An emergency student loan can provide short-term relief to a student suffering a financial setback. While this type of loan won’t help you to cover your tuition for the semester, it can pay for anything from food to childcare. You can’t get one from the federal government, nor do private lenders typically offer them. Instead, you’ll need to contact your school’s financial aid office.
Where to Find Emergency Student Loans
Many borrowers turn to the federal government or private lenders for their student loans. But emergency student loans are typically offered by colleges and universities and are only available to students enrolled at that institution.
While the terms of these loans depend on your school, most are short-term loans that must be repaid in about 30 to 90 days. Additionally, loan amounts are often limited to around $500.
What Is an Emergency Student Loan?
Unlike other student loans, emergency student loans are not intended for tuition and other school expenses. They’re available to students experiencing a financial emergency or setback, such as a death in the family, a natural disaster, unemployment, or another similar circumstances.
Examples of expenses you could use an emergency student loan for include:
- Medical expenses
- Monthly bills
Emergency student loans are often preferable to other terms of short-term funding because many universities offer them as interest-free loans. As a result, the loan will be cheaper than taking out a personal loan or payday loan or putting expenses on a credit card.
How to Get an Emergency Student Loan
If you need an emergency student loan, your first stop should be your school’s financial aid office. Here are some steps you’ll likely need to follow:
- Verify your loan eligibility. Before applying for an emergency student loan, check your school’s eligibility requirements to make sure you qualify.
- Find your school’s emergency student loan application. Your school may allow you to apply for this type of loan either online or in person at the financial aid office. You’ll most likely have to provide your student ID and enrollment information.
- Document your financial emergency or need. Emergency student loans are meant to be used for emergency situations such as death, job loss, a medical issue, or another financial setback. Your school may ask for documentation of your financial emergency before it will approve the loan.
- Make a plan to repay your loan on time. Remember, emergency student loans must often be repaid in as little as 30 to 90 days. Make sure you have a plan ahead of time to repay your loan. Failure to repay your loan on time could result in fees, a hold on your academic records, and an inability to borrow from your university in the future.
Alternatives to Emergency Student Loans
Emergency student loans are an excellent option because of their accessibility and the fact that many schools offer them interest-free.
However, they aren’t right for everyone. You may not qualify for your school’s emergency student loan program. It could also be that you need a larger sum of money or won’t be able to repay the full amount in time. In those cases, there are some alternatives you can consider.
Federal Student Loans
If you declined part of your federal student loan offering, you can go back and claim the remaining amount up to your borrowing limit. Your school's financial aid office can help you reclaim these funds.
You’ll only be able to claim federal student loans if you submitted the Federal Application for Federal Student Loans (FAFSA) and were offered loans.
Some colleges and universities offer forms of emergency aid other than loans. These grants are similar to emergency student loans in that they’re meant to help cover unexpected financial hardships. However, unlike loans, grants don’t have to be repaid.
In fact, because grants are essentially free money that you won’t have to repay, it may be worth looking into your school’s emergency grant offerings before applying for an emergency loan.
Private Student Loans
If you don’t qualify for emergency funding from your school and don’t qualify for federal student loans, consider applying for a private student loan. These loans are offered by private lenders and have higher limits than emergency loans.
Keep in mind that private loans require a credit check, unlike the funding sources we’ve discussed above. Because of that, they’ll only be an option if you have decent credit or can get someone to co-sign your loan.
These loans may also have other downsides, including higher interest rates, fewer repayment options, and fewer protections than federal loans.
|Lender||Eligibility||Minimum Loan Amount||Notes|
|Earnest||650 credit score and $35K annual income||$1,000||No co-signer release|
|Funding U||Not available in all U.S. states||$3,001||No co-signer required|
|Splash Financial||660 credit score||$1,000||Personal loan; in-school student loans via Earnest|
|Education Loan Finance||$35K annual income||$1,000||No co-signer release|
In most cases, credit cards should be a last resort, and only considered after you’ve exhausted the options above. Some credit cards offer 0% APR on your purchases during an introductory period that lasts anywhere from six months to two years.
In other words, if you can repay your balance before the introductory period ends, you won’t pay any interest on the money you borrow, similar to an emergency student loan. Plus, a credit card may offer a higher borrowing limit and a longer period over which you can repay the borrowed funds, if it comes to that.
Be wary about using a credit card for emergency purchases. Credit cards have notoriously high interest rates that compound. Once you’re in credit card debt, it can be difficult to get out.
What Are the Different Types of Emergency Student Loans?
The most common type of emergency student loan is the one offered by many colleges and universities. However, other emergency financing options include federal student loans, private loans, grants, and credit cards.
What Are the Eligibility Requirements for Emergency Student Loans?
If you plan to borrow an emergency student loan from a university, you usually need to be enrolled there. Other requirements may include:
- Having a certain GPA
- Not having borrowed any other emergency funds in the current term
- Not having previously defaulted on an emergency loan
- Applying during the academic year
How Long Does It Take to Get Approved for an Emergency Student Loan?
The amount of time it takes to get approved for an emergency student loan depends largely on the lender. Given the time-sensitive nature of these funds, schools may work to approve and disburse the loan in just a few days.
What Credit Score Do You Need for an Emergency Loan?
Many schools don’t have credit requirements for students applying for emergency loans. As a result, even someone with a spotty credit history may be eligible. However, if you apply for a private loan or credit card instead, you’ll usually need at least a fair credit score and may have limited options for student loans with bad credit.
University of Michigan. Financial Aid. "Emergency Loans."
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Financial Aid. “Emergency Loans.”
University of Maryland. Financial Aid. “Accepting or Declining Your Federal Direct Loans.”
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. “UWM Emergency Grant.”
Federal Financial Aid. “Federal Versus Private Loans.”
University of California, Berkeley. Financial aid & Scholarships. “Short-Term Emergency Loan.”