What Happens to Students Who Back Out of an Early Decision Offer?

Applying early decision to your top-choice college can give you an admissions advantage. But you’ll want to keep in mind that this comes with a binding agreement — if you get accepted, you are obligated to attend that school.

There are some acceptable reasons for backing out of an early decision offer, like a change in your financial or personal circumstances. But if you simply have a change of heart, you will likely face negative consequences, such as losing any deposits and potential reputation issues with other schools.

Before applying to a college early decision, you’ll want to make sure you understand the commitment you’re making. Read on to find out if early decision is legally binding and how you can get out of early decision without facing penalties.

What Is Early Decision?

Early decision is a college application process in which students apply to their preferred college early in their senior year of high school, typically by November 1 or November 15, depending on the school.

When you apply early decision, you are agreeing that, if accepted, you will attend that school the following fall. As a result, you should not apply to multiple schools under early decision — if you are caught, it can result in one or both schools revoking your acceptance letters.

Colleges let early decision applicants know if they were accepted or not in mid to late December, giving students enough time to apply to other schools should they get rejected. Typical college application deadlines are in early January to mid-February.


💡 Quick Tip: Make no payments on SoFi private student loans for six months after graduation.

Why Apply for Early Decision?

One of the benefits of applying to college early decision is being able to find out whether or not you’ve been accepted to the school at the top of your list early in the application cycle. If you get in, you can then take a deep breath and relax and not worry about the usual Senior year checklist.

Applying early decision also signifies your commitment to a specific college or university, which may give you a leg up in getting in. Indeed, colleges often have a higher acceptance rate for early decision applicants than for regular decision applicants. For example, Duke University accepted 16.4% of early decision applicants for the class of 2027, while regular applications experienced a 4.8% acceptance rate.

That said, early decision isn’t for everyone. If you’re not sure where you want to go to college, it’s probably not wise to apply early decision. If how to pay for college is a chief concern, keep in mind that you will not be able to compare financial aid packages from other schools if you apply early decision.

How Does Early Decision Compare to Other Admission Deadlines?

Early decision is just one of several college admission deadlines, each with its own pros and cons. Here’s a look at how early decision compares to other admission deadlines.

Early Action

Unlike early decision, early action is non-binding. Students must adhere to the same application deadline as early decision (November 1 or 15), but there’s no obligation to enroll if you’re accepted. Early action applicants can expect a response from the school by mid-December and don’t need to make a decision until May 1. You can apply to more than one school early action, since it’s non-binding.

Regular Decision

Regular decision is the standard application process with a later deadline, typically some time between early January and mid-February. It is non-binding, and students can apply to multiple colleges. Admission decisions for regular decision applicants are usually released in mid-March to early April and require a response by May 1.

Rolling Admissions

Colleges with rolling admission allow you to submit your application within a wide time frame, usually six months or so, and review applications as they come in. Typically, they will then send out admission decisions within four to six weeks, accepting students until all open slots for the incoming class have been filled. Schools with rolling admission generally start accepting applications around September 1 and continue well into the spring semester.

Is There a Penalty for Backing Out of Early Decision?

Early decision isn’t a legal contract, but backing out of an early decision agreement typically has consequences. If a college admits a student under an early decision plan, the expectation is that the student will enroll for the upcoming fall semester and withdraw any early action or regular decision applications from other schools.

Some schools actually require a deposit with your early decision application. If you back out of your agreement, you likely won’t get this money back.

Colleges also communicate with each other. If your early decision school lets other schools know you reneged on your agreement, it could have a negative impact on your applications to schools you are interested in attending.

There are exceptions, however. If you back out of an early decision agreement for a valid reason, you can likely get off the hook without any negative repercussions. For example, you may be able to break your agreement without issue if you receive a financial aid package that’s different from what you anticipated, making it difficult for you to afford the cost of attendance.

Colleges also understand if extenuating circumstances prevent a student from honoring their commitment, including an illness or death in the family that leads a student to defer enrolling for a semester or year.


💡 Quick Tip: Would-be borrowers will want to understand the different types of student loans that are available: private student loans, federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans, Direct PLUS loans, and more.

What to Do if You Can No Longer Attend Your Early Decision School

If you find you have to back out of an early decision offer, you’ll want to get in contact with the college’s admissions department as quickly as possible. The sooner you let them know, the more likely they will be to work with you. They can let you know what your next steps should be. Without a good excuse, however, it is likely any deposits or payments you’ve made so far won’t be refunded.

If your reason for backing out is insufficient financing, you may want to discuss this with the college’s financial aid office. Some schools may be willing to reevaluate a student’s financial aid package if there has been a substantial change in the family’s financial situation.

