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What's a FICO score? Do I need one? How do I get a great one?

Very few high school students have a FICO score (a score that determines a person’s credit worthiness, as determined by the Fair Isaac Corporation) or a personal line of credit to their name, since most states in the U.S. require credit holders to be 18 or 19 to open and sign for an account. 

With that, if you are just starting out financially and you have a credit score, this is great news! Keep up the good work!

Despite nearly 98% of undergraduate students1 reporting having a FICO credit score, this is rarely the case for high school students. If you are just getting your financial wits about you, you likely haven’t had the need, or the ability, to have a credit score. Therefore, when it comes time to apply for a loan, you likely have no, or minimal, credit history to reference.

Having little to no credit history, when applying for student loans, does not mean you are going to experience a financial Failure to Launch moment; there are still options for borrowing, no need to panic.

Federal Direct loans do not require a credit evaluation for approval and private loan lenders evaluate a student with no credit based on the qualified cosigner.  However, credit score is a key factor in determining loan eligibility for any credit as an adult. But with so little time to acquire a stable credit history for traditional undergraduate students, every credit score factor has an exponential effect credit scores.

With loan applications coming so early on in life, young adults simply do not have time to recover from a late credit card payment like someone with 25 years of credit history. One late payment when your credit history is less than a few years old will have a larger effect on your FICO score than at any other point in your life2, so be careful.

With this in mind, if you are in the process of building credit, here are a few things to keep in mind3:

  • Pay bills on time – Whether it’s a cell phone bill, car insurance, or a car payment, make each and every payment on time

  • Pay off your credit card every month – Carrying a balance on your credit card is not bad, but learning to pay them off every month puts you in the right frame of mind early on in life before living expenses (rent, utilities, cell phone, auto, etc.) begin to mount.
  • Have a (part-time) job – Even if it’s only for a few hours a week, employment history has an indirect effect on your credit history and can help build your credit reputation
  • Know your credit score – Knowing your credit score puts you ahead of the game. Only 63% of adults report even knowing their credit score4. Knowing your credit score not only puts you ahead of the game, it also informs you of where you are doing things well or where there are areas for improvement. You should be checking your credit score around once per quarter (once every three months), and you can do this for free at websites like or

Starting to see a theme here?

Long of the short, do whatever you can to be smart with money. Pay bills on time, have some source of income (not an allowance), and know your credit score. Doing these basic things will set you up for a better standing with a future lender and may even line you up for a lower interest rate.

If you have any other questions regarding the loan process, be sure to submit a question and a Thrivent expert will get back to you.






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