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How to Get Student Loans Without a High School Diploma or GED

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Without a high school diploma, it can be tough to find a school to continue your education. But if you’ve found one, it may be possible to get financial aid without a high school diploma.

Although your lack of a diploma could be an obstacle to borrowing student loans, it’s one you might be able to overcome — let’s take a closer look at how to do the following:

Getting federal financial aid without a high school diploma

Most eligibility requirements for federal student aid — including governmental grant, work-study and loan programs — are pretty straightforward. You must be an American citizen (or an eligible noncitizen with a Social Security number), and you must be enrolled at an eligible school, attending classes at least half-time.

Fortunately, there’s some gray area around your educational background. If you don’t hold a diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, there are some ways you could still qualify for federal aid:

  • Complete high school via homeschool in a state that doesn’t require receiving a credential
  • Enroll in an eligible school’s career pathway program and pass an “ability-to-benefit” test or meeting other prerequisites
  • Complete six credits or equivalent coursework that count toward a program that leads to a degree or a certificate

If you’re not sure whether you fit these criteria, contacting your school’s financial aid office is your best bet. It can confirm whether you’ll be able to get financial aid and borrow from the Department of Education.

Borrowing private student loans without graduating high school

In the world of federal student loans, the government makes the rules. But in the world of private student loans, lenders don’t always care whether you graduated high school or not.

We polled two lenders — Citizens Bank and College Ave Student Loans — and each said they don’t require borrowers to have earned a diploma or a GED.

Once you’re enrolled, it’s no longer a question of your eligibility — it’s about your school’s.

Banks, credit unions and online companies typically lend exclusively to students who attend programs within their so-called network. Some lend regionally or nationally, while others reserve their loans for students attending four-year programs.

College Ave, for example, offers not only undergraduate loans, but also offers career loans for students seeking associate’s degrees or attending select community colleges. Sallie Mae and various other lenders, meanwhile, additionally cater to students borrowing for trade schools.

So you might not need a diploma or GED to get into school and borrow loans, but that doesn’t mean your school and preferred lender will be willing to work together.

When shopping around, confirm your school’s eligibility by entering its name into lenders’ applications. You can also circle back to your campus financial aid office and ask for its list of approved private lenders.

Paying for college without finishing high school

Admittedly, not having a high school diploma can limit your college options, as well as restricting where you can find student loans — but it is still possible to attend and finance the next step of your education.

If you’re eligible for federal loans, start your search there, as the Department of Education offers loan protections, including pathways to loan forgiveness, that private lenders can’t match.

When surveying your private student loan options, however, beware of lenders who say they specifically cater to non-high-school graduates and charge exorbitant interest rates or fees. Expand your search for the right bank, credit union or online company that not only deems you eligible, but also offers a loan with reasonable interest rates that won’t break the bank.


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