It’s nearing the end of summer. School starts in a few weeks and you still need to find money to pay for your freshman year.

Don’t panic. While figuring out how to cover tuition at the last minute can feel overwhelming, it’s not impossible. If you know who to ask and where to look, you can still get help, including scholarships, additional financial aid, and private student loans. These tips can help you figure out your options quickly.

Find Free Money

While you may feel like private student loans are your only choice this late in the game, don’t rule out last-minute scholarships or help from your school’s financial aid office. Just because a deadline has passed doesn’t mean your school has awarded all the available grant and scholarship money. Don’t be afraid to ask. Your college’s financial aid office may also be able to offer solutions such as a payment plan to help you through the first semester so you have more time to look into other options before second semester bills are due.

Ask for Help

You may be able to ask a family member to lend you the money for part or all of your costs. In addition to paying them back, you may also offer to pay them interest, suggests financial planner Lazetta Rainey Braxton. If you research lenders and they’re offering an average interest rate of 10%, you could ask a family member to lend you money at 5%. You should also agree on a repayment plan before you accept the money. Just like when you’re borrowing from the government or a bank, consider your future income and what’s reasonable before committing to how you’re going to repay the loan. This has the potential to put a strain on family relationships, so be sure to consider all of the pros and cons before pursuing this option.

Research Private Student Loans

Research your private student loan options and compare them so you can make a choice that works best for you. Here are some questions you should ask as you look at your options:

  • What’s the interest rate
  • Is the interest rate variable or fixed? 
  • When does the interest begin accruing? 
  • When does repayment begin? 
  • What are the repayment options? 
  • Are there any fees? 

All of these things matter in terms of how much you’ll have to pay back and when. As you’re comparing different options, do a side-by-side comparison of your offers. Also note that it can take several weeks to get final approval for a private student loan, if not longer. If your tuition deadline is right around the corner, start this process as soon as you can to avoid delays in funding.

Consider a Cosigner

A cosigner is someone who agrees to take equal responsibility for your private student loan. If you don’t make your loan payments on time, it’s up to your cosigner to cover your debt. Your cosigner doesn’t have to be a parent or even related to you, but they should be someone who’s close to you and has a sincere interest in your educational success. They also should have good-to-excellent credit. Applying with a creditworthy cosigner may improve your likelihood for loan approval and may lower your interest rate.

Look Ahead

Once you’ve figured out how you’re paying for your freshman year, start planning for next year to avoid this situation in the future. Can you apply for more grants? Are there scholarships for next year with applications you can begin now? “Get ahead of the curve for the years ahead,” says Braxton. “There are a lot of circumstances that may have forced someone to get into the last-minute scenario, but whatever the reason, identify it, address it head-on and be prepared going forward.”

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