Once you’ve received your financial award package (including all federal student loans, grants, and scholarships you can get through your school) for next semester, it’s up to you to find additional private student loans and other sources of money. Are you prepared to pay for your tuition, room, board, books, and all of your other expenses when next semester starts?
While it may seem early to prepare for next semester, you’ll want to apply in plenty of time to receive any private student loans you need to fill the gap between your award and your costs—and to find and apply for last-minute scholarships, pick up extra summer work, or find a part-time job for fall that may help you borrow less, too. Here are two crucial first steps.
- Set up a budget and identify how much you need after you subtract your federal financial aid award, savings, expected summer earnings, and other sources of income from your expected costs for the next semester.
- Shop for private student loans in the right amount to help fill the gap between your award and expenses so you know you’ll be able to start attending classes at the start of the semester. You don’t want to over-borrow and pay interest for the next 20 years because you rented a fancy college apartment. On the other hand, if you don’t borrow enough in private student loans and have to work two jobs while taking 14 credits just to stay enrolled and keep your financial aid, your grades may suffer—or you may simply have to take a semester off.
What to Look for in Private Student Loan Options
- Flexible repayment options, such as immediate repayment, interest-only repayment, and deferred repayment
- Low-interest rates mean you pay less on your loans in the long run
- Personalized help with figuring out how to finance your education, how much to borrow, etc.
- Cosigner release (e.g., U-fi From Nelnet offers this after 24 months of on-time payments)
- Borrower benefits (e.g., discounted interest rates with auto debit)
Applying for Private Student Loans
When you apply for a private student loan with U-fi From Nelnet, for example, it’s easy to apply online. Unless you’ve already established good credit, you’ll most likely need a cosigner to help you qualify for a private student loan and obtain a lower rate. Your cosigner also needs to set up an online account and complete an application. Once you’ve applied and we receive all the needed documentation, loans can be approved and disbursed (paid directly) to the school, typically within a matter of weeks. But we recommend getting started early so you don’t have to sweat it! (You can learn more about cosigners, our loans, and the application process on our frequently asked question page about student loans.)
What If You Need More Help?
If you don’t qualify for enough student loans and you need more help, there are still other options to explore. You can go back to your school and ask for more help, or appeal for a professional judgment review in the event your financial circumstances have changed since you filed the FAFSA. More colleges are offering temporary emergency loans to help students over short bumps, so you could ask whether this help is available, too.
You can search for additional late-deadline scholarships, take an extra job over the summer, decide to live at home, take on extra roommates to save money next semester—or even see if you can take a position as a resident assistant to help with housing expenses. If you decide to take the bus, you can sell your car, and get rid of insurance, gas, and maintenance costs, too.
What Are You Waiting For?
Planning ahead identifies problems early so that you have time and more options available to you. You’ll be able to brainstorm solutions with help from others such as your financial aid office, friendly personalized assistance, and other advisors in your life so you can keep your educational dreams alive. The goal is to find yourself, next semester, sitting in class—where you belong.