It's tough to earn the money you need to live when you're attending school full time. You can only use many grants and scholarships for tuition and books, which leaves students in a bind when it comes to personal expenses. Be sure you completely understand all personal loan terms before you sign on the dotted line. The lender should be able to provide you with a loan amortization chart, which indicates the interest rates, your monthly payments and the total lifetime expense of the loan.
The federal government offers students Stafford and Perkins loans. Although they are called student loans, they operate the same as a personal loan. Unlike some scholarships and grants, you can use these funds for any purpose. These loans usually have better terms and interest rates compared to other personal loan providers. You won't have to start making loan payments right away and sometimes you can defer interest accrual until you leave school. Because of the great terms, it's best to exhaust your federal loans before moving onto other options.
Various national banks offer students personal loans. These are sometimes referred to as private student loans or alternative education loans. Just like the federal loans, you can use the money for any purpose. However, you'll likely pay a higher interest rate on these loans. Unlike federal loans, banks will base your interest rate on your credit score. This can be a problem for college students without much credit history. If you don't have sufficient credit history to obtain a private loan, the bank may allow you to use a parent as a cosigner.
Credit unions can often offer private loans at lower rates than their national bank competitors can. Credit unions are non-profit cooperative financial institutions that reinvest their profits back into services for members. You'll have to be a member of a credit union in order to obtain a personal loan. Membership is usually based geographic residency, your employer or other association affiliations. Ask the financial aid department at your university if there is a credit union affiliated with the school. Many universities partner with a specific credit union to offer personal loans to students.
Friends and Family
Even if your parents can't loan you any money, family and friends can be a viable source of funds for a personal loan. Some individuals are happy to help a family member and earn interest revenue at the same time. Adding a business element can put strain on your personal relationship, so make sure both parties are completely comfortable with the idea. If you choose to borrow money from someone you know it's best to make it official. Ask the lender to draw up an official contract with terms and conditions for both parties.
Based in San Diego, Calif., Madison Garcia is a writer specializing in business topics. Garcia received her Master of Science in accountancy from San Diego State University.