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What to Do If You Are Waitlisted for College

Students want to see one word when they get letters from their prospective colleges: accepted. Unfortunately, that likely isn’t going to be the result every time. Some students will end up on the college waitlist, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be accepted eventually.

Being waitlisted is not the same as being rejected. There’s still a possibility of getting accepted and attending that dream school.

So what does it mean to be on a college waitlist? It means you’re still up for consideration based on how many spaces are left after decision day. Getting accepted from the waitlist depends on how many accepted students choose to attend the school.

Decision day is May 1, when incoming freshmen are required to notify schools whether they will be attending or not. If not enough students accept their invites for schools to meet enrollment numbers, then students on the waitlist will be reevaluated and potentially accepted.

There’s no guarantee that accepting a spot on the waitlist will lead to being admitted, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. There are still things you can do to boost your chances.

Waitlisted or Deferred?

In some cases, a student may receive a letter saying they’ve been deferred rather than being put on the waitlist. So what’s the difference? A deferral usually involves students who applied for early action or early decision. These applications are generally turned in during November of senior year.

If a student applies via early action or decision and they receive a deferral, that means they have not yet been accepted but their application has been changed to regular decision. The application will be reviewed again during the regular decision time frame.

A deferral is different from a waitlist, but students who have been deferred generally want to take the same actions as those who have been waitlisted to better their chances of admission.


💡 Quick Tip: You’ll make no payments on some private student loans for six months after graduation.

What to Do When You Get Waitlisted

Students who have been waitlisted but still want to attend the school must first do one thing: Accept their position on the waitlist.

If you neglect to contact the school and accept your position, you’ll be removed from the list and won’t be considered for admission if there are spots left after decision day.

Once you’ve accepted your spot on the waitlist, there are a few steps you can take that may better your chances of being accepted. Here’s a close look.

Contact Admissions

When you receive a letter informing you that you’ve been waitlisted, there might be some instructions included. First and foremost, it’s a good idea to follow them.

Next, it’s often recommended that students contact admissions with a letter to further stress their commitment to attending the school. The letter should detail why you want to attend that school and why you believe that school is the best fit for you. You might also want to ask that the letter be kept in your file along with your other application materials.

Request an Interview

Asking for an interview can be helpful in getting off the waitlist. Meeting with someone in person may make you more memorable when it comes time to accept applicants from the waitlist.

If you already did an interview, it’s okay to request another one after receiving a waitlist decision. A second interview provides the chance to reinforce your commitment to the school and add any recent accomplishments to the conversation. This can be a great time to bring up anything special you have achieved during the spring semester.

Reserve a Spot at Your Second Choice

Even though it can be discouraging, it’s highly recommended that students who’ve been waitlisted for their first-choice school put a deposit down for their next-best option. Putting a deposit down on another school isn’t giving up on your dream school; it’s just an important safety net to ensure you have somewhere to attend.

Some students may opt to take a “gap year” if they don’t make it into their school of choice. This choice is highly personal, though, and there isn’t a clear recommendation on how beneficial or harmful it is. Some students may find a gap year useful and productive, while others may find that it deters them from going back to school on time.

Anyone committed to attending college in the fall will likely find it a smart move to put a deposit down on their second- or even third-place school, and then continue working on getting accepted off the waitlist for their first choice.

Retake Tests

Students who did not score well on the SAT or ACT may want to consider retaking those tests if they’ve been waitlisted. Before you do that, however, it’s a good idea to contact the college to make sure it’s willing to accept additional application information. If the school will accept it, and you think you can get better scores, it could be helpful to go ahead and retake the tests.

Most colleges will accept scores from either test, but it’s best to check with each school to be sure. Both tests have a similar goal, testing for college readiness, but they vary slightly in timing and types of questions asked.

If you need to improve your test scores but have limited time or money, it may help to research the difference between the two tests and take the one you feel you can perform better on. Taking practice tests can also help you determine which test suits you better. Many students do take both tests, so that is an option as well.

Recommended: Do Your SAT Scores Really Matter for College?

Don’t Give Up

Make the end of senior year impressive. Don’t let that waitlist cause discouragement. If you truly want to make it off the waitlist, you’ll want to work even harder at the end of your senior year. Senior grades can still affect admissions, so keeping them high may help those who are on the waitlist.

