Borrower Requirements

Both the federal government and private lenders have certain criteria that borrowers must meet in order to qualify for a student loan. The federal student loan amount you qualify for varies by financial need and loan type.

Requirements for federal student loans include:

  • completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which includes proof of family income
  • U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizenship (for instance, someone with a permanent resident card, who was granted asylum or who is a refugee)
  • acceptance into a degree program
  • proof of financial need (only required for subsidized federal loans)

Requirements for private student loans can vary depending on the lender. These may include:

  • completion of lender’s loan application
  • credit history (or a co-signer if your credit history isn’t good)
  • enrollment (at least part-time) in a degree program
  • U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status

Getting a Good Rate

Increase your chances of getting approved for a good rate on a private student loan with these tips:

  • Establish and maintain a good credit history: Lenders like to see a history of on-time payments. You’re more likely to get a loan with a low interest rate when your credit record indicates that you’re good at managing money.

  • Shop around: Spend time talking to lenders, researching loan options and comparing your available options. Your credit union or bank is a good starting point because you already have an established track record of doing business together. In addition, many colleges provide a list of lenders they consider to have a good track record of offering competitive rates and providing good customer service.

  • Consider a co-signer: Co-signers sign for the loan with you, which means they’re equally responsible for ensuring timely and complete repayment. Lenders tend to look favorably at co-signed loans because one borrower usually has a more established credit history. 


If you don’t qualify for a private student loan on your own because of your age, income or credit history, you may need someone to co-sign for the loan with you. A co-signer vouches that you’ll pay off the debt as promised and takes on equal responsibility for the loan repayment. In other words, if you fail to make your loan payments, your co-signer is legally obligated to do so. A late or missed payment will negatively affect your credit score, as well as your co-signer’s score. Having a co-signer may help to secure a lower interest rate and loan approval.

Choose someone who meets the lender’s criteria and has a history of good credit. While this person is typically a family member, other qualifying non-relatives may serve as co-signers, too.

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