Most of us think of summer as a time to chill out and relax, but for a lot of college students, the summer is an opportunity to ramp up their studies.
For coeds who want to graduate early or strengthen their skills, summer is the perfect chance to take smaller classes, get one-on-one help with professors, or explore new subjects.
Whether you’re using summer classes to catch up or get ahead, you’ll need to pay for those credit hours. Here’s what you need to know about using financial aid and the other tools at your disposal in order to fund your summer education.
Do the Math
Taking summer classes is a great way to graduate early or squeeze another degree into the same four-year schedule. Some schools even offer a discount for summer classes, as compared to the cost of classes during a semester.
Plus, if you have an apartment you’re renting for the year, you won’t have to pay extra for room and board. If you don’t have a year-long rental, you can often find cheaper sublets since people near college campuses may be more interested in renting out their places for the summer.
Call your financial aid office directly to find out what the cost of classes will be. Know which classes you’re interested in ahead of time and how many credit hours you’ll want to take. A two-credit class is much cheaper than a three-credit class since most schools charge by the credit hour.
Finally, if you’re taking classes at a different university, make sure your credits will transfer over.
Funding the Cost of Summer Classes
If you’re taking a full course load or you can’t find a summer job, there’s a good chance you’ll have to take out loans to pay for classes. To be eligible for federal student loans, you have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is the same FAFSA you fill out every year to get student loans.
You’ll also need to be at least a part-time student to qualify for federal loans, and every college has its own definition of what that means. Some colleges require students to take at least three credit hours to be considered part-time summer students, but others say you need six hours to have part-time status. If you aren’t taking enough classes to reach part-time status, then you’ll need to look for outside funding.
Each college has their own deadline for when to apply for financial aid, so be mindful of when things are due. Call your financial aid office to find out their deadline and make sure you fill out any other paperwork they require.
Federal loans are easy to apply for, especially if you’ve used them before. One thing to be aware of is that federal loans have an annual maximum limit that applies to the academic year. The amount that you use during the summer will count toward your annual maximum.
You can also apply for student loans with a private lender. Private lenders don’t have specific loan application deadlines, so you can apply any time you need the money. Shop around with a few different lenders before finalizing your choice and pick the lender with the lowest interest rate. Even a .5 percent difference in interest will add up over the years.
You’ll need a cosigner if you’re applying with a private lender, and for most people that means your parents. Ask them early on so they have time to fill out the application. They’ll need to provide access to their income and credit reports to prove they can pay for the loans if you need help.
How to Attend Summer Classes for Less
Grants and scholarships don’t just cover the fall and spring semesters, but summer classes as well. Look at both private scholarships and anything available from your university.
If you’re attending a different college for summer classes, look into their funding sources extensively. You never know what you’ll qualify for until you ask.
Departments may also have separate funding for summer students. Even if you haven’t qualified for a scholarship at your college before, it’s worth trying again.
A part-time job could also help pay for summer classes, and presents a good opportunity to look for gigs or internships related to your degree. The average cost of a credit hour is $594, so a decent-paying gig could allow you to pay for a class without taking out any loans. If you can find something related to your degree, you’ll get the added bonus of relevant career experience.
Paying for summer classes can seem more complicated, but taking them can expedite your time in college or allow you to earn another degree in the same amount of time. Look into summer classes if you’re interested and follow these steps to figure out how to pay for them.