If you still don’t get accepted to your dream school, it doesn’t mean you have to give up. Even if you’re not accepted from the waitlist, there are still a couple of options. You can accept admission from a different school and aim to transfer to your dream school after one to two years. This allows time to earn good grades, get the necessary credits, then transfer.

If your plan is to transfer schools, however, you’ll want to work closely with your counselor to make sure you’re taking the correct courses and carefully consider your choice of major, since not all credits will transfer to all schools.


💡 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.

Ready to Start. What’s Next?

Whether you make it off the waitlist and get into your dream school or choose to accept admission at your second choice, you’ll be faced with tuition. So how to cover the cost? Tuition, fees, books, food, plus all the other costs of living… it adds up quickly.

Luckily, there are resources available to help students finance their college education. The first step for most should be filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The application will determine eligibility to receive federal aid. The eligibility for undergraduates to receive aid is most often based on their parents’ income. This process will inform students of how much federal aid they can receive, and what kind.

Federal aid can come in the form of grants, loans, and work-study. Grants don’t need to be repaid (unless you withdraw from school and owe a refund), but loans do. Federal loans come with some benefits that students won’t get with private student loans, including income-driven repayment plans and potentially lower interest rates.

Another option for funding the college experience is a private scholarship. There are a wide variety of scholarships available, with different eligibility requirements for each one. Some scholarships are need-based; some are merit-based.

If you can’t finance college completely with federal aid and scholarships, private student loans are also available. The eligibility for private student loans is usually based on the student’s (or cosigner’s) income and credit history. Rates and terms vary by lender, so it’s important for students to research their options before making a choice.

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.



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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What To Do the Summer Before College

Congratulations, you’ve graduated from high school. Now, you’ve got just a few more weeks to soak up all that home has to offer before heading off to college.

The summer before college can be a transformative time in its own right. It’s a time to reflect, wrap up loose ends, and spend quality time with the people you love at the places you love one last time before heading off on your own.

At the same time, there are a number of tasks you’ll need to complete to make sure your transition to school goes as smoothly as possible. Here’s a simple checklist that can help ensure you make the most of your last summer before college.

Getting Organized

Now is the time to clear out the old so you can bring in the new. The bedroom is a good place to start.

Clear out your closet: Use the summer to clean out your closet and dresser and get rid of any clothing you may no longer need or want for college. Start by pulling every single item out and making a giant pile on the floor, separating the clothing into piles to keep, toss, and donate. Donating gently used items to a local charity or second-hand shop will help them find a second life.

Toss old academic work: Go through notebooks, binders, and bookbags, using the same sorting method as with clothing. Cleaning out your computer and deleting any files you no longer need — perhaps moving some to cloud storage — can allow you to enter college with a clean desktop and plenty of space on your hard drive.

Start packing: To make the moving process a little smoother, try organizing your items and packing slowly over the summer instead of cramming it all into one day. Creating boxes labeled as bedding, kitchen, bathroom, academic, and miscellaneous — maybe limiting the size of that particular box, though — then adding items as you’re organizing will make moving easier when the time comes.


💡 Quick Tip: Private student loans offer fixed or variable interest rates. So you can get a loan that fits your budget.

Cleaning up Your Social Media

Just like cleaning out your closet, it’s probably time to think about cleaning up your social media presence, too. You may have joined Facebook groups or liked pages that no longer reflect your interests or what you believe in.

On Twitter and Instagram, it may be a good idea to look back at your content to make sure what you’re sharing is appropriate for future employers to see. If not, you might want to consider deleting it.

Finally, think about your social media handles and your email address. If possible, it might be a good idea to use your full name or a combination of first initial and last name — something clean and simple. Potential employers will likely look at this information before hiring for summer internships or future jobs, so presenting yourself as a professional might pay off in the long run.

Recommended: College Freshman Checklist for the Upcoming School Year

Spending Quality Time With Your Family

Even though your parents may have sometimes embarrassed you through your high school years and your siblings may have annoyed you since you became siblings, you’ll probably still miss them when you head off to college. Use this time to make memories with your family so you have something fond to look back on if you’re ever homesick.

Over the summer, try creating family date nights. Play board games, cook together, go to your favorite restaurants, the movies, whatever makes you all happy. As a bonus, you’ll get to visit all your favorite hometown spots along the way, too.

Recommended: 5 Ways to Start Preparing For College

Connecting With Your New Roommate

If you’re living in a dorm in the fall, you likely already know who your roommate will be. You may want to use the few weeks before school begins to connect with them, via phone, text/email, Facetime, or, if possible, in-person.

