholarship is an opportunity for anyone enrolled in an accredited college or university for the 2016-17 school year. All you have to do is complete the online scholarship survey and answer three short-answer questions. You can apply for the scholarship again March 31, 2017, and July 31, 2017.

Private student loans 101

Before you start your search for private student loans, understand how they work, your responsibilities and what you should look for in getting the best loan possible. Read our detailed guide to understand the ins and outs of private student loans.

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