During college, the biggest worries students face should be studying for their next exam — and the big nap they'll get to take when it's finished. However, a lack of funds may force highly motivated and successful students to take a semester off or even drop out of school. In extreme cases, students may even be going hungry to save money.
For students who are struggling financially, figuring out how to pay for tuition, rent, books, food and all the other expenses of college life can take a serious toll, with the stress affecting their studies.
Some students can turn to parents or other relatives for assistance. Others may need to navigate their cash flow challenges themselves. But even if you fall into the latter group, you're not alone. Financial help for college students is available through on- and off-campus organizations and resource centers that provide assistance in various forms.
Here's a list of resources for college students that you can turn to, or share with a friend, when finances become a concern.
- The financial aid office. The financial aid office at your university might be able to help you find additional financial aid, whether it be through loans, grants or scholarships. Some schools also offer short-term emergency loans to students. Even if you aren't eligible for additional aid, you may be able to set up a payment plan for your tuition bill.
- The student services office. Financial strains can bleed into other elements of your life and may impact your personal relationships, study habits and even your grades. The student services office can help you find a counselor who'll help you navigate the situation and may offer time management trainings that can prove useful if you're working while at school. It may also offer indirect financial help for college students, such as assisting with applying for food stamps or offering free food from an on-campus food bank.
- A school office devoted to helping traditionally underrepresented students. Many colleges and universities also have an office (or several offices) created specifically to help students who are part of underrepresented populations. This may include first-generation, disabled, transfer, veteran and minority students. If you're part of one of these groups, the office could have money set aside to help you or may be able to refer you to other on-campus or outside organizations that could help.
- Scholarship organizations. Scholarships, which are often critical resources for college students, are available throughout the year to upper and lower classmen alike. Apply for scholarships with upcoming deadlines, and you may win money to cover pressing expenses. However, when you have an immediate need, there's a good chance the award won't arrive in time. If you've already won any scholarships or grants, you could reach out to the granting organization and explain your situation. They may be able to help with additional financial support.
- On-campus student clubs or organizations. You can learn about additional resources for college students by connecting with your peers. If you're part of a student club or group, see if it has a directory of helpful financial resources. Also, try to find and connect with fellow students who've overcome similar struggles to ask for advice and learn how they managed.
- Crowdfunding. Some students start a crowdfunding campaign to help them raise money for their college expenses. You likely won't be able to cover the cost of all your schooling, but if you have a particular need, such as a set of textbooks or fees for a study abroad program, crowdfunding could be a good option.
- Private student loans. A private student loan could help you pay for school certified educational expenses. To qualify, you'll need to meet eligibility and credit requirements. You may need a creditworthy cosigner if you don't qualify on your own. After getting approved for a loan, you may also need to contact your school's financial aid office and ask for the loan disbursement date to be moved up. Otherwise, the school may not realize you have an immediate need for the funds and won't disburse the money to you right away.
Financial setbacks can hinder your college dreams. However in the long run, a college degree can more than pay for itself through increased earning potential. So, look for ways to overcome the challenges and complete your degree. And remember that you're not alone — there are many places and people you can turn to for help.