Consider making a list of dorm room items that you can share, and try making a list of ground rules before you even move in. This could help alleviate any issues before they ever begin.

Recommended: A Guide to Making Friends in College

Preparing Your Dorm Essentials

After chatting with your roommate and figuring out what you both need, it’s time to make a full list of dorm essentials. This list should include bedding, toiletries that fit into a basket to carry to and from shared bathrooms, a pair of slippers to use in common areas (including shower areas), and office supplies like pens, paper, notebooks, labels, rubber bands, scissors, and sticky notes.

You’ll now be responsible for doing your own laundry, so make sure to add on a laundry basket and detergent. The list can also include decorations such as desk lamps, a bulletin board, and any fun decor that fits your style.

Becoming Familiar With Your College Town

You can get familiar with your new town even before you set foot in it by checking out local publications, including local news sites and your school’s newspaper. You might want to make a list of restaurants you want to try and local attractions you’d like to see.

You might also consider sharing the list with your new roommate so you can explore the town together.

Recommended: How to Get Involved on Campus in College

Registering for Classes

It could be prudent to check out class offerings before registration even opens. Familiarize yourself with the classes offered in your degree program, which ones are available to freshmen, and which electives you’d like to take. Make a list and have it handy for registration day.

Pro tip: Sign up for classes as soon as registration is open because popular classes may fill up fast.

Recommended: Understanding Lower Division Vs. Upper Division Courses

Checking out Your Professors Online

Once you’ve got your classes lined up, it’s time to check out your future professors. Doing a bit of online research on the people who will be teaching you could help identify any potential future mentors.

Getting to know professors can make asking for recommendations for internships and jobs easier. If they don’t know you well, it might be difficult for them to recommend you.


💡 Quick Tip: Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should fill out the FAFSA form. Many schools require it for merit-based scholarships, too. You can submit it as early as Oct. 1.

Getting Your Finances in Order

It’s time for the most adult step of all. During the summer before college, it’s probably time to get your finances in order. If you don’t already have a checking account, it’s a good idea to open one, ideally at a bank that you can access easily while at school.

Now is also a good time to explore — and discuss with your family — how you will finance all four years of your college education. If savings, financial aid, and federal student loans are enough to fully cover the cost of your education, you might also consider using private student loans to fill in any gaps.

Private student loans are available through private lenders, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Rates and terms vary, depending on the lender. Unlike federal student loans, private student loans will require a credit check. Generally, borrowers (or cosigners) who have strong credit qualify for the lowest rates.

Keep in mind, though, that private loans may not offer the borrower protections — like income-based repayment plans and deferment or forbearance — that automatically come with federal 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.



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.

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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How to Start the College Conversation

Graduating high school and attending college are milestone achievements for students and their families. Getting to this stage requires hard work, financial planning, and communication between parents and their children.

If you’re hoping that your child will go to college after high school, talking about college well before they get to senior year can better prepare them for success.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting ready for college, and the same goes for college conversation starters. Here are some tips and strategies to consider as you prepare to have the college talk with your child.

When is it too Early to Talk about College?

Putting off the college talk is generally a greater concern than starting too early. While kids are young, you can begin planting seeds in everyday conversation about college and careers. Consider taking a gradual approach. This can give your child time and space to come forward with their own thoughts to create a college conversation rather than a college lecture.


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

When is it too Late to Talk about College?

There isn’t a definitive best time to start talking about college, but waiting too long could put your child at a disadvantage.

Many college admissions offices evaluate every year of high school to calculate a student’s grade point average (GPA) and academic performance. While junior year can be given greater weight, a bad grade in algebra as a freshman doesn’t disappear either. For this reason, the transition from middle school to high school can be an opportune time to begin talking about college.

While the academic side is important to emphasize, an overly direct approach could potentially stifle the college talk. Starting early can help you build a better foundation to discuss the more difficult and stressful parts of preparing for college.

Do Your Own Homework on the College Process

As a parent or guardian, doing some initial research can inform you on the nuts and bolts of the college process and show your child that you are supportive of their education. It’s no surprise that college is expensive, but there are options to make college more affordable.

First off, you may want to gauge how much financial aid your family could qualify for with the government’s Federal Student Aid Estimator . This tool provides a free estimate of federal aid eligibility, including work-study, grants, and federal student loans.