If you stick with your withdrawal decision, you’ll next need to apply to other colleges, assuming you are still planning to go to college in the fall. Most colleges have an application deadline in January, so if you made the decision to back out of early decision sooner rather than later, you likely still have time.

Keep in mind that if you reneged on your early decision application without a valid reason, the school may share this information with other colleges. As a result, you may want to cast a wide net, including plenty of safety schools.

Recommended: 5 Ways to Start Preparing For College

The Takeaway

Applying to a college early decision requires making a commitment. However, the early decision agreement you (and your parents) sign is not legally binding. In other words, the college can’t force you to pay tuition and come to their school.

If you back out of your early decision agreement for a valid reason, such as not getting the financial aid offer you were expecting or unforeseen change in your circumstances, you may be able to get out of the contract without any negative consequences.

If, on the other hand, you back out simply because you changed your mind, you could potentially lose money (if the school required a deposit with your application) and the school may share this negative information about you with other colleges, doing harm to your reputation.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


Photo credit: iStock/Eva-Katalin

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How Grades Affect Your Student Loans

Do Grades Affect Financial Aid? All You Need to Know

The office of Federal Student Aid provides over 10 million college students with more than $112 billion in grant, work-study, and student loan funds each year to help pay for college or career school. However, there are situations where students can lose their financial aid.

Students will want to consider how their grades affect financial aid to avoid having federal college aid taken away. Generally, you’ll need to make satisfactory academic progress (SAP) each term to continue receiving federal financial aid, but you may be able to regain lost aid by filing a financial aid appeal.

If you’ve received aid through private scholarships or grants, you may need to meet their minimum requirements to remain eligible for gift aid. Private lenders may also have minimum GPA requirements, but these vary by lender.

Types of Financial Aid

There are many types of financial aid available to college students from the federal government, states, schools, and private sources. These sources can be used to cover most higher education costs, such as tuition and fees, room and board, and books.

According to the annual Sallie Mae/Ipsos survey How America Pays for College, the 2023 survey found that while parent income and savings covered 50% of college costs, families still heavily relied on financial aid to cover the other half.

Grants & Scholarships

College grants and scholarships are a form of financial aid that can help make college more affordable because they don’t usually need to be repaid. The U.S. Department of Education, colleges, and universities award an estimated $95 billion in grant and scholarship money to students each year. The Sallie Mae survey also found that scholarships and grants covered approximately 29% of school costs for families during the 2022-2023 academic year.

The biggest differences between college grants and scholarships are where the funds come from, eligibility requirements, and the application process. Grants are typically given based on financial need while most scholarships are merit-based. Scholarships are awarded to students based on their academic or athletic achievements, extracurricular activities, fields of study, and more.


💡 Quick Tip: You can fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

Federal Work-Study

Federal work-study is a form of financial aid that offers students funds for part-time employment on campus. Several factors determine whether a student is eligible to participate in the federal work-study program, including their family’s income and the student’s enrollment status at the school.

As with other forms of federal financial aid, a student’s grades affect their eligibility. Students are expected to make SAP, which is a school’s standard for satisfactory academic progress toward a degree or certificate.

Student Loans

Student loans can either come from the federal government or private lenders. To qualify for a federal student loan, students must demonstrate financial need, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), be enrolled in an eligible degree or certificate program at least half-time, and maintain SAP.

Another option is to take out a private student loan; however, this is generally only considered after all other options have been exhausted. Private student loans don’t have the same criteria as federal student loans and may lack borrower protections, like options for deferment. Private lenders can set their own terms and repayment plans so you should read the loan terms closely before making any borrowing decisions.

Recommended: How to Pay for College

How Grades May Affect Financial Aid

Academic goals in college are common, and if you find yourself struggling in school, you may be wondering how grades affect financial aid.

State and federal financial aid, such as grants, loans, and work-study, require students to maintain satisfactory academic progress while working toward a degree. Academic performance is evaluated based on each school’s individual policy.

Your school’s policy will tell you what grade point average (GPA) or equivalent you must maintain, the minimum number of credit hours you need, the required pace of course completion, maximum time frame allowed, and more.

As far as how grades affect financial aid, federal regulations state that students must maintain a 2.0 cumulative GPA, or a grade of “C”, on a 4.0 scale. Additionally, students must complete at least 67% of cumulative credits attempted, and progress through their undergraduate program no longer than 150% of the published length of the educational program.

Private scholarships and grants may have their own academic requirements. Dropping below the minimum requirements could result in termination of the scholarship or grant money for the following term but typically does not require repayment. If you receive a scholarship or grant, make sure you read the fine print to see if your grades affect your financial aid.


