Maybe high school senioritis affected your college planning. Or perhaps you made a late decision to enroll.
Whatever the case, you’re probably wondering how to pay for college at (what feels like) the last minute.
Fortunately, there are ways to do it on a strict timeline.
5 solutions if you’re wondering how to pay for college
If you find yourself saying, “I need help paying for college fast,” you might be tempted to take desperate measures.
Instead, think about these two main avenues to raise money for school: being proactive on your own, and being proactive about asking for help. For example, you might find a part-time job or ask your boss for a raise.
If you’re trying to figure out how to raise money for college fast, take both approaches. They’re common themes among these five potential solutions.
1. Talk to your school
Introduce yourself to your prospective school’s financial aid office. If you haven’t enrolled yet, the office might be limited in how it can help you. But it’s still wise to check in because your school’s financial aid representative could point you in the right direction.
They could hook you up with a federal student aid administrator, for example, if you haven’t claimed federal grants or maximized your loan allotment. It’s also possible that your financial aid office will explain on-campus solutions. They might alert you to grant funds that went unused when other students decided to attend other schools, for example.
If you’ve experienced a financial hardship, your school rep might also educate you about campus vouchers, grants, and emergency loans. If you just need more time to come up with your tuition payment, you could ask your financial aid office about potential payment plans that delay deadlines.
2. Ask family and friends for help
Talking with your financial aid office should give you a broad understanding of how to pay for college. Whether your tuition shortfall is large or small, family or friends could help you fill it.
Instead of asking for a handout from mom, dad, or someone else in your inner circle, build a case. Explain to your loved one the following:
- How much help you need
- What the money would cover
- Why you need the money soon
- How you plan to pay it back (if applicable)
Family and friends who are in a position to help might also want to know that you’ve exhausted your other options before they open their checkbooks.
You’ll make a better argument for aid if you can prove you’ve already won a few scholarships and need a little bit extra to push you over the hump.
3. Crowdfund your tuition online
When considering how to pay for college, crowdfunding might not immediately come to mind. But to reach more distant relatives or Facebook friends, consider taking your quest for covering tuition online.
Websites like Generosity by Indiegogo, YouCaring, and GoFundMe could also connect you with strangers looking to support a worthy cause. Of course, it helps to have one.
Just saying “Help pay my tuition!” isn’t enough. You’ll need to convince the visitors to your page that your education is a worthy investment. You might do this by explaining your circumstances, plus how a college degree would help you change them.
Getting strangers to land on your listing is another challenge. You might promote it on your social media profiles or start an email campaign among your contacts.
4. Apply for scholarships with faster rewards
In an ideal world, you started applying for gift aid as a high school junior. But if you’re a senior or recent graduate, don’t write off this option just yet. It might not be too late to apply for and win scholarships for your first semester of college.
Many scholarship opportunities for high school seniors state when and how the award is sent to the winner. Even if an active scholarship lacks that information, look for one with a fast-approaching deadline. The closer the deadline, the closer the reward. You can sort opportunities by deadline on scholarship websites like Chegg.
You might also be concerned that you don’t have enough time to fulfill application requirements. In that case, focus on opportunities that don’t call for recommendation letters or essays. You can use “Easy to Apply” filters using search tools like Niche.
5. Consider emergency student loans
Short of securing last-minute scholarships or other gift aid, you might resort to loans that need to be repaid.
Fortunately, there are a few different ways to secure emergency student loans. They include:
- Maximizing your federal allotment: Your FAFSA spit out information about how much federal aid you could receive in the form of grants, loans, and work-study programs. As a dependent first-year undergraduate, you could receive as much as $5,500 in Direct Loans. If you’re in a bind, confirm that you were awarded as much federal aid as you could receive.
- Borrowing from your school: Almost 70 percent of colleges and universities offer an emergency loan program, according to the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. Emergency and institutional loan programs vary by school but are typically for students who’ve experienced a hardship or can prove financial need. You could also negotiate a better aid package from your school.
- Taking out a private loan: Although they might be able to disburse your loan faster, private lenders might require a cosigner. They offer interest rates based on your credit history, debt-to-income ratio, and other factors. Finding a creditworthy cosigner could help you secure the lowest rate possible.
Evaluate your lender options by looking beyond the interest rate you can secure. As you decide whether to take out a private loan, remember that private lenders don’t offer protections like federal loans. One notable federal protection is the ability to adjust your repayment plan after you leave college.
Whatever you do, avoid instant or no-credit loans that include higher interest rates and shorter repayment periods.
How to raise money for college fast
It’s best to plan for college slowly and carefully on your own timeline, not your school’s. But you can still improve your situation even if you’re now at the mercy of a semester start date or your next tuition deadline.
Once you know how to pay for college, you need to get moving. One of these ways could help you fund your first year on campus. Then you can begin planning for your second.
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