A quick personal loan can be helpful when you have a short-term borrowing need. However, this type of loan often comes with a very high interest rate and a short repayment period that can be difficult to meet.
Consider the following seven alternatives to quick personal loans for college students. These options can help you finance your college education in a safer and more affordable way.
The first step to receiving financial aid is to fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Note the FAFSA’s annual deadline so that you don’t miss it for the upcoming school year. You’ll need to complete the FAFSA each school year.
School officials determine your eligibility for financial aid based on your FAFSA information. You may qualify for scholarships, grants, loans, and/or work-study opportunities. Financial aid may come from the school, the state government, or the federal government.
A scholarship is a monetary gift that you’ll never have to repay. Thousands of scholarships are available in the U.S.; it’s a smart move to apply for as many as you can. Scholarship sources include:
- Private companies
- Religious groups
- Professional organizations
- Social organizations
- Civic groups
It’s important to be careful of scholarship scams and only apply to reliable organizations. Scholarship applications should always be free. The U.S. Department of Labor provides a useful scholarship finder to help you narrow down your search.
Additional sources for potential scholarships include your school’s financial aid office, organizations related to your field of study, and demographic-based organizations.
Much like a scholarship, a grant is financial aid you can receive if you fulfill a list of specific requirements. You usually don’t have to repay a grant if you maintain eligibility. Grant resources include:
- Private groups
- Nonprofit organizations
- State government
- Federal government
Students attending a community college, career school, or four-year college or university can qualify for federal grants. These grants are mostly need-based and include the following:
- Federal Pell Grants are almost always for undergraduate students who show exceptional financial need. The grant amount changes yearly; however, the maximum payment for the 2020-2021 school year is $6,345.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) are for undergraduate students with financial need. Check with your school’s financial aid office to see if they offer this grant. The FSEOG program provides $100 to $4,000 grants per year.
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants are for students whose parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. armed forces and died during military service in Iraq or Afghanistan. If you qualify, then you’ll receive the maximum amount of the Pell Grant for the year.
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants are for students who plan to have a teaching career. To qualify for a grant up to $4,000, you must also agree to teach in a high-need field at a school that serves low-income families.
Federal Student Loans
Federal student loans have many benefits to consider when choosing the right financial aid for your situation. For example, they can be easier to qualify for since many federal loans don’t require a credit check or a co-signer. Some other advantages include:
- Low, fixed interest rates
- No payments while in school at least half-time
- Flexible repayment plans and postponements
- Student loan forgiveness based on employment
- Interest rate reductions during repayment
The U.S. Department of Education’s federal student loan program currently offers four types of loans. These include:
- Direct Subsidized Loans are for undergraduate students with financial need. No interest is charged while enrolled in school at least half-time. Students can receive up to $5,500 per year, depending on their grade level and dependency status.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans are for undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree students. A credit check is required, but unsubsidized loans aren’t based on financial need. Students can receive up to $20,500 each year. Interest accrues while in school.
- Direct PLUS Loans are for parents of dependent undergraduates. Graduate and professional students can qualify, as well. These loans are not based on financial need, but students must have good credit. The maximum loan amount is the attendance cost minus any other financial aid.
- Direct Consolidation Loans allow students to group their federal student loans into a single loan. This loan may help lower your interest rates.
The Federal Work-Study program helps enrolled students find steady part-time jobs to offset educational and living expenses. Many schools connect students with job opportunities on or near campus. With a work-study job, you can conveniently work your job schedule around your class schedule.
The work-study program encourages students to apply for jobs related to their field of study. Work-study helps you gain valuable work experience while earning a regular paycheck. Students can also apply for jobs at private nonprofit organizations and public agencies.
Full-time and part-time undergraduate, graduate, and professional students can qualify for this financial aid if they display a financial need. When you fill out the FAFSA, be sure to check off the work-study box if you’re interested in this type of financial aid. Your school will inform you if you qualify. They’ll also let you know your earning potential and how to apply for jobs.
Emergency Student Aid
You need to apply for most student aid well ahead of your school start date to qualify and receive funds. But what if you need cash quickly because of an unforeseen emergency?
Instead of turning to quick personal loans, visit your school’s financial aid office to talk about emergency financial aid. They can share all funding options the school, government, and other organizations currently offer and provide expert advice for your specific situation.
Remember that the school is on your side and wants to help you succeed. They don’t want to burden you with a debt that you could have trouble repaying. An emergency doesn’t have to be the end of your education.
For example, the UNCF Emergency Aid Program offers six emergency funding options to qualified college students, including:
- Degree completion aid
- Emergency retention grants
- Emergency loans
- Food insecurity grants
- Housing insecurity payments
- Natural disaster relief fund
The CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund is another example of student aid that might be available to you. The federal government disburses funds to schools so that they can provide emergency grants – free money – to students in need.
Having extra cash on hand when you need it the most can help you avoid going into debt. If you have the means, then try to build an emergency savings fund. People often refer to this type of fund as their rainy-day savings. It’s money you can access when something has gone wrong and you need cash fast.
Open a savings account just for this purpose and start with a small goal amount that you can realistically reach. A high-interest savings account with a bank or credit union that charges no account fees is a fantastic option for your emergency savings fund.
For example, if you set aside $20 from your paycheck every week, then in six months, you’ll have a savings fund of $480. You can always adjust your goal and add extra money when you have it to spare. You may find it easiest to automatically have a set amount deducted from your paycheck to your savings account.
Gifts, tax returns, and sales of personal items are monetary sources you can use to boost your savings.
Learn More About College Financing
You can’t plan for every emergency, but you can prepare for most student aid. Apply each year via the FAFSA so that you’ll know all your financial options.