💡 Quick Tip: Parents and sponsors with strong credit and income may find much lower rates on no-fee private parent student loans than federal parent PLUS loans. Federal PLUS loans also come with an origination fee.

Do Grades Affect Private Student Loans?

Typically, no. However, each lender has different eligibility criteria for student borrowers. Similar to other types of loans, private student loans are given based on factors including your finances and credit history and, depending on the lender, there may or may not be a GPA requirement. Private lenders usually care more about your ability to repay the loan than your grades, but again, each lender is different.

If you’re interested in a private student loan, check with the lender to see if there are any student loan GPA requirements before making your decision.

Recommended: I Didn’t Get Enough Financial Aid: Now What?

Regaining Lost Financial Aid Due to Low Grades

Have you lost financial aid due to low grades? You may still be able to get it back. Losing financial aid due to low grades means you aren’t satisfying your school’s SAP requirements.

Visit a Financial Aid Office

One of the first things to do after losing financial aid due to low grades is to visit your school’s financial aid office to discuss your options. Your financial aid office can help you formulate a plan to improve your grades so that your financial aid can be reinstated.

Make sure to ask about the requirements for the financial aid that you are or were receiving and find out if you’re able to file a financial aid appeal.

File a Financial Aid Appeal

You can file a financial aid appeal, or a SAP appeal, if your school allows it and if the poor performance was due to circumstances outside of your control. There must be a link between poor performance and the special circumstance. Some acceptable situations include:

•   Death of a relative

•   Severe personal injury or illness

•   Other special circumstances determined by the school

If you can prove your lower grade directly correlates to one of these situations, then it may be possible for you to regain your financial aid. Check your college’s website for directions and for more information on filing a SAP appeal.

Explore Private Student Loans from SoFi

Your grades do affect your financial aid and federal student loans. If your cumulative GPA dips below a 2.0, you will no longer be considered to be in good academic standing. However, if your low grades are due to extenuating circumstances, you can try to appeal. Other forms of financial aid, like private grants and scholarships, may also have their own set of academic requirements.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

FAQ

Can financial aid be taken away for bad grades?

Grades can affect your financial aid, and academic performance is evaluated based on each school’s individual SAP policy. You must remain in good academic standing to keep any type of state or federal financial aid, such as grants, loans, and work-study. Private scholarships and grants may also have their own set of requirements to keep any gift aid.

While private lenders typically don’t have any student loan GPA requirements, each lender is different.

Do you get more financial aid if you get good grades?

Most federal financial aid programs do not take your grades into consideration when determining how much financial aid to give. However, bad grades can hurt your federal financial aid availability.

Good grades are even more important to recipients of merit scholarships and some grants but there are scholarships that do not take grades or GPA into consideration.

Will my FAFSA be affected if I fail a class?

As long as you make SAP, one failed class won’t affect your FAFSA.


Photo credit: iStock/harunhalici

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Tips for Avoiding the 529 Withdrawal Penalty

Tips for Avoiding the 529 Withdrawal Penalty

There are typically no withdrawal penalties associated with leaving leftover funds in a 529 plan after college. In fact, 529 plans allow you to withdraw up to $10,000 per year, per student.

But still, the earnings portion of a non-qualified 529 plan distribution can be subject to income tax and a 10% penalty for 529 withdrawal.

Keep reading to learn more about what a 529 plan withdrawal penalty is, which 529 withdrawal penalty exceptions exist, and a few other college financing options for students and parents without 529 plans.

What Is a 529 Plan?

A 529 plan is a college savings investment account that comes with unique tax benefits if it’s used to pay for qualified education expenses. It can help cover the costs of a beneficiary attending college, K-12 school, an apprenticeship program, or even to pay back student loans.

When someone uses a 529 plan to save up for college, the funds generally have little impact on their ability to receive financial aid.

In addition, there are several other benefits to using a 529 plan:

•   Funds in the account are invested and grow over time.

•   Depending on the type of 529 plan, beneficiaries can prepay for college in advance to lock in current tuition prices before they go up.

•   529 college savings accounts are listed as assets when the beneficiary applies for Federal Student Aid.

•   Certain 529 plans let beneficiaries deduct their contributions on their state income taxes.

•   529 plan contributions can be considered “completed gifts” to the beneficiary, allowing families to use them as estate planning vehicles. For 2023, the annual gift tax exclusion can be applied up to $17,000 per donor, per beneficiary and in 2022 the annual exclusion was $16,000.

What Are Qualified 529 Plan Distributions?