There has been a growing call for waiving standardized tests for college admission, but most schools still require SAT or ACT scores for admission. Not every family is in the position to pay for tutors and prep classes, but it is worth noting that students can take these tests multiple times to improve their scores.

Through a process called “superscoring,” some colleges accept a student’s best section-level scores for math and evidence-based reading, even if they are from different test dates.

Some other useful tidbits to be aware of as you start the college conversation include:

•  College application fees: The cost varies by institution. The average application fee runs around $45, though some schools charge as much as $100 to apply. However, applicants could qualify for a waiver if they meet certain criteria for financial need.
•  In-state vs. out-of-state tuition cost: Each state has its own public university system that is partially funded by taxpayer money. Therefore, the base tuition cost for in-state residents is less than out-of-state students, though this does not account for potential scholarships and financial aid. Students attending out-of-state public universities typically pay more for tuition than in-state residents, though the cost may still be less than attending a private college.
•  Local scholarship opportunities: Community organizations, nonprofits, and businesses may offer scholarships specifically to graduates of your child’s high school or within your community. Criteria varies, but common elements might include academic merit, leadership, and financial need.

Now let’s move on to some helpful college conversation starters.

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Asking About Their Goals, Dreams, and Worries

Adolescence is a journey in self-discovery, but also insecurity and social pressure. In addition to your child’s future aspirations, acknowledge that they may have doubts and worries about attending college or moving away from home. Simply listening and showing your support is a good start to moving forward with the college talk.

On a lighter note, your child doesn’t need to have it all figured out by the time they decide to enroll in college. Some students do not declare a major until a few semesters into college. This means they can take a variety of classes before making a final decision for their degree.

Still, there are hundreds of college majors to consider, and not all colleges have the same offerings, so narrowing it down a little beforehand can help your child find a college that fits their needs and graduate on time.

Attending a local college with friends may be really important to your child, or they may be dead set on a specialized subject only offered at a handful of colleges. Either way, there is still plenty to discuss for their future plans.

Recommended: College vs University: What’s the Difference?

Attending College and Career Events Together

Many high schools host career and college fairs throughout the academic year. Often, these events are marketed towards juniors and seniors who are approaching application deadlines and graduation. If your student is a freshman or sophomore in high school, these fairs can provide a convenient opportunity to start browsing their options without the pressure of applying yet.

Having the confidence to speak with college admissions recruiters at these events is not only great practice, but can gain application fee waivers and insight into scholarships and other opportunities.

Similarly, colleges organize open house events and tours for prospective students and their families throughout the year. Starting with an unofficial tour of a nearby college campus can be a low-stakes introduction.

Incorporating college visits and tours into a family vacation is another way to test the waters of living and studying away from home.

Recommended: College Planning Guide for Parents of High School Students

Sharing Your Own Experiences

Sharing personal experiences from college can be a natural way to broach the subject, as well as connect with your child on a more peer-to-peer level.

Your child may be surprised to learn which friends you made in college that they’ve known since birth. There are a lot of practical and logistical topics to cover during the college conversation, so this is a chance to bond over more personal stories.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend college, that’s okay too. Letting your child know that college is a possibility for them is what matters.

Asking friends who attended college or whose children are in college for advice could offer some insight.

Also, inviting a trusted family member or friend to join the college talk with you and your child is another way to continue the conversation in a caring environment. If your child will be a first-generation college student, keep in mind that they may be eligible for specific types of programs and scholarships.

Letting Them Know Your Financial Plan

Your child may be more intuitive than you think. If you haven’t brought up the matter of paying for college yet, they may assume their education options are more limited than the reality.

Talking about money with your children may feel awkward, but college isn’t cheap, and paying for it is a critical piece of the equation for selecting a school that is right for them.

You don’t have to get too deep in the weeds, but discussing payment options can help put your child at ease. Fortunately, there are several ways to pay for college, such as scholarships, grants, and student loans.

Grants and scholarships generally do not require repayment and are used for education and associated expenses. Both can be awarded through financial aid packages or nonprofit and community organizations.

Additionally, scholarships can be awarded by colleges directly or through a competitive application process. Learning about these opportunities early on could better prepare your child for receiving scholarships and grants.

When approaching student loans, an important piece to convey to your child is the impact of interest. With an unsubsidized federal student loan, interest starts to accrue when the loan is disbursed, and continues accruing until the loan is paid back.

