Summer classes can help you graduate early or cut tuition costs. You can even squeeze in another minor (or major!) with the extra work.
And, Free Application for Federal Student Aid’s (FAFSA®) funds are accepted for summer tuition. If federal and school aid is short, options like private scholarships and undergraduate loans are also accepted.
When Can FAFSA Cover Summer Classes?
Anytime. While there is no FAFSA specific to summer classes, federal aid is still accepted and given out for it. You’ll have to reach out to your college to find out which FAFSA year forms they accept for summer. For instance, your school may require the 2021-2022 for summer 2022 — and not the 2022-2023 FAFSA.
The FAFSA allows students to apply for federal financial aid in the form of grants, work-study, and federal student loans. Colleges also use it to determine what aid they can give you. If you decide to enroll in summer courses — be sure to plan your finances for that academic year to spread out aid across all three semesters.
Grants are financial gifts that do not need to be repaid. The most common grants are:
• Pell Grants: Pell grants are awarded to low-income families. In 2017, the government revised restrictions on these funds and they are now allowed to be used to pay for summer tuition. The maximum award is $6,895 for the 2022–23 award year.
• State Grants: Your state government may offer educational grants. For instance, the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission has five grants, including ones for low-income families and in-state students. Get started by contacting your state agency listed in the Department of Education’s directory. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) also has a comprehensive list.
FAFSA summer aid also enables students to participate in Federal Work-Study programs. Work-Study is a federal program that provides part-time jobs at participating schools.
The jobs are generally in civic fields or related to your area of study. They are offered on campus, at private nonprofit organizations, public agencies, or private for-profit employers. The money is paid directly to students.
Students also can apply for federal subsidized, unsubsidized, and Direct PLUS loans with FAFSA. The first type is based on financial need and the latter two are not.
Recommended: I Didn’t Get Enough Financial Aid: Now What?
Filling Out FAFSA for Summer Aid
The FAFSA is generally released each year on October 1. Filling out the form as soon as possible can potentially increase your chances of getting all the aid you qualify for. That’s because some types of aid are awarded to applicants on a first-come, first-served basis.
The first step in filling out the FAFSA is creating an FSA ID profile that allows you to sign FAFSA and related forms electronically. If you’re a dependent student, your co-signer will also have to create one. You can also submit printed and signed forms, if preferable.
Some states have a feature with the Department of Education that enables your FAFSA information to be transferred into your state aid forms. Look out for a link for your state’s aid at the bottom of your FAFSA confirmation page.
Students need to meet eligibility requirements such as being enrolled part-time or full-time to qualify for federal aid. Also, while there are no FAFSA income limits, your family’s finances will determine how much you’re eligible for.
Filling out a FAFSA step-by-step doesn’t have to be intimidating. If you feel stuck, watch the Federal Student Office’s tutorial or ask someone familiar with the topic to help.
Recommended: FAFSA Guide
Alternatives to FAFSA
While federal financial aid is a gold mine, it can be limited. But, some summer classes allow more flexibility for summer jobs or internships. Also, summer scholarships and grants are in supply, if you look for it. If you’re still short, private loans can bridge the gap.
If Work-Study is not available, a summer job can be a rewarding way to spend your free time. Aim to get a job in your field or one that will flex skills needed for your future career. Be sure that the job does not negatively impact your studies. If it does, consider cutting hours to focus on class.
Internships can be an excellent way to earn class credit and experience. Some internships are paid and some are not.
Not sure where to start? Consult your academic advisor and senior students who have completed internships. Think of companies and organizations, local and national, that you’d like to intern with.
Most organizations have internships listed on their job board. Chicago Public Schools, for instance, has a dedicated internship program. Corporate companies like Apple also promote internships.
Finally, you can also check your college’s website for internship listings with their partners. Universities like Purdue have their own internship job listing portal.
Summer Class Scholarships
Colleges can offer summer class scholarships, but they are generally based on need, merit, and achievement — whether academic or athletic. Check out your school’s site or reach out to your financial aid office to find out what’s available.
You can also apply for private scholarships. These cover a broad range of eligibility requirements, like military family background, women’s interest, or graduate school enrollment. You just have to know where to look!
The Department of Labor and Collegeboard has free, comprehensive databases of scholarships. Other options are your state’s department of education, religious or ethnic organizations, civic groups, professional organizations in your field — or even your parent’s companies.
Each scholarship may have different eligibility criteria and requirements, so read the application instructions closely.
Summer Grant Programs
Grants for college can be found at similar places to scholarships: the government, your school, affinity organizations, and employers to start. They are similar to scholarships in that they are gifts that do not need to be repaid. The key difference is that grants are often based on need and economic background. Some have conditions, like a GPA minimum, that students must maintain in order to receive grants.
You can reach out to your Financial Aid Office for availability. Usually, an application is involved. California State University in Fullerton offers two summer tuition grants. One is awarded to students who have no Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for that academic year.
Private Student Loans
While aid earned from filling out the FAFSA may help you pay for summer classes, or open the door to federal funding, sometimes there is a leftover cost. Students who find themselves in this situation can consider summer class student loans.
If you go this route, expect the lender to perform a credit check. If you don’t have credit (or have less-than-stellar credit), you may consider adding a co-signer. Private loans can offer competitive fixed rates and flexible payment options, but you’ll need to do your research and read the fine print. The private student loans guide and advice from someone familiar with loans can be helpful.
Private student loans don’t offer the same benefits as federal student loans, such as income-driven repayment plans. For this reason, it’s generally recommended that borrowers exhaust all other options of financing before looking to private student loans.
Why Take Summer Classes?
Summer courses offer multiple takeaways. Students can complete courses early and potentially earn degrees in three, instead of four years. On the other hand, summer classes free up time in the academic year to enable students to add a minor or major to their studies. Most students can expect to spend somewhere around four to six weeks in summer school.
Cutting costs is also another major benefit. Students might take summer courses at community colleges and transfer their credits. Taking these general education requirements at a community college, whose cost per credit is lower than most universities, can be an effective way to cut costs.
Recommended: Can You Get a Student Loan for Summer Classes?
Summer classes can allow students to reduce tuition costs, graduate early, and even take on another degree in a short time. There’s little, if any, the drawback to summer classes.
Thankfully, federal funding is available for summer tuition. Students who filled out their FAFSA can apply for leftover aid, including undergraduate loans, to summer tuition, or apply for new grants and work-study.
There are other ways to cover the difference. Summer tuition institutional grants and scholarships are also an option. If students have enough free time, they can consider working part-time to cover bills.
Sometimes, those options aren’t enough. That’s where private loans might come in. SoFi offers private student loans that help fill a student’s financing needs. Qualifying borrowers can secure competitive interest rates, the loans have no fees, and offer flexible repayment options.
Do summer classes count as semesters for FAFSA?
Technically, yes. While there is no specific federal funding for summer classes, the aid can be applied to summer tuition. Schools will notify which academic year FAFSA will apply to summer classes.
Which year of FAFSA covers summer classes?
The form depends on the college’s policy. For instance, your school might require you to fill out a 2022-2023 form for summer 2022 classes (instead of 2021-2022). Reach out to your school’s financial aid office to determine which FAFSA form to fill out.
Is there a maximum amount that you can receive from FAFSA overall?
Yes. Depending on the type of aid, federal aid has yearly and lifetime limits per type of fund. The latest amounts can be found on studentaid.gov. Students should be careful to plan their expenses and financing strategies with these limits in mind.
Photo credit: iStock/Yuricazac
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