Let’s start with the education expenses that are considered qualified within a 529 plan:

•   Tuition and associated fees

•   Room and board (if the student is enrolled at least half-time)

•   Books

•   Technological equipment and computers

•   Equipment for special needs

•   Student loan payments

•   Up to $10,000 per year, per beneficiary in eligible K-12 expenses

•   Apprenticeship program tuition and fees

•   Up to $10,000 in K-12 tuition expenses (per year, per beneficiary)

Recommended: Using Student Loans for Living Expenses and Housing

What Are Non-Qualified 529 Plan Distributions?

Non-qualified 529 plan distributions describe any portion of a plan withdrawal in which the funds were not used to pay for qualified education expenses like the ones listed above.

As such, here are some of the education expenses that are considered non-qualified:

•   Costs associated with transportation

•   Costs associated with college application and testing

•   Costs associated with extracurricular activities

•   Health insurance costs

•   Any cost that doesn’t fall under the umbrella of the qualified education expenses listed above

Are Distributions Taxable?

Generally, contributions can be withdrawn tax-free because taxes are paid at the time of contribution. The earnings portion (the money earned from investments) of a non-qualified 529 program plan distribution could be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty on top of any associated income taxes that may be due. It would be taxable to whomever received the payment, whether that’s the account owner or the designated beneficiary.

If the non-qualified distribution is not paid out to either the designated beneficiary or the eligible educational institution, it’s assumed to have been given to the account owner who will be subject to the 10% withdrawal penalty and tax.

What Is a 529 Early Withdrawal Penalty?

A 529 early withdrawal penalty occurs when investment gains are withdrawn from a 529 account before the beneficiary incurs any qualifying expenses, or if they withdraw funds for any of the non-qualified reasons listed above.

When this happens, the IRS can assess a steep early withdrawal penalty of 10%.

In California, an extra 2.5% state income tax penalty is imposed on the earnings portion of non-qualified 529 plan distributions.

Can I Make a Withdrawal From 529 Without Penalty?

In certain cases, it’s possible to execute a withdrawal from 529 without penalty, such as if:

•   A plan beneficiary passes away, becomes disabled or decides to attend a U.S. Military Academy.

•   A family must pay income tax on a portion of their 529 withdrawal due to their claiming the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) or the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC).

•   A plan beneficiary receives certain other types of educational assistance, such as a scholarship exception.

529 Withdrawal Penalty Exceptions

Here are a couple of circumstances in which a 529 withdrawal penalty may not apply to a non-qualified distribution.

Scholarship

It may come as a surprise to learn that the 10% 529 early withdrawal penalty doesn’t apply when a beneficiary no longer needs to use their 529 funds because they received a scholarship.

This particular 529 withdrawal penalty exception allows funds to be withdrawn from the 529 plan without penalty up to the amount of the scholarship itself.

While this is one way to avoid a penalty for 529 withdrawal, account owners will still owe taxes on the earnings after the initiation of the withdrawal if they are used on non-qualified expenses.

Death or Disability of Account Beneficiary

If the 529 account beneficiary passes away, the withdrawal fees are generally waived.

The additional fee is also generally waived in the event that the designated beneficiary becomes disabled. According to the IRS, someone is considered disabled if they are able to prove that they are unable to participate in any significant gainful activity due to a physical or mental condition.

Recommended: Student Loan Disability Discharge Eligibility

Beneficiary Enrolls in a US Service Academy

If the designated beneficiary enrolls in a U.S. service academy, such as the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, the withdrawal fee may be waived. Note that the exception to the withdrawal fee only applies so long as the distribution amount does not exceed the cost of attendance as defined by the IRS.

Time Limit

There’s a decent amount of debate around the timing of a 529 plan distribution when it’s based on a scholarship. There are no clear instructions from Congress or the IRS, which means tax professionals and other financial experts may vary in their guidance. If you have specific questions, consider consulting with a tax professional who can provide a personalized recommendation.

What if My Child Doesn’t Go to College?

If you’re a parent who’s saving for your child’s college tuition and they don’t decide to go to college, there are certain specifications and limitations around what else the 529 funds can be used for.

For example, in some states, 529 funds can be used to cover K-12 expenses or professional schools.

That said, if the beneficiary decides to take a gap year to travel or join the armed forces, the funds can’t be withdrawn for personal use by the parents for something like a major renovation.

Still, there are a few ways to take advantage of 529 savings when the intended dependent doesn’t want to attend a college or university:

Changing the Beneficiary

In instances where the account owner has more than one dependent, they may be able to change the beneficiary of the existing 529 plan from one child to another. All they need to do is fill out the associated paperwork, which can typically be found on the 529 plan provider’s website, or give them a call and have them send it in the mail.

Apprenticeships

In 2019, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act expanded the scope of qualified educational expenses for 529 plans to include student loan repayment and registered apprenticeships.