With subsidized federal student loans, the interest is covered by the government while the student is in school at least half time and through a six-month grace period after the student leaves school. With either type of federal loan, you don’t need to begin repayment until six months after graduation.

Generally, interest will also start accruing immediately with private student loans. However, the terms on private student loans vary by lender, so confirm with the loan servicer to be sure. Some private lenders also allow students to defer making any payments until six months after graduation.

Paying off loans ahead of schedule could result in a lower total repayment amount, but consult with your loan provider to be sure. For more information, take a look at this primer on student loans.

This can also be the time to have a candid conversation about getting a summer job and pitching in to save for college.


💡 Quick Tip: Federal student loans carry an origination or processing fee (1.057% for Direct Subsididized and Unsubsidized loans first disbursed from Oct. 1, 2020, through Oct. 1, 2024). The fee is subtracted from your loan amount, which is why the amount disbursed is less than the amount you borrowed. That said, some private student loan lenders don’t charge an origination fee.

Paying for College

Federal student loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study programs may be sufficient to fund all or at least a portion of your child’s education.

However, some students take out private student loans to pay for their education and associated living expenses, when federal aid and savings aren’t enough to cover the costs.

Alternatively, college parents can borrow loans to support their child’s education expenses. The federal government’s PLUS loans program for parents is one option to consider. Private lenders also offer parent student loans with potentially lower interest rates.

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.



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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The Ultimate Guide to Liberal Arts Colleges

When considering where to go to college, a young adult has a dizzying array of choices, including public vs. private schools and colleges vs. universities. There are also liberal arts colleges, which can be appealing to creative types and those seeking a broad education resulting in exemplary problem solving and communication skills.

But what exactly is a liberal arts college? And how are liberal arts colleges different from other colleges and universities?

Liberal arts colleges tend to put more focus on broad academics and personal growth than on professional training programs. An education from a liberal arts college is still valuable in helping students start their careers, but the emphasis is more on producing well-rounded individuals than putting graduates on a specific career track like engineering.

Students can major in a wide range of subjects at a liberal arts college, including the arts, literature, philosophy, social sciences, natural sciences, and even math or engineering. However, these colleges are meant to be a place that values learning, without strictly limiting what students are learning.

Read on to learn more about liberal arts colleges, including what they offer, how they compare to larger schools and public universities, and how you can cover the cost of a liberal arts education.

A More Personal Vibe

Though both universities and liberal arts colleges will help prepare students for entering the working world, there are some differences in what the experience will be like:

1. Liberal arts colleges are smaller. Most classes will have far fewer students than is the case at a university lecture hall, which can have hundreds attending at the same time.
2. Because of the smaller size, it may be easier for students to bond with their professors. The faculty members often have more time to spend with their students.
3. The focus of a liberal arts school is undergraduate education. At universities, there will likely be graduate programs and major research efforts.

A liberal arts college may be the best college fit for students who prefer a more personal experience where they can get to know faculty members and other students.

Those trying to decide which college is right for them can take this eight-question college personality quiz.


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

The Admissions Process

The application process for getting into a liberal arts college is similar to other schools. Students will have to submit the usual components: an application with transcripts, test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation.

Liberal arts colleges may have a different focus when it comes to reviewing applications, though, so it’s essential to keep the following information in mind when applying to a liberal arts college.

When it comes to test scores and grades, liberal arts colleges don’t always have specific requirements. Admissions can still be very competitive at these schools, but they’re often more interested in whether or not students challenged themselves in high school. Generally, they want to see that applicants are well-rounded but also have an area of interest they specialize in.

Extracurriculars are important when applying to any college, but liberal arts colleges often value a wide range of activities, not just those that involve leadership.

A liberal arts college may be more likely to value extracurricular activities that are outside the box, so students applying to these schools have more options for what they can get involved in.

The Common Application, which can be used to apply to more than 900 schools, only requires one essay. However, many liberal arts colleges will require at least two supplemental essays. The reason is that these schools tend to put a high value on writing and critical thinking. This can be beneficial for students who have strong writing skills but may be weaker in other areas.

Many liberal arts colleges are also interested in a student’s character and how they’ll contribute to the school, so they may put more weight on letters of recommendation and interviews than other schools.

