Emergency Student Loans for College Students

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Brian O'Connell

By Brian O'Connell

April 19, 2022

No college student wants to face a mad scramble for emergency funds in the event of a personal financial crisis, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.

When times are tough, emergency student aid or emergency student loans may fit the bill. However, you may face some twists and turns in securing an instant student loan.

What is an Emergency Student Loan?

An emergency student loan is a loan (usually a short-term one) that covers basic educational and living expenses in an emergency.

Common scenarios that lead to emergency student loans include:

  • A death in the family (especially if the person passing is the family breadwinner).
  • A job loss that leads to the college student not being able to pay college expenses.
  • A theft, accident, or unexpected loss of funds and property with financial value, originally earmarked for college costs, but is suddenly unavailable.
  • A natural disaster, like a hurricane or other weather calamity, that keeps you from getting access to cash at your bank.

In short, any unexpected event that triggers a dire and sudden financial need may justify applying for an emergency student loan. Most colleges offer them, although each has unique processes and rules.

Typically, emergency student loans are issued by colleges and universities, public and private lenders, and non-profit organizations to cover basic living expenses, like meals, health care, housing, and other vital short-term expenses needed during a financial crisis.  

Emergency loans for college students provide the funds needed to keep you working towards your degree in a time of severe financial need.

Here are a few more common eligibility requirements for emergency loan approval:

  • You are enrolled at the college or university as a student.
  • There are no “holds” on your academic registration.
  • You have over a minimum grade-point average.
  • You’re up to date on your payments to the college and don’t own any money on other loans.
  • You haven’t already taken out an emergency student loan during the same semester.

Are there any emergency loans for students with bad credit? Luckily, credit isn’t a top consideration for schools that offer emergency student loans. 

Remember, every college has unique processes and requirements. Check with individual schools for the most accurate information. 

Characteristics of Emergency Student Loans

Short repayment period: Emergency loans have an emphasis on the“short-term.” If you do wind up taking out an emergency student loan, be prepared to pay it back quickly. Most emergency loans have payback deadlines of 60 or 30 days, or the end of the academic term, depending on the lender.

Low amounts: Emergency loan amounts are usually low, usually capping out at $500-to-$1,000 per semester, per student, at most colleges. If you require more funds, consider a private student loan or additional financial aid if you haven’t maxed out. We’ll cover some complements and alternatives to emergency student loans later in the article.

Quick access to funds: You should get the loan fairly quickly. After you apply for an emergency student loan and are approved, the money should show up soon in your bank account.

Some colleges offer same-day ACH bank account deposits, while some may take a day or two more. By and large, you’ll get the cash sooner rather than later.

No cosigner needed (in most cases): If you seek an emergency student loan directly from your college or through a federal financial aid program, you likely don’t need a cosigner.

If you’re applying for a private loan from a bank or other lender, you’ll need to have a job or good credit to gain approval. Otherwise, you’ll need a cosigner.

You won’t pay any interest or fees – in most cases. Likewise, if you are obtaining an emergency student loan from your college or from a federal financial aid program. In this case, you’ll likely pay no interest rate on the loan and no administrative fees (outside of a possible loan origination fee).

If you opt for a private student loan, you may be able to borrow more money, but you’ll pay an interest rate based on your credit health and the lender’s own lending policies, and you’ll pay administrative fees.

Emergency student loans vs. other loans



Emergency Loans

Federal Student Aid

Private Student Loans

Loan Amounts

Usually $1,000 or less

$3,500 – $20,500 per year or cost of attendance

Cost of attendance

Loan Disbursal

Varies, usually directly to the student

Directly to the college

Usually directly to the college, sometimes directly to the student

Interest Rates

None, except for a small fee

3.73% for Direct Subsidized & Unsubsidized Loans (Undergraduate)

5.28% for Direct Unsubsidized Loans (Graduate)

6.28% for Direct PLUS Loans


Loan Terms

1-3 months

Payments commence 6 months after graduation



What happens if you can’t repay the emergency loan?

If you cannot pay back your emergency student loan, a negative ripple effect may kick in. First, you’ll trigger late fees, which will add to your loan burden as you struggle to make good on the debt.

Additionally, your college may place a “hold” on your registration for next semester, so you won’t be able to sign up for classes. You’re also placing future college financial aid in the “harder to get” category, and if it’s a private loan you’re not repaying, your credit standing will take a hit, too. 

How to Get an Emergency Student Loan

Many colleges offer high-performing, enrolled students the opportunity to receive emergency, fast student loans if they are experiencing financial hardship. 

Follow these steps to get an emergency student loan:

  • Document your emergency needs for extra aid, since your college will want to see proof. Include receipts, certificates, bank statements, letters – anything pertinent to your case. 
  • Contact your financial aid office or student life office to see what is required to receive an emergency student loan and how the process works. Besides loans, you can see if your college offers emergency grants or scholarships, vouchers for meals, or bookstore purchases, or a bus pass.
  • Check if you have any remaining federal loan eligibility you can use. The financial aid office will know whether you’ve reached the loan limits. 
  • Submit all required documentation and paperwork for your loan. In addition to offering funds from the college, your school’s financial aid office may also be able to connect you with third-party sources of emergency assistance. 

Alternatives to Emergency Student Loans

If you can’t get your hands on an emergency student loan, you have other options.

Aim for college grants, not loans. Many colleges and universities offer emergency funds in the form of quick grants and scholarships to needy students. The financial need may factor in, as issues like health or legal troubles usually count more than other financial emergencies.

Again, your financial aid office is the place to go – ask about grants and scholarships before you ask about an emergency student loan. If you’re lucky and can make a good case, you’ll get emergency funds that won’t need to be paid back.

Apply for a student credit card. You want to do everything you can to avoid tacking on credit card debt in college. But if you’ve exhausted your other options, it may be the solution. Pursue a credit card that offers an introductory interest rate of 0% on purchases for six months. 

This way, you can pay off your balance before it starts accruing interest.

Find a side hustle. Sell unwanted stuff to make extra money. Explore alternative ways to make money, such as tutoring, getting a part-time job, or babysitting. 

Ask for any unused/additional financial aid. Your college’s financial aid office can let you know if you have any financial aid eligibility remaining. Note that new student loan funds may take a few days to be disbursed. You might even consider appealing for a greater financial aid limit. Some of the more common justifications for a mid-year appeal include the death of a parent or other wage-earner and job loss.

Apply for a private student loan. Banks, credit unions, and online lending platforms can be good sources of quick funding. See our list of the best private student loans for reviews. You’ll likely need excellent credit or a cosigner to gain approval, and fees and interest rates apply.

Get your family involved. A quick $500 from mom and dad, your grandparents, or other trusted friends can come in handy if you need the money ASAP. Just write up a quick (and signed) note to your family member, noting the amount borrowed and expected repayment date, so everyone knows what’s on the table, obligation-wise.

Ask for an extension. If tuition payments compound the emergency need for funds and you can’t pay them back, your college may put you on an installment payment plan that breaks high tuition costs down into manageable financial bites. Your college may also grant you an extension on a hardship basis if you can’t pay your college costs, thus buying you time to make good on your tuition debt.

The Takeaway on Emergency Loans

If you’re strapped for cash at college and have nowhere else to turn for the money, emergency student loans can quickly defuse the crisis and keep you plugged into your classwork and on the path to graduation. 

Need help planning your finances for college? Map out your costs with our student loan calculator. 

At Savingforcollege.com, our goal is to help you make smart decisions about saving and paying for education. Some of the products featured in this article are from our partners, but this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

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