If an apprenticeship is registered and certified with the U.S. Secretary of Labor , it is considered a qualified higher education expense and, as such, associated program fees, supplies, books, and equipment may be considered qualified higher education expenses as well.

Recommended: What Is an Apprenticeship? Do They Pay? Pros & Cons

Repay Student Loans

As briefly mentioned above, student loan repayment is now included as a qualified education expense for 529 plans. Under the SECURE Act, it is possible to use a lifetime maximum of $10,000 from a 529 plan to pay down student loan debt. This money can be used to repay student loan debt that belongs to the 529 plan account holder, their spouse, children, or grandchildren.

Other College Financing Options

If you or a dependent missed the boat on setting aside funds in a 529 college savings plan, there are still plenty of options to secure financial support.

If you’re looking for another way to pay for your child’s college education, you might consider:

•   Federal student loans. There are many types of federal student loans funded by the federal government and, in order to qualify, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form every year you want to receive federal student loans. Federal loans offer an array of flexible payment options, the ability to earn student loan forgiveness, and the option to defer payments or put the loan into forbearance.

•   Parent Plus loans. A Parent Plus Loan is a federally funded student loan that can be taken out by parents to help their undergraduate dependents pay for college. There are no annual or lifetime borrowing limits and, with the Parent Plus Loan Forgiveness Program, borrowers are eligible for an income-contingent repayment plan or relief from the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. There is no federal program that allows for parents to transfer a parent plus loan to the student.

•   Private student loans. A private loan for students can help cover the cost of a college education based on the borrower’s credit score and can be obtained from a variety of private lenders.

When you opt for a private student loan with SoFi, you can check your rate instantly, apply in minutes, and there are no hidden fees. While private student loans can help fill funding gaps for students who are paying for college, they don’t always offer the same borrower benefits or protections as federal student loans, such as the option to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness or deferment options. For this reason, they are generally borrowed only after all sources of financing have been thoroughly reviewed.

Recommended: A Guide to Unclaimed Scholarships and Grants

The Takeaway

A 529 plan is a college savings investment account that comes with unique tax benefits if it’s used to pay for qualified education expenses. Qualified expenses include tuition, fees, school supplies, and room and board. Non-qualified expenses include health insurance, extra-curricular activities, and fees for applications and testing — to name a few.

When someone withdraws funds from their 529 plan for non-qualified expenses, they are subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty. In some cases, though, there are 529 withdrawal penalty exceptions, including when a plan beneficiary passes away, claims a specific tax credit, or receives a scholarship.

In cases where a dependent decides not to go to college, 529 plan account owners have the option to change the plan beneficiary to another dependent, use the funds for a dependent’s apprenticeship, or cover K-12 expenses.

Other college financing options include federal student loans, Parent Plus Loans, and private student loans.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


Photo credit: iStock/FG Trade

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Are Student Loans Installment or Revolving?

Are Student Loans Installment or Revolving?

Student loans are considered installment loans, or loans that are repaid through regularly scheduled payments or installments.

Revolving options, like credit cards, let borrowers take out varying amounts of money each month, repay it, and take out more money as they go. Learn more about installment loans and revolving credit below.

Learn more about installment loans and revolving credit below.

What Is Revolving Credit?

Revolving credit is an agreement between a lender and an account holder that allows you to borrow money up to a set maximum amount. The account holder can choose to pay off the balance in full or make minimum monthly payments on the account.

As the account holder makes repayments, the amount available to borrow is renewed. Account holders can continue to borrow up to the maximum amount through the term of the agreement. Examples of revolving credit include credit cards and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

Recommended: The Different Types Of Home Equity Loans

What Is Installment Credit?

Installment is a type of credit that allows a borrower to make fixed payments on a loan over a set period of time. Before the borrower signs the installment loan agreement, the lender will decide on the interest rate, fees, and repayment terms, which will determine how much the borrower pays each month.

Common examples of installment loans include student loans, mortgages, auto loans, and personal loans.


💡 Quick Tip: Fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee SoFi private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

Revolving Credit vs Installment Credit

Here’s a high level overview on the differences between revolving credit and installment credit.

Revolving Credit

Installment Credit

Account holders can use the borrowed money at any time, repay it, and borrow more as needed. Account holders borrow one lump sum, the sole amount of money they have access to, and repay it over a set time period.
May come with higher interest rates than installment credit. May have stricter lending requirements than some revolving credit options, such as credit cards.
Account holders owe interest on the amount they spend, and possibly additional fees. Account holders owe a fixed number of payments over a predetermined time frame.

