How to get a student loan if you’re a single parent

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Scholarships, grants, and student loans for single parents are available for those who wish to attend college. (Shutterstock)

Many non-traditional college students, such as single parents, struggle to afford college fees. This is often because they have never had the same access to scholarships as recent high school graduates.

But now, more options are available for single parents and other non-traditional students pursuing a college education.

Private student loans are a way for single parents to finance their studies. Credible allows you compare private student loan rates from multiple lenders, all in one place.

Start with the FAFSA

You can apply for federal student aid help pay for tuition and university fees by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Schools use information from the FAFSA to determine what types of federal aid you are eligible for.

Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Alien registration number (for non-US citizens)
  • tax returns
  • Records of any untaxed income, such as child support
  • Chequing and savings account balances
  • All investments, such as stocks, bonds and real estate
  • Any commercial or agricultural asset

You must complete your FAFSA during the submission period, which generally runs from October 1 to June 30 for the following school year. But some states have different deadlines. You can check your state’s deadline on the website.

You will also need to contact the colleges you are interested in, as they may have specific deadlines that differ from the federal FAFSA deadlines. Financial aid is limited, so it’s best to complete your FAFSA as soon as possible.


Financial assistance for single parents

Single parents who need financial help to pay for their college education have a few options, including scholarships, grants, and student loans – federal and private.

Start with grants and scholarships, as these do not need to be repaid and will reduce your overall educational expenses. You can search millions of scholarships using Sallie Mae Scholarship Search tool. These scholarships are divided into categories to match the situation and skills of the candidate.

For example, single women and mothers seeking employment in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, or math) can apply for awards from industry groups. Scholarships are also available for single mothers who wish to attend nursing school.

You might also consider private student loans to help cover your tuition. Visit Credible for compare private student loan rates from various lenders in minutes.

Government grants for single parents

Single parents in financial need can apply for grants. The largest grant provider is the federal government. But states, companies and private organizations also offer them. Like scholarships, grants do not need to be repaid.

Here are some federal grants available to single parents:

  • Federal Pell Grant This scholarship is for undergraduate students with financial need. For the 2022-23 award year (July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023), the maximum amount is $6,895. The maximum amount awarded changes each year. Additionally, the amount may vary depending on your expected family contribution, the cost of attendance, whether you are a full-time or part-time student, and your plans to attend for a full academic year or less.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) This grant differs from the Pell Grant in that funds are limited each year and are only awarded until funding is exhausted, making it important to apply as early as possible. You can receive between $100 and $4,000 per year depending on your financial need, when you apply, the amount of other aid you receive, and the availability of funds at your school.
  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant This scholarship is for undergraduate and graduate students who meet certain academic requirements and will spend four years teaching at a low-income school. If you do not meet your obligation, the grant will be converted into a direct unsubsidized loan which must be repaid, with interest. The TEACH grant program awards up to $4,000 per year.


Federal student loans for single parents

Single parents also have access to some of the same federal student loans as recent high school graduates. The Department of Education offers three types of federal loans:

  • Subsidized direct loans — These loans are for undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to use for college or vocational school. The government pays accrued interest while you are in school at least half-time, during adjournment, and for six months after graduation.
  • Unsubsidized Direct Loans — Undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for these loans and they do not have to demonstrate financial need. You pay all accrued interest, including during your studies.
  • Direct PLUS Loans — These loans are for graduate students and parents of dependent undergraduate students.

Consider private student loans

You may be able to get a student loan from a bank, credit union, or online lender if you don’t want to complete the FAFSA, missed the FAFSA deadline, or need additional funds after you’ve exhausted your options federal aid.

Private student loans are depending on your credit. If you have excellent credit, the interest rate offered to you may be better than the interest rate on a federal loan. It pays to compare loan options from multiple lenders, including loan amounts, interest rates, and repayment terms. You can also ask if the lender offers discounts for single parents.

With Credible, you can compare private student loan rates without affecting your credit.