The Empowered Dollar
How to Get a Student Loan (Even If You Have Bad Credit)
Whether you’re a college student paying your way through grad school or a parent trying to finance a child’s undergraduate degree, student loans can be a necessity.
In fact, with the high costs of college today, few students or parents can get a degree debt-free.
But if you have less-than-perfect credit, you might find it more difficult to find a loan that works for you. But that doesn’t mean you have zero choices. Or that you have to settle for an unaffordable loan.
Here’s your guide to getting the best possible student loans for bad credit.
How to get a student loan with bad credit
If you’re a student with bad credit or no credit, the best place to start looking for student loans is the federal government.
In fact, it’s easy to get federal student loans with bad credit because they are set up to help make college more accessible.
Qualifying for a federal student loan is based on your need for finance assistance — not by your credit history. And, while most private student loans include a credit check in the application process, federal student loans don’t factor in your credit score at all.
To get federal student loans with bad credit, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through this form, the federal government will get an idea of your financial situation and your family’s. They’ll also calculate your need for assistance to cover the costs of college attendance.
After it’s processed, you’ll know what kind of federal aid you qualify for. This includes student loans (for bad credit or good).
Why choose federal student loans for bad credit
If you’re borrowing money to pay for school, your first loan option should be federal student loans.
Since your credit doesn’t actually matter for these types of loans, qualifying for these student loans with bad credit is pretty straightforward. And if you have bad credit, federal student loans will probably be the most affordable borrowing option you have.
What’s more, federal student loans have low interest rates. Although private lenders might offer similar interest rates on their student loans, you’ll need a high credit score to get the best deals.
More often than not, private student loans for bad credit will have higher interest rates than federal student loans. And a higher interest rate means you pay more for your student loans.
If you’re going this route, make sure you learn about all the different types of federal student loans out there.
For example, if you’re offered a subsidized Direct loan, use that to borrow first. These federal student loans won’t accrue interest until you graduate and begin repayment.
Getting parent student loans with bad credit
College students will have ultimately have more options for federal student loans than their parents. But if you’re a parent borrowing money to pay for their child’s education, getting student loans with bad credit could be trickier.
First off, there are federal student loans offered to help parents finance their child’s education: Parent PLUS loans. Unlike student loans offered to students, however, Parent PLUS loans do require a credit check.
A Parent PLUS loan also requires that a borrower doesn’t have an “adverse credit history.” Having a debt that’s currently delinquent or in collections could count as adverse credit history, for instance. So would a major derogatory event in the past five years, such as a default determination or bankruptcy discharge.
Even if you do have bad credit, though, it’s still worth applying for Parent PLUS loans. And if you’re approved, you have an affordable financing option.
If you’re not approved, your dependent student will probably be able to borrow more through unsubsidized student loans. Plus, those student loans will have lower interest rates than Parent PLUS loans anyways.
Private student loans for bad credit
If you still don’t have enough money to cover your college bill, private student loans are the next place to turn.
Keep in mind, though, that private student loans require a credit check as part of the approval process. The lender will look at your credit score and history to see how you’ve borrowed in the past.
So if you have bad credit, student loans from a private lender might be harder to get. However, credit score requirements will vary by lender. Plus, some have a more flexible application process and even offer private student loans for bad credit.
Try approaching your local lenders before taking a loan out from a big bank.
“Small banks or credit unions local to your area may be more flexible with interest rates or repayment plans, especially if you’re already a customer or your student is attending a local school,” advises Graham Batzler, co-founder of MaxFinAid.org.
Some online lenders also offer private student loans with relaxed credit requirements.
Whoever you’re looking to borrow from, Batzler warns to look up reviews of the lender, first. You’ll also want to shop around to compare different lenders’ fees, interest rates, and student lending options.
Borrow carefully with student loans
Whether you have good credit or bad credit, student loans should be limited to the very minimum that you need to cover your costs.
And keep in mind that there are many other options available to help pay for school, from applying for scholarships to getting a part-time job.
What’s more, limiting your student loan borrowing from the get-go will ultimately help you afford monthly payments later on. That’s especially important if you have bad credit to boot.
Plus, when it’s easier to keep up with payments you’re more likely to pay on time, every time. And responsibly repaying your student loans can go a long way when it comes to repairing your credit and building a strong borrowing history.