Revolving Credit

Revolving credit is a more open-ended form of credit obligation. Let’s use the example of a credit card:

1.    The cardholder uses the card to make purchases as they please, pays them off either in-full or partially each month, and continues to make charges on the line of credit.

2.    The amount of money the cardholder spends is their decision (up to their credit limit), and the amount of money they repay each month isn’t set in advance by the lender.

3.    The cardholder can pay off the account balance in full each month, or they can opt to pay the minimum and “revolve” the balance over to the next month (though this will accrue interest on the account).

An important note: To avoid any late fees or potential dings to their credit score, people who are borrowing from revolving credit are advised to pay their monthly bill on time. Revolving credit can play a major role in calculating a person’s credit utilization rate, which is considered the second biggest factor in determining their credit score. For FICO® scores, it is generally suggested that borrowers use no more than 30% of their available credit.

Installment Credit

Installment credit is less open-ended than revolving credit. Installment credit is a loan that offers a borrower a fixed amount of money over a predetermined period of time. When a borrower signs the loan agreement, they know exactly what the monthly payments will be.

Let’s use the example of a student loan:

1.    The student borrows a specific dollar amount. The lender specifies the interest rate and repayment terms. In the case of federal student loans, interest rates and terms are set by federal law.

2.    The predetermined funds are released to the borrower. Typically, the funds are released in a single lump sum payment.

3.    The borrower repays the loan based on the agreed upon terms. Terms will be set by the lender, for private student loans, or by law for federal student loans.

An important note: Having an installment loan on their credit report can help some borrowers diversify their credit mix, which is a factor in determining an individual’s credit score. The amount of the installment loan, however, won’t play a major role in the borrower’s credit utilization rate (versus with revolving credit).

Is a Student Loan an Installment Loan?

Student loans for undergraduate school are considered installment loans, which means they come with a starting balance, are disbursed to the qualifying borrower, and are repaid over a set amount of time through a fixed number of payments.


💡 Quick Tip: Need a private student loan to cover your school bills? Because approval for a private student loan is based on creditworthiness, a cosigner may help a student get loan approval and a lower rate.

Pros and Cons of Installment Credit

There are advantages and disadvantages to taking out an installment loan:

Pros of Installment Loans

Cons of Installment Loans

Can be used to finance a major purchase like a house, car, or college education. Can come with hefty fees.
Is repaid with a set number of payments of the same amount, which can make it easier for budgeting purposes. Missed or late payments may negatively impact the borrower’s credit score.
For some installment loans, it is possible to reduce interest charges by paying the loan off early. Depending on the type of installment loan and the lender, there may be penalties or fees for paying off the loan early.
Offers the perk of paying the loan off over a longer period of time. Longer terms typically mean you’re paying more in interest over the life of the loan.

Pros of Installment Credit

Here’s a brief breakdown of a few installment credit pros:

Payments

Installment credit payments are made on a set schedule that’s determined by the lender. This makes them a predictable, long-term strategy for paying off debt, and also makes it easier to factor them into your budget, especially if the installment loan has fixed interest rates.

The monthly payment for an installment loan with a variable interest rate may change from month to month, depending on how the variable interest rate changes.

Borrowing Cost

In terms of the loan amount and length of the loan, installment loans can be tailored to the borrower’s specific financial circumstances. This means the cost of the installment loan is fairly flexible based on what the borrower needs. Additionally, interest rates are generally lower on installment loans than with revolving credit, so borrowers may find that borrowing an installment loan with a competitive interest rate is a more affordable option.

Cons of Installment Credit

And here’s more info on the cons of installment credit:

Expensive

If the borrower takes out an installment loan over a longer period of time, they may end up making payments at an interest rate that’s higher than the current market rate, unless they’re able to refinance the loan.

Either way, the borrower is locked into a long-term financial contract with an installment loan. If they encounter a financial pitfall, they may be unable to make the scheduled payments or risk defaulting on the loan and damaging their credit.

Prepayment Penalty

Some loans impose prepayment penalties if a borrower pays their loan off early. This isn’t necessarily the case for all installment loans, but it’s important to read the fine print in the loan agreement to determine whether a prepayment fee will be triggered if the loan is paid off early.

Recommended: How to Avoid Paying a Prepayment Penalty

Ways to Pay for School

When looking for ways to pay for school, undergrads and grad students often look to installment loans. Tuition and living expenses may also be covered by savings and scholarships and grants.

Recommended: How to Pay for College

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are installment loans available to students. To apply, students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) each year. Federal student loans have fixed interest rates that are set annually by Congress, offer flexible repayment options, and have some borrower protections and benefits such as deferment and the option to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

However, there are borrowing limits for federal student loans, so students may need to review other sources of financing when determining how they’ll pay for college.

