How to get a student loan for summer classes

Where to find funding for those extra courses.

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Funding for summer classes requires some planning ahead. While most of the same options are available to you as during the academic year, when and how you apply is slightly different. You might not be able to cover as much with federal loans, thanks to annual limits.

Federal loans for summer classes

The same federal student loans that are available for courses during the regular academic year can also be used for summer classes. These include:

  • Direct Subsidized Loans
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  • Parent PLUS Loans
  • Grad PLUS Loans

However, federal loans might not be available to cover the cost of summer courses if you’ve reached your annual limit on Direct Loans:

Annual limit for dependent studentsAnnual limit for independent students
First-year undergraduate$5,500$9,500
Second-year undergraduate$6,500$10,500
Third-year undergraduate and beyond$7,500$12,500
Graduate student$20,500

If you hit your limit, you’ll have to rely on private student loans, Parent PLUS Loans or Grad PLUS Loans to finance your summer classes.

    How to apply for federal loans for a summer course

    Each school has a different procedure when it comes to applying for federal loans for a summer course. Before you get started, reach out to your school’s financial aid office to find out how to apply.

    Generally, you need to complete the FAFSA for either the previous academic year or the upcoming academic year. Some schools might require you to be registered for your courses before you can get started — typically you need to be enrolled in at least six credits to be eligible.

    Your school might limit federal loans for summer courses

    On top of annual limits set by the Department of Education, some schools might also have limits to how much you can borrow in federal loans for a summer session. Usually, this depends on the number of credits you take.

    For example, undergraduate students at Syracuse University can only borrow between $2,750 and $3,750 for summer courses. And UC Santa Cruz only allows students to borrow up to $2,200 depending on the number of credits you’re enrolled in and your state of residence.

    Private student loans for summer classes

    If you’ve reached your federal loan limit or otherwise aren’t eligible, you might want to consider private student loans. Typically, you can borrow up to 100% of your school’s costs, covering whatever federal loans and other financial aid can’t.

    Like with federal loans, you can get started by reaching out to your school’s financial aid office. Some might have deadlines for when you can apply for summer funding and other restrictions. Once you’ve confirmed the process with your school, you can start comparing lenders with the table below.

    How private student loans work

    Compare private student loans for summer courses

    Updated October 21st, 2019
    Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR
    Good to excellent credit
    Varies by lender (typically, total certified costs of education minus financial aid already received)
    Starting at 4.2% with autopay
    Get prequalified rates from private lenders offering student loans with no origination or prepayment fees.
    Varies by lender
    Varies by lender
    Varies by lender
    Quickly compare private lenders for your school and apply for the right student loan.
    675
    $200,000
    4.51% to 9.26%
    Straightforward student loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
    700
    $500,000
    5.45% to 9.74%
    Finance your college education through this lender with a strong social mission and terms that fit your budget.
    Good to excellent credit
    Varies by lender
    Starting at 3%
    Compare multiple student loans and student loan refinancing options in one place.

    Compare up to 4 providers

    How to apply for summer financial aid in 4 steps

    1. Talk to your school’s financial aid office. Each school is different. The first step to getting started is reaching out to the financial aid office to learn about your options and deadlines.
    2. Compare free options. Before you take out a loan, look into scholarships and grants available, as well as paid internships and work-study. You can often get summer study abroad grants through your school’s language departments, for example.
    3. Fill out the FAFSA first — if possible. Apply for federal aid before you look into private loan options — it’s often easier to qualify for a competitive rate and comes with flexible repayments.
    4. Apply for private student loans. Consider prequalifying with a few lenders to compare the rates and terms available to you to find the best deal.

    5 alternatives to pay for summer classes

    Private student loans aren’t the only way to cover the cost of a summer course. In fact, you could fully cover the cost without taking on any debt with one or more of these options.

    1. Grants

    You can fund a summer course with grants, which you don’t need to repay. Pell Grants are available to students based on financial need and can be used in the summer. Some universities like UC Berkeley also offer grants to students specifically for summer sessions.

    Talk to your school’s financial aid office to find out what’s available to you. You usually need to meet certain requirements to qualify and the application can take some time, so reach out sooner than later.

    2. Scholarships

    Many scholarships don’t have restrictions on when they can be used, so you might be able to apply for one to cover the cost of your summer courses. Like grants, scholarships typically take some time to apply for, so getting started as soon as possible can increase your odds.

    3. Summer jobs and paid internships

    Some schools don’t require payment for summer courses until the end of the semester. If this is the case and you’re only enrolled in a few credits, you might be able to cover the cost by taking on a part-time job or paid internship. You won’t have to go into debt, and you’ll have another line on your resume to kickstart your career after you graduate.

    4. Attend a less expensive school

    If you’re just getting credits toward your degree, you might want to consider taking a course at a local community college and transferring them over to your school.

    Community colleges tend to be less expensive and therefore easier to pay for out of pocket. However, not all are eligible for federal student aid, so you might want to avoid this option if you’re interested in federal grants or loans.

    5. Consider online courses

    An online course can be even less expensive than going to a community college. And you won’t have to ever leave your home. Just check with your school to make sure the credits are transferrable before signing up.

    What to avoid when paying for summer courses

    When and how you apply for funding for summer classes can affect whether or not you get approved. Avoid these three summer funding fails:

    • Completing the wrong FAFSA. It’s up to your school to decide what academic year your summer courses fall under — it could be covered by the previous or next year’s FAFSA. That’s why it’s crucial to reach out to your financial aid office before applying.
    • Registering for too few classes. Many schools require you to take at least six credits to be eligible for financial aid. Know what the credit requirements are before you apply or consider registering for an additional course.
    • Signing up at the last minute. The later you register, the more likely you won’t have time to apply for the least expensive options like scholarships, grants and even federal aid.

    Bottom line

    Your options for paying for summer classes are nearly the same as the regular academic year. But how much you’re eligible to borrow and when to apply are slightly different. Since each school has its own procedure for summer school funding, the best place to start is with its financial aid office.

    Check out our guide to student loans to learn more about how it all works.

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