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5 last-minute ways to get money for college

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Whether your financial situation has suddenly changed or you didn’t receive as many scholarships as you’d hoped for, there may be situations where you need money for college quickly. If you’re nearing the start of the semester and experiencing a shortfall, don’t panic; there are several places you can look for last-minute funding.

5 last-minute ways to get money for college

Consider these last-minute ways to get money for college when you’re in a pinch and need more funding.

Fill out the FAFSA

If you haven’t yet, submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form determines the federal and state aid you’re eligible for, and it could open up opportunities for federal loans, grants or work-study.

Some aid is given on a first-come, first-served basis, so you may not qualify for everything if you’re filing late. However, know that you can still submit through June 30 of the school year you need funding for — so if you need money for spring semester, you can still apply even if you’re already partway through the school year.

Contact your financial aid office

The office of financial aid is responsible for communicating your financial aid package. This office can be a great resource if you don’t know where to start looking for aid; it can help you navigate your aid options or figure out a tuition payment plan.

The financial aid office is also a great place to check for school-specific scholarship opportunities. The financial aid office typically redirects students to academic offices or departments to apply for specific grants or scholarships that may not be advertised on the school’s website.

Appeal your financial aid award offer

If your financial aid award offer is smaller than you anticipated, consider filing an appeal letter. An appeal letter outlines any changes to your federal aid application or discrepancies that you think may have occurred when calculating your final award amount.

While rare, it is possible to get more money for college after filing a well-written and organized appeal. You should consider submitting an appeal if you need more money due to a death in the family, unexpected medical expenses, a divorce, a job loss or another financial upheaval. Simply needing more financial aid likely won’t result in a successful appeal.

Apply for last-minute scholarships

Scholarships are offered year-round by private organizations, so it’s always worth doing a search for last-minute options.

You can search for scholarships by date, category, grade level and award amount through a scholarship search engine. These search engines host thousands of scholarships, so you can spend less time searching for last-minute opportunities and more time applying. As you apply, stay organized with a spreadsheet, recording each due date, award amount and application status.

Compare private student loan lenders

Though you can apply for federal student loans only once a year through the FAFSA, private student loans are available anytime. This makes private loans an ideal option if you haven’t gotten enough money through scholarships or federal loans and need quick funding. It can still take several weeks for your college to certify the loan amount and the lender to send over the funds, but the flipside is that you can often borrow up to the full cost of attendance.

Before applying, compare several lenders to see which offers you the best rates. Unlike federal loans, private loans use your credit score and financial health to determine your interest rates, so it’s worth prequalifying with a few lenders or adding a co-signer to your loan to ensure that you’re getting the cheapest option.

Next steps

If your financial aid award package came out to be less than you anticipated, higher education can still be within reach. When in doubt, reach out to your financial aid office; administrators there will have experience helping students who need last-minute funding, and they can help you determine the best course of action for your situation.

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Written by
Hanneh Bareham
Student loans reporter
Hanneh Bareham specializes in everything related to student loans and helping you finance your next educational endeavor. She aims to help others reach their collegiate and financial goals through making student loans easier to understand.
Edited by
Student loans editor