Top Ranked Liberal Arts Colleges

According to U.S. News’s National Liberal Arts Colleges Rankings for 2022-2023, the top ten liberal arts colleges are:

1. Williams College
2. Amherst College
3. Pomona College
4. Swarthmore College
5. Wellesley College
6. Bowdoin College
7. Carleton College
8. United States Naval Academy
9. Claremont McKenna College
10. United States Military Academy at West Point
11. Middlebury College

Financial Value of a Liberal Arts Education

There’s a stereotype about people who pursue a liberal arts education: that they won’t find financial success and their degree could be useless. This claim isn’t backed by evidence, though, so students who feel like a liberal arts college is the right choice for them shouldn’t be scared away by this false narrative.

The gap in income between those who attend a liberal arts college and those who attend other schools isn’t necessarily linked to the institution.

Instead, it’s determined more by a student’s career path and the market forces at the time, according to two economists who analyzed the payoff of a liberal arts college education.

Another reason for this misconception is that people are unaware of the diverse selection of topics that are studied at liberal arts colleges. If people don’t actually know what is being studied at these colleges, they’ll have a more difficult time conceptualizing what a student’s future could entail.

Though graduates of liberal arts colleges may not earn as much as those from STEM-oriented institutions right away, the economists’ study found that 60% of students ended up in the top 40% of U.S. income after graduation, even if they started out in the bottom 60%.

Choosing where to attend college and whether or not it will have a “payoff” is personal to each student.

Attending a liberal arts college can lead to upward mobility, but students also have to take into account the cost of the education and the availability of financial aid when choosing which school will have the most value for them.

Paying for College

Along with the painstaking process of choosing where to apply for college and making a final decision, there is another difficult process: figuring out the cost of tuition and how to pay for it all.

Luckily, students usually have access to a few options that may help fund the yearly cost of attendance, which goes beyond tuition and fees to usually include room and board, books, supplies, transportation, loan fees, costs related to a disability, and reasonable costs for eligible study-abroad programs.

To figure out financing, a good place to start is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will let you know if you are eligible for federal financial aid, which includes grants, scholarships, work-study, and federal student loans (which may be subsidized or unsubsidized).

Some private colleges use a supplemental form called the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile, to determine how to give out their own financial aid. The form is more detailed than the FAFSA. Almost every college that meets financial need for all enrolled students without federal student loans uses the CSS Profile.

Most liberal arts colleges are private and carry a relatively high “sticker price,” which includes tuition, fees, room and board. But students will typically pay less, and sometimes far less, when grants, scholarships, and other benefits are factored in.

If students will require loans to cover the cost of college, it’s recommended they take out federal loans before private loans, because the former come with benefits that the latter usually do not, like lower fixed interest rates and income-based repayment plans.

Private scholarships are also widely available. Some are need based; others are merit based. They’re offered by schools, companies, community organizations, religious groups, and more.

Private student loans are an option as well. Eligibility usually depends on a student’s income and credit score or those of a cosigner. These loans are available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders and rates and terms vary, depending on the lender.


💡 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.

The Takeaway

Whether you choose to go to a state university or a private liberal arts college, the experience will be enriching and can set you up for long-term career success.

Though a liberal arts school isn’t solely focused on teaching students a profession, a Bachelor of Arts from a reputable liberal arts school can lead to a rewarding career. The skills students learn at a liberal arts college — which include communication skills, analytic skills, the ability to work in a team, and a strong work ethic — are ones that often highly valued by today’s employers

While liberal arts colleges are known for their high cost, keep in mind that your actual cost of attendance will likely be much lower than the “sticker price,” once you take grants, scholarships, and other types of financial aid into consideration.

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.



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.

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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What Happens When Someone Pays My Student Loans?

What Happens When Someone Pays My Student Loans?

Can you pay off someone else’s loan? As a general rule, yes — so if you’re a student loan borrower and someone offers you assistance in paying off your loans, you may want to take them up on it. But it’s important to understand the implications. While a parent, grandparent, or even a mysterious benefactor could pay off your student loans, they may be responsible for a gift tax if they contribute more than the annual limit. The gift could also come with emotional strings attached.

Read on to learn about the tax implications of paying off someone else’s student loans — and how to repay your loans if the responsibility is all yours.

Key Points

•   If someone pays off your student loans, they may face a gift tax if the amount exceeds the annual IRS exclusion limit.

•   Employers can contribute to your student loans without it counting as taxable income, up to a certain amount per year.