Recommended: FAFSA 101: How to Complete the FAFSA

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are installment loans you can use to pay for a college education. Private student loans are not funded by the federal government. To apply for them, borrowers can browse the offerings of individual lenders like banks, credit unions, and online lenders and decide which private student loan works best for their finances. As a part of the application process, lenders will generally review the applicant’s credit history and credit score among other factors.

Private student loans can help fill the gap between the cost of college and their total financial aid, like federal loans, grants, and scholarships. However, private loans are generally considered only after all other options have been depleted. This is because private lenders are not required to offer the same borrower protections as federal student loans. If you think private student loans are an option for you, shop around to find competitive terms and interest rates, and be sure to read the terms and fine print closely.

Personal Savings

Using personal savings to pay for college means less debt and more flexibility. Not only that, but it costs significantly more to borrow money to pay for college than it does to use personal savings.

Still, this isn’t financially feasible for everyone, as evidenced by the fact that there are 43.2 million student loan borrowers in the U.S. as of the first quarter of 2024. Sometimes, going into debt is the only reasonable option.

Grants

Unlike student loans, which require repayment, and work-study programs, which allow students to work on campus, grants are a type of financial aid that doesn’t require repayment.

Grants may be awarded by the federal government, states, or colleges. The amount of aid a student receives depends on a number of factors, such as the student’s financial needs and the type of school they’re attending.

Recommended: The Differences Between Grants, Scholarships, and Loans

Scholarships

A scholarship is a lump sum of funds that can be used to help someone pay for school. The key stipulations with scholarships are that a) they’re contingent on a particular qualification, i.e. a grade point average (GPA), act of service, or athletic performance, and b) they never have to be repaid.

Scholarships are usually awarded by colleges, universities, corporations or organizations.

The Takeaway

Student loans are installment loans, meaning borrowers receive a set amount of money from a lender and are required to repay the loan over a fixed period of time.

For those looking for ways to pay for college, there are other alternatives to installment student loans — such as scholarships, grants, personal savings, and private student loans.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

FAQ

Is a student loan an installment loan?

Yes, a student loan is a type of installment loan, which means you pay it back in set amounts, over a fixed period of time, and it shows up on your credit report.

Is a student loan a revolving loan?

No, a student loan is not a revolving loan. It is considered an installment loan.

What are the benefits of an installment student loan?

A few of the benefits of installment student loans include being able to easily factor the loan into your monthly budget, the same payment terms for the life of the loan, and a longer period of time to pay off the loan.


Photo credit: iStock/SDI Productions

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How To Become a Veterinarian: 6 Steps

If you’re considering pursuing a career as a veterinarian, you probably have tremendous affection and compassion for animals and want to help them via medical training. That probably means you’re considering attending veterinary school. Among the questions you may be wondering about are, How long is vet school? How do I apply? How much will vet school cost, and how can I afford it?

This guide will help you understand the process for how to become a vet and how you might afford this fulfilling career.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Veterinarian?

The cost for a four-year veterinary school for in-state residents is over $200,000 while students with out-of-state tuition may pay more than $275,000, depending on the school, according to the VIN Foundation Student Debt Center.

While that’s a lot of money, getting a doctorate in veterinary medicine (DVM) can lead to a median salary of $103,260 a year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A vet’s salary depends on what kind of practice they go into and where they are located.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Veterinarian?

The path to becoming a vet can vary, and the length of time it takes to become a vet can vary as well. In general, most vet schools are four-year programs for a DVM. Some, however, have accelerated programs and semesters and get the work done in three years.

Those pursuing a veterinary career path might also want to factor in how long it takes to complete the prerequisites. In general, that will require students to have a bachelor’s degree, which also takes around four years to complete. If you have already completed your bachelor’s degree but didn’t take the courses required for vet school, then you may need to pick up those credits as well before you start your applications.

That said, what follows are six key steps if you are wondering how to be a veterinarian.


💡 Quick Tip: Some student loan refinance lenders offer no fees, saving borrowers money.

6 Steps to Become a Veterinarian

The steps to becoming a veterinarian are often as follows:

Step 1: Check Off The Prerequisites

These points can help you move towards your degree as a veterinarian:

•   The Veterinary Medical College Application Service resource will show you the list of prerequisite college courses that are generally required for students applying for veterinary school. Required courses for most veterinary schools include biology, chemistry, animal sciences, and advanced math.

•   Students interested in pursuing vet school who are currently enrolled in undergrad may want to review their current course of study to be sure they are on track for vet school prerequisites.

•   Another tip is to volunteer, get an internship, or do part-time work with an animal hospital, local business, or charitable organization that helps animals. See if your college has a prevet extracurricular club that could broaden your experience and help you learn more about the field.

