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

Without a high school diploma, you might have had to search high and low for the right school to continue your education.

The same could be said for student loans.

Although your lack of a diploma could be a big obstacle to borrowing student loans, it’s one you might also be able to overcome.

Getting federal student 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 two ways you could still qualify for federal aid:

  1. Completing high school via homeschool in a state that doesn’t require receiving a credential
  2. Enrolling in an eligible school’s career pathway program and passing an “ability-to-benefit” test or meeting other prerequisites

If you’re still 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 borrow from the Department of Education.

Borrowing private student loans without graduating high school

In the world of federal student loans, the lender (the government) makes the rules. It works similarly in the realm of private student loans, but with one exception: Private lenders typically don’t care whether you graduated high school or not.

We polled four lenders — Citizens Bank, CommonBond, College Ave Student Loans and Discover — 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 — but 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, and others reserve their loans for students attending four-year programs.

College Ave, for example, offers undergraduate loans in addition to career loans for students seeking associate’s degrees or attending select community colleges. Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo are among other lenders that 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.

Borrowing 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 fulfills what you’re seeking as a borrower.

Need a student loan?

Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!

Lender Variable APR Eligibility  
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* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
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Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents

Visit College Ave

Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit Discover

4.50% – 11.35%*,4 Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit SallieMae

4.25% – 11.30%5 Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit SunTrust

6.08% – 7.22%6 Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit LendKey

Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents

Visit CommonBond

Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents


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