•   Payments made by parents or others directly to the loan servicer do not count as taxable income for the recipient.

•   Gift tax implications apply if a single individual gifts more than $17,000 in one year, but actual tax liability may depend on lifetime gift amounts.

•   Financial planning is recommended for parents considering paying off a child’s student loans to ensure it doesn’t impact their retirement

Student Loan Repayment

For federal student loan borrowers, the end of the three-year pause on federal student loan payments has made repayment top of mind again. The resumption of federal student loan payments, which was part of the debt ceiling bill President Joe Biden signed into law in early June 2023, requires interest accrual to resume on September 1, 2023, and payments to resume on October 1, 2023. (Borrowers who held private loans did not have any uniform break in payments.)

Additionally, the President’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt was struck down by the Supreme Court in late June 2023. That means federal student loan borrowers no longer have that course of action.

The bottom line: If you have a student loan balance, it needs to be paid. If you have a cosigner — which may be the case if you have private student loans or federal PLUS Loans — then that person is legally responsible for repaying the loans if you are unable to do so. But if your student loans are solely in your name, you are responsible for repayment according to the outlined terms.

Getting Help From Your Employer

More employers are offering student loan repayment as a perk. Through CARES Act legislation, employers can contribute up to $5,250 per employee per year toward student loans without the payment counting toward the employee’s taxable income, through 2025.


💡 Quick Tip: Often, the main goal of refinancing is to lower the interest rate on your student loans — federal and/or private — by taking out one loan with a new rate to replace your existing loans. Refinancing makes sense if you qualify for a lower rate and you don’t plan to use federal repayment programs or protections.

Can Parents Pay Off Their Child’s Student Loans?

Yes they can. But can parents pay off student loans without a gift tax? It depends. If a parent is a cosigner, paying the student loans in full will not trigger a gift tax. In the mind of the IRS, the parent is not providing a gift but is paying off a debt.

However, if a parent is not a cosigner, a gift tax could be triggered, depending on how much they pay.

How the Gift Tax Works

The gift tax applies to the transfer of any type of property (including money), or the use of income from property, without expecting to receive something of at least equal value in return, the IRS says — adding that if you make an interest-free or reduced-interest loan, you may be making a gift.

There are some exceptions. Gifts between spouses aren’t included in the gift tax. That means if you are married and your spouse pays off your loans, that would not trigger a gift tax event. (The IRS includes lawfully married same-sex couples.)

Tuition paid directly to qualifying educational institutions in the United States or overseas is also not subject to gift tax. But student loans are different.

The annual exclusion for gifts is $17,000 in 2023. That means an individual can give you up to $17,000 without triggering the gift tax, which the givers, not receivers, generally pay. If your parents file taxes jointly, they would be able to give a combined $34,000 a year, which could include paying down loans. Borrowers who have the good fortune to snag $17,000 from Mom, Dad, Granddad, and Grandma could get a total of $68,000 without any family member having to file a gift tax return.

Note, though, that even a gift of more than $17,000 towards your student loans doesn’t mean that your generous benefactor is on the hook for paying a tax on their gift. The excess amount just gets added to the lifetime exclusion — currently set at $12.92 million. As long as the benefactor’s total lifetime gifts are below that amount, they don’t have to worry about paying a gift tax. Still, if bumping against that lifetime exclusion is a concern, they can spread out their support over the years to avoid gifting you more than $17,000 in a calendar year.

The upshot is that the main concern when it comes to helping children out with their student loans is probably not the gift tax, but whether the parent can afford it. It’s a good idea for parents to consider their retirement plans and test what-ifs before offering to pay their children’s student loans. Working with a financial planner may help parents find a path that works for them and their children.

It’s also not an all-or-nothing decision. Some parents choose to pay a portion of student loans or offer cash toward repayment in lieu of other gifts.

Recommended: Should Parents Cosign on Student Loans?

What Happens When Someone Pays Off Student Loans For You?

A person can pay off student loans for you in a couple of ways:

•   Pay the lender directly

•   Pay you, with the expectation you will pay the lender

But if someone pays off your debt, is that income? Once another person has paid off your student loans, it’s as if you had paid them off yourself. You would not have any tax liability.

Other Options to Pay Off Student Loans

Not everyone has a benefactor, of course. While someone taking your student loan balance down to zero can seem like a dream, there are realistic ways to ease the burden of student loans, no third party required.