Getting a lot of hands-on animal experience can help build your resume and help you make sure that you’re pursuing a career path that appeals to you.

Also, know that to file your vet school application, you’ll most likely be required to submit your undergraduate transcripts and provide a reference from a college professor or professional in the animal sciences.

Step 2: Determine How to Pay for School

Before you decide on which veterinary school you want to attend, consider evaluating what savings you have to put toward vet school and estimate what you may need to borrow in student loans or fund with grants and scholarships.

It’s important to think about veterinary school costs as you begin researching schools so you have a good idea of what your veterinary school debts may look like.

According to the most recent data from the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average educational debt among the 82% of US veterinary college graduates who take on debt was $179,505. While vets do earn a good salary once they find employment, that is a significant sum to consider.

Working a part-time job while attending school might help offset some of the vet school costs or the amount you have to take out in loans in order to cover living expenses, but it might be challenging to balance work and school, especially as your schoolwork increases.

Recommended: Why Your Student Loan Balance Never Seems to Decrease

Step 3: Research Veterinary Schools

Once you have an idea of how much money you have to pay for vet school, research the veterinary schools in the country. You’ll likely consider the location, costs, and the types of programs offered if you’re pursuing a specialty veterinary degree.

This step can be an important part of the journey on how to become a veterinarian. As you read above, it may be more affordable to attend a vet school in your state.

Also, check that the vet school(s) you are applying to are suited to the type of vet medicine you want to practice. For example, if you’d like to pursue a career working with horses, research schools that offer equine programs.

If you plan to pursue a general DVM degree, find an accredited veterinary program that fits the criteria most important to you, such as your budget or where you want to live.

Step 4: Apply to Veterinary Schools

Check out the schools’ admissions website to determine the specific graduate school application requirements. Some pointers:

•   Most vet schools require students to submit scores for either the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Some schools may also require applicants to take the Biology GRE.

•   You also might need a letter of recommendation or two, as noted above.

•   Some applications may also require a personal essay.

•   Once your application is received, there may also be an in-person interview.

Yes, the vet school application process can be involved and long. It can get expensive, too. Vet schools often charge a non-refundable application fee; many schools follow the fee structure set by the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, which sets the first application fee at $227, and then each additional application fee is $124.


💡 Quick Tip: Federal parent PLUS loans might be a good candidate for refinancing to a lower rate.

Step 5: Attend Veterinary School

A three- to four-year vet med school degree often involves a few semesters of coursework, followed by clinical training and intense clinical training to gain hands-on training at one of the college’s affiliates.

Students can apply for scholarships and grants to help alleviate some of the costs of a veterinary degree. By managing your budget and minimizing extraneous expenses, you may also lower the amount of student debt you end up borrowing.

In order to practice veterinary medicine and become a veterinary, students will also need to study for and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). Generally, vet students take the exam during their senior year.

Step 6: Begin The Job Search

The experiences you had during clinical rotations can help you determine which area of veterinary medicine you want to go in. Options include private veterinary practice, vet hospital, research, education, diagnostics, or even public health with a DVM degree.

In general, it can be helpful to start looking for a job in veterinary medicine before graduating from vet school. After passing the NAVLE and graduating from school, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running if you have a job in place.

Having a job secured before you graduate may also provide peace of mind as you start thinking about student loan repayment.

The Takeaway

A career in veterinary medicine can be a rewarding one. You’re helping sick or injured animals heal, providing preventative care, and getting to interact with animals all day long. When it comes to discovering how to become a veterinarian, the process takes planning, dedication, and hard work.

Attending veterinary school can be a challenging but fulfilling journey. It’s also typically an expensive one. After graduating, refinancing student loans may be an option that can lower the loan’s interest rate, and potentially reduce the cost of borrowing in the long term. However, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term. Also, refinancing federal student loans means you forfeit some borrower protections, such as loan forgiveness and deferment.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

FAQ

Where do veterinarians work?

Veterinarians work across the country and around the world in a variety of settings, such a s private clinics, animal hospitals, and zoos, or they may operate out of an office and then visit homes or ranches.

What does a veterinarian do?

A veterinarian cares for the health of animals, whether pets, livestock, or other animals. They diagnose and work to heal issues animals endure and may protect public health by doing so.

What’s the salary and job outlook for a veterinarian?

The median salary for a veterinarian is currently $103,260 a year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The need for vets is seen as increasing, with a projected growth of 19.4% between 2021 and 2031.

What hours do vets work?

The hours a vet will work can vary tremendously depending on a specific job, type of employment, and location. Most vets work four to five days a week, eight to 10 hours a day.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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