Summer classes are a way to get ahead or catch up with college credits, but does financial aid cover summer classes?
Why you should take summer classes
Taking summer classes has its perks—you can take fewer classes during the academic year, or you could get on track to graduate in less than four years! But you might be wondering: can I get financial aid for summer classes? You can…but the process is a bit different than getting financial aid for the regular academic year.
How to apply for summer financial aid
If you’ve already applied for the FAFSA® for the academic year, your information will also determine whether you can get financial aid for the summer. If you haven’t applied yet, what are you waiting for? A lot of federal financial aid is first come, first served, so the sooner you apply, the more aid you could get. The FAFSA® opens December 2023* for the 2024-2025 academic year. Contact your financial aid department or visit the official FAFSA® website for any help applying for summer financial aid.
*The FAFSA® typically opens October 1 every year, but due to new changes in the application, the opening date has been pushed to December 2023 for this year only.
Types of financial aid available for summer classes
If you qualify, your federal financial package may include grants and work study—you don’t have to pay these back. However, summer classes are considered “optional” by many schools, so receiving this type of aid will be limited. Make sure you apply early to ensure you are considered for the most money possible.
Want to know one of the most underrated gems for getting help paying for college? Scholarships! An estimated $100 million goes unclaimed every year. Why? Too often, students believe they have to have perfect grades or be stellar athletes to qualify. Not true! There’s scholarship money out there for so many things! Scholarships offer some of the best options for summer funding. The best time to start your search may be in the spring semester—but deadlines can extend well into the summer months. It may be more work to find these scholarships, so you’ll want to act fast! Start using a scholarship search tool to find scholarships. Your school may even offer some university scholarships, especially if you’re considering a summer study abroad program. Be sure to check out the financial aid office to see what your school offers.
Understand your loan options
There are two types of loan options: federal and private. Federal loans have two types: subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans do not require an interest payment. This means if you borrow $2,000, the federal government will pay your interest up to 6 months after you stop attending school. Unsubsidized loans will have interest. If you borrowed that same $2,000, by the time you graduate, this would be your principal (original) amount and you would be responsible for paying back any interest on top of the principal. And don’t forget—you have to submit the FAFSA® in order to be eligible for federal loans.
Private loans are typically taken out from a private bank or other financial institution. When you apply for a private loan, your credit—and the credit of your cosigner if you have one—are evaluated to approve you for the loan and determine your interest rate. (Pro tip: applying for a private loan with a cosigner can help up your chances of getting approved and getting a better interest rate.)
You should always take out federal loans first, then consider a private loan if you still need money for school.
Alternative ways to pay for summer classes
If you don’t receive enough funding, consider taking courses at discounted prices. Be sure to check that your specific course can transfer to your school.
Summer course loads tend to be lighter than during the academic year, so if you’re short on funds, consider finding a part-time summer job. The best time to find seasonal work may be in the late spring or early summer months. If you’re looking for a spring internship, these may start recruiting as early as the previous fall. Contact your career services department to see how you can make the most out of your summer.
Whether you use federal grants, scholarships, loans, or decide to work, funding summer classes may seem like a daunting task, but you’re not alone. Your school provides many resources to help keep you on track. Talk to your academic, career, and (most importantly) financial aid counselors so they can help you achieve your goals. And the best part about summer classes? They tend to be much shorter than classes during the academic year. So once your funding is secured, be sure to schedule some time for summer fun!