5 Fast Ways to Get Help Paying For Your College Tuition

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how to pay for college

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Rates starting at 1.04%

1.04% to 11.98% 1

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1.25% to 11.35% 2

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1.24% to 11.99% 3

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  • Variable APR

It’s best to plan for college slowly and carefully on your timeline, not your school’s. But you can still improve your situation even if you’re at the mercy of an impending semester start date or tuition deadline. By requesting help paying for college, applying for scholarships and considering student loans, you could fund your first or next year on campus.

5 solutions if you need help paying 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
2. Ask family and friends for help paying for college
3. Crowdfunding to help pay your tuition
4. Apply for scholarships with faster rewards
5. Consider emergency student loans

1. Talk to your school

Introduce yourself to your prospective school’s financial aid office. If you haven’t enrolled yet, however, 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 representatives 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. Your financial aid office might also explain any on-campus solutions, if available. It might alert you to grant funds that went unused when other students decided to attend different schools, for example.

If you’ve experienced financial hardship, your school rep might also inform 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 paying for college

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 stronger argument for aid if you can prove you’ve already won a few scholarships and just need a little bit extra to push you over the hump.

3. Crowdfunding to help pay your tuition

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 to cover tuition online.

Websites like 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. (Take a cue from student loan borrowers who’ve successfully crowdfunded payments.)

Getting strangers to land on your online 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 already on a college campus, don’t write off this option just yet. It might not be too late to apply for and win scholarships for your next semester of college.

Many scholarship opportunities for high school seniors, for example, 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 such as 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 ways to secure emergency student loans. They include:

  1. Maximizing your federal allotment: Your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) generated information about how much federal aid you could receive in the form of grants, loans and work-study programs. If you’re 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.
  2. 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 they are typically for students who’ve experienced hardship or can prove financial need. You could also negotiate a better aid package from your school.
  3. Taking out a private loan: Although private lenders might be able to disburse your loan faster, they 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 your lowest rate possible. Just be sure to avoid instant or no-credit loans that include higher interest rates and shorter repayment periods.

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.

Need a student loan?

Check out our top picks below or learn more about other ways to pay for college.
Variable APRDegrees That QualifyMore Info
1.04% – 11.98%1 Undergraduate

Visit College Ave

1.25% – 11.35%2 Undergraduate

Visit SallieMae

1.24% – 11.99%3 Undergraduate

Visit Discover

1.78% – 11.89%4 Undergrad & Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.05% – 11.44%5 Undergraduate

Visit Earnest

1.19% – 11.51%6 Undergraduate


2.46% – 12.98%7 Undergraduate

Visit Ascent