Student life is difficult enough right now. Student loan debt is a financial crisis in the US that is now costing Americans over $1.5 trillion. With the rising costs of student life, making it through college without being left with a mountain of debt has become challenging. So, personal loans for college students have become more popular out of necessity, for many.
When you’re struggling to pay for the many college expenses, personal loans are a risky but potentially useful option. The key is knowing how to use them and exercising extreme discipline so you don’t make your debt any worse than it has to be.
Personal Loans For College Students vs Student Loans
First, personal loans are different from student loans. When you hear the term “student loans” you are hearing of a specific type of loan meant strictly for tuition payments. Tuition is the expense that drives the student debt crisis, but all loans have their own shortfalls. Any loan that goes towards tuition falls under a specific category that must follow federal regulations. Personal loans do not.
Personal loans for college students cannot be used to pay for tuition. However, they can be used to pay for many different living expenses. These loans are simple, as most personal loans are. You simply take funds from a lender, then repay the loan with interest.
Common Uses For College Student Personal Loans
College students can take personal loans for many reasons. Common purchases for students include:
- New Laptops
- Food and drinks
Anything that isn’t tuition or books sold by the school can be financed by personal loans.
Alternatives To Personal Loans for College Students
Personal loans are expensive. They carry several drawbacks that can normally be overcome if you have an income, but that can really ruin a college student’s finances (read “Drawbacks To Consider” below). So, before you go ahead and take out a personal loan, try to consider other ways to pay for your expenses.
Part Time Job
While it can be grueling in many situations, it’s often better to just get a part-time job. A part-time job will be a big commitment in time, but it won’t bury you further into debt. Working part-time jobs as a college student is fairly common and there are often many jobs available. Also, remember to look for options in the community, such as tutoring or babysitting.
There are many public and private scholarships you might qualify for. If you can qualify for one, you won’t need to spend as much money on tuition. Look into the various options available to you.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a key resource you should look into. Submitting your FAFSA can make you eligible for grants, work-study programs, and other beneficial programs. Critically, it also gives you access to federal student loans.
Federal student loans are always the best loan option for college students in the US. These loans do not collect interest while you’re still studying, a benefit that personal loans don’t have. Once they do start collecting interest, the interest rates are lower than other loan options. They offer flexible repayment arrangements that can last 10-25 years.
Credit cards are not far superior to other personal financing options. However, there are credit cards specifically meant for students. These cards shouldn’t carry any annual fees, but their interest rates will still be comparable to normal credit cards. The main benefit of student credit cards is that they offer rewards suitable for students. Most will carry cashback rewards, which can save you a small amount each month. Just remember not to use a credit card for anything you wouldn’t use cash for.
Regardless of the way you go about getting your money, budgeting is a necessity for the majority of college students. Meal plans and other budgeting exercises should complement any financing options you choose to use.
Where To Find A Personal Loan for College Students
It’s a bit hard to get a personal loan as a college student. Borrowers are usually required to have a credit history, so you will need someone to co-sign your loan application.
Your options for personal loans include credit unions, banks, and alternative lenders. Credit unions offer the best rates and often consider more than just your credit history. Banks may also lend to students.
You have access to some of the same loans that working adults have. The only difference is that you will want to find a lender that caters to the needs of students. Many lenders, including some alternative lenders, will loan money to students. These lenders will often overlook your lack of credit history and assess you by future earning potential instead.
If you’re looking into personal loans for college students, it’s best to do some extra homework. Where you can, try to find any evidence that you will be a good borrower in the future. If you have any co-op experience, any part-time work, or anything that would let a lender know you’ll likely be a good employee in the future, use it.
Alternative Personal Lenders
You can apply for a personal loan through one of our affiliates:
- OppLoans – a personal lender offering up to $4,000 in as little as 24 hours.
- Honest Loans – a direct lender offering a few products as a slightly cheaper alternative to payday loans.
If you’re not sure if you qualify, you may want to apply to a marketplace to get matched with the best lender:
- Even Financial – this is a tech-enabled marketplace that matches you with the best of national lenders, based on the information you submit. They offer loans from $1,000 to $100,000
Drawbacks to Personal Loans for College Students
Personal loans are not a great source of funding for college students. When possible, it’s best to try some of the methods we discussed. If you are set on getting a personal loan for your college expenses, there are a few things you must consider and prepare for.
They Are Expensive
Personal loans cost quite a bit, which is why they were meant for employed adults. Even with the best deal you can find, you will pay a chunk of the money you borrow back in fees and interest. When you’re already struggling with money, this can cause a disaster.
Good rates on personal loans usually only come to people with high credit scores (good credit histories) and a stable income.
No Delays On Interest
Unlike many student aid options, interest for personal loans grows right away. Your first payment on any personal loan becomes due the moment you accept an offer from a lender. If you’re already struggling and don’t have a sure way to pay the lender back, you will just be in more trouble than you were before.
Personal loans have shorter repayment terms than student loan options. Most personal loans are repaid between 3 months and 5 years. FAFSA student loans, for comparison, are usually repaid in over 10 years.