These strategies include student loan consolidation, student loan refinancing, and in some cases, student loan forgiveness.

The one thing that won’t help: if you stop paying your student loans. Ignoring your student loan payments will result in an increased balance, additional fees, and a lower credit score.

If you hold federal student loans and stop paying them, part of your wages could be garnished, and your tax refund could be withheld. If you default on a private student loan, the lender might file a suit to collect from you.

In other words, coming up with a repayment plan is crucial.


💡 Quick Tip: When refinancing a student loan, you may shorten or extend the loan term. Shortening your loan term may result in higher monthly payments but significantly less total interest paid. A longer loan term typically results in lower monthly payments but more total interest paid.

“With debt it is important to remember that you can either pay now or pay later.” says Brian Walsh, CFP® “Repayment options that lower your payment now may be necessary, but typically mean that you will spend more money over the long-term. The exception here would be PSLF (public service loan forgiveness) which can provide reduced payments now and in the future. If you are eligible for PSLF, make sure to strongly consider it. If not, you need to decide if you will prioritize current payments or how much you pay back over the life of the loan. Assuming your focus is current payments you may consider an extended repayment plan, a graduated repayment plan, an income driven repayment plan (especially SAVE), or refinancing your debt.”

What Is Student Loan Consolidation?

If you have federal student loans, you may consider consolidation, or combining multiple loans into one federal loan. The interest rate is the weighted average of all the loans’ rates, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percentage point.

Federal student loan consolidation via a Direct Consolidation Loan can lower your monthly payment by giving you up to 30 years to repay your loans. It can also streamline payment processing.

Consolidating federal loans other than Direct Loans may give borrowers access to programs they might not otherwise be eligible for, including additional income-driven repayment plan options and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

What Is Student Loan Forgiveness?

Although President Biden’s federal forgiveness program was blocked by the Supreme Court, there are still several paths toward student loan forgiveness for federal student loan holders. They include:

•   Income-based repayment. Federal income-driven repayment plans promise loan forgiveness after a certain amount of time, depending on the plan.

For instance, under President Biden’s new SAVE Plan, which is based on income and family size, qualifying federal student loan borrowers with undergraduate federal loans can get their monthly payments reduced by half — from 10% to 5% of their discretionary income. And after 10 to 20 years of making payments (the number of years depends on how big their original student loan balance was), the remainder of what they owe will be forgiven.

•   Public Student Loan Forgiveness: This federal program was designed to help graduates working in public service have any remaining loan balance forgiven if they meet criteria that include working for a qualifying organization and making 10 years’ worth of payments.

•   Disability discharge: Some people may have their loans forgiven because of total and permanent disability.

What about bankruptcy? It’s extremely difficult to have student loans discharged through bankruptcy.

What Is Student Loan Refinancing?

With student loan refinancing, a borrower takes on one new, private student loan to pay off previous federal and/or private student loans. Ideally, the goal is a lower interest rate. The repayment term might also change.

However, there is a very important caveat for those with federal student loans: Refinancing those federal loans means that borrowers will no longer be eligible for federal repayment plans, forgiveness programs, and other benefits. If a borrower needs access to those programs, student loan refinancing won’t make sense.

But for borrowers who have no plans to use the federal programs, a lower rate could make refinancing worthwhile. Using a student loan refinancing calculator can help a borrower see how much money they might save by refinancing one or all of their loans.

Refinancing Student Loans With SoFi

Even if your parents, grandparents, or others in your life are not in a position to pay off your student loans for you, understanding your options for potentially lowering your monthly payments or saving money over the life of a loan can give you multiple avenues to explore as you work toward taking control of your finances.

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

Can I pay off my child’s student loans?

Yes, you can pay off your child’s student loans. But, depending on the amount, there may be tax implications.

Is paying off a child’s student loans considered a gift?

Yes. Paying student loans for someone else is considered a gift and would incur a gift tax for any gift above $17,000, which is the gift exclusion cutoff for 2023.

That means both parents can contribute $34,000 per calendar year toward their child’s student loans without owing gift tax.

Can I pay off my sibling’s student loans?

Yes. You can absolutely win sibling of the year and pay off your sibling’s student loans. Just know that any gift above $17,000 in 2023 will trigger a gift tax that you will be responsible for paying.


Photo credit: iStock/Halfpoint

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.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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.

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 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.


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