Many undergraduate and graduate students encounter a specific challenge when applying for a private student loan: many such loans require a cosigner.
According to research by data and analytics firm MeasureOne, as sourced by, about 92% of undergraduate loans had a cosigner in academic years 2021 and 2022.
Having a cosigner available makes getting approved for many loans more likely. Lenders also look at factors such as FICO credit scores and payment histories when deciding to issue a loan.
According to a report published byin 2021, "Students who do not have access to a creditworthy cosigner may find it difficult or impossible to obtain private loans, which can lead them to take out more federal loans or choose lower-cost schools."
It’s still possible to get a private student loan with no cosigner or with no FICO score. Edly Student Loans, for instance, offers flexible student loans if you don’t have a cosigner, provided that you meet eligibility requirements.
Federal student loans are typically the first stop in a borrower’s journey, and for good reason. These usually feature lower interest rates than private student loans, offer income-driven repayment plans, and may include student loan forgiveness programs. That said, some private lenders have similar perks (Edly offers flexible income-based repayment options, for example).
Alternatively, private loans can sometimes offer higher loan amounts, which can help with medical or law students, who often face a higher cost of attendance. Depending upon the lender and loan type, private student loans may also offer lower monthly payments, more favorable repayment terms, and other favorable features.
Like most lending products, creditworthiness is a large consideration for most private student loans. In contrast, federal loan programs are needs-based (based on the information provided by the applicant in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid [FAFSA]) and do not require a credit check.
For most private lenders, good credit history can go a long way toward approval. Unfortunately, college students may lack the required credit score simply because they haven’t had time to build a credit history.
On the Edly Student Loans website, graduate and undergraduate students can apply for a loan without a cosigner and with no credit history. Edly Student Loans from FinWise Bank feature income-based repayment, with flexible repayment terms that scale with your income following graduation.
If you have no cosigner, it is still possible to get a loan through private lenders like Edly. If you have a low FICO credit score, you may need to take steps to improve it before you can qualify for any loan. Below are a few general tips for actions that may help improve your FICO score.
Consistently making payments on your debts on time is one of the most effective ways to build credit. Many lenders offer tools like automatic payment so that you can at least cover the minimum amount due each billing cycle.
New lines of credit often involve a hard credit inquiry (or “hard pull”). According to the, “when the information on your credit report indicates that you have been applying for multiple new credit lines in a short period of time (as opposed to rate shopping for a single loan, which is handled differently), your FICO Scores can be lower as a result.”
Avoid closing old accounts that you’ve paid off in full, even if you don’t use them anymore. Older accounts show a longer credit history, which ultimately may improve your FICO score.
If you are not old enough to qualify for some of the above options, it is still possible to build your credit score, but your options are more limited. There are two primary actions that can help:
Becoming an authorized user of someone else’s credit card can help you build your own credit score. You may be able to sign onto your parent’s credit card, for example. Once you do, the credit history on that card will show up on your credit report, which can boost your own score.
Some banks and financial institutions offer these alternatives. Traditionally, when you borrow money, you receive the amount up front and pay it back over time. With credit builder accounts, you make fixed payments to a lender, then get access to the full loan amount at the end of the loan’s term.
Just because you don’t have access to a creditworthy cosigner does not mean that you cannot get a student loan. Some private student loan lenders, like Edly, allow you to get a loan without a cosigner and without a credit history, and you may be able to prequalify without a hard credit pull.