Best Emergency Student Loans

Student loans are like commuting to class — a necessary evil to get where you need to go. And when disaster strikes while you’re a student, like the death of a family member or a change in financial situation, you may need emergency student loans. Your first stop should be the office of financial assistance in your school, but if your school can’t help you, you may need to turn to a private student loan.

To rate each of the top emergency student loan lenders, we use SimpleScore methodology — comparing APR, perks, transparency, fees and loan amounts — to make recommendations.

In this article

    The best emergency student loans of 2020

    The best emergency student loans at a glance

    LenderLoan AmountAPR RangeTermsStandout Feature
    Earnest100% of costsStarting at 3.49% fixed; Starting at 1.24% variable5–15 yearsCan skip a payment
    Citizens OneUp to $150,0004.25%–11.53% fixed; 1.49%–11.25% variable5–15 yearsHigh rate discount
    College Ave100% of costs3.34%–12.99% fixed; 1.04%–11.98% variable5–15 yearsFunds non-full-time students
    PNC BankUp to $225,0004.49%–9.64% fixed; 2.92%–8.07% variable5–15 yearsHigh discount on rate

    Rates accurate as of May 2021.

    Best for flexible payments – Earnest

    It’s like the ’80s movie with Madonna, Desperately Seeking Susan, except Earnest is best for anyone desperately seeking student loans.

    Fixed APR
    as low as 3.49%
    Loan Amount
    100% of the certified costs of attendance
    Fees
    None
    SimpleScore
    4.2 / 5.0
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    SimpleScore Earnest 4.2
    Max Fixed APR 2
    Perks 4
    Transparency 5
    Loan Amount 5
    Fees 5

    Earnest’s student loans offer a low APR and a forgiving repayment policy.

    With Earnest, you have a nine-month grace period before you have to start paying back the loans. The lender also lets you skip a payment once a year if you run into financial troubles. Each time you choose to skip a payment, you’ll make up for it later because the term of your loan will extend by one month. Plus, you get a 0.25% discount when you add in auto-pay.

    Best for rate discounts – Citizens One

    Any good bargain hunter can spot a deal, so you’ll likely appreciate the rate discount from Citizens One.

    Fixed APR
    4.24%–12.40%
    Loan Amount
    $1K–$150K
    Fees
    Late fee
    SimpleScore
    3 / 5.0
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    SimpleScore Citizens One 3
    Max Fixed APR 3
    Perks 3
    Transparency 4
    Loan Amount 1
    Fees 4

    The low starting rate paired with the high discount rate makes Citizens One an enticing choice. Because with Citizens One, you can get a 0.50% rate discount, which is double most of the others. You’ll have to sign up for the loyalty and auto-pay programs to get the reduction. The loans max out at $150,000, so if you need to borrow more than that, you’ll have to look elsewhere. But if you want to get approved for multiple years, you can do that from the get-go with Citizens One. Read our full Citizens One student loan review for more.

    Citizens One Disclosure

    Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. If LIBOR is no longer available, for among other reasons because no Index administrator acceptable to the Lender in its sole discretion continues to provide the Index or because the Index administrator or its regulator publicly announces that the Index is no longer reliable or representative, then the variable rate is based upon the 30-day average SOFR index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of April 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.11%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%.

    Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.

    Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.

    Best for part-time students – College Ave

    Students come in all shapes and sizes, and College Ave thankfully offers loans to part-time and less-than-part-time students.

    Fixed APR
    3.34%–12.99%
    Loan Amount
    100% of the certified costs of attendance
    Fees
    $25 or 5% late fee
    SimpleScore
    3.8 / 5.0
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    SimpleScore College Ave 3.8
    Max Fixed APR 2
    Perks 4
    Transparency 4
    Loan Amount 5
    Fees 4

    Many emergency student loans stop giving out funds when you drop below full-time, but not College Ave.

    The best thing about College Ave student loans is that you can be a part-time student — or even less than half-time. Unlike many other student loans, you simply need to be enrolled in a degree program to get your loans. Also, you’ll get a 0.25% rate reduction when you set up auto-pay. Plus, you can get a $150 Success Reward when you graduate. However, your interest rate may be higher than with some other lenders. Read our full College Ave review for more.

    College Ave Disclosure

    *College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. Information advertised valid as of 4/22/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

    Best for deferred payments – PNC Bank

    PNC scores high on name recognition, but let’s not idolize the bank just yet — the actual quality of its student loans depends on what rate you can get.

    Fixed APR
    4.44%–9.59%
    Loan Amount
    Up to $225K
    Fees
    5% or $5 late fee
    SimpleScore
    4 / 5.0
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    SimpleScore PNC Bank 4
    Max Fixed APR 4
    Perks 5
    Transparency 4
    Loan Amount 3
    Fees 4

    With PNC, if you need to defer your payments, you have six months until you have to pay them off after you graduate or reduce your credit hours to below half-time. Interest continues to add up during deferment, though, so keep that in mind. Also, the rate discount is of the largest, and is easy, with PNC. When you set up automatic payments, you’ll get a 0.50% discounted rate. However, the interest rates are on the higher side, so even with the rate discount, you might pay more. Read our full PNC Bank review for more.

    What is an emergency student loan?

    The cost of one year of college at a four-year institution in 2017 was between $17,237 and $44,551. Many families don’t have that kind of money saved up, so they turn to low-interest student loans. Emergency student loans typically come into the picture when you can’t get funding elsewhere, like from the government or your school, and you need the money quickly. These loans cover schooling costs like tuition, housing, books and living expenses. The best student loans for emergencies provide a low-interest rate, no fees and flexible repayment terms.

    [ Read: How to Pay Off Student Loans Fast: 15 Ways to Deal With Your Debt ]

    Should I get an emergency student loan?

    Emergency student loans shouldn’t be your go-to for financial aid. The first thing you want to do is apply for grants and scholarships, as well as submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA will help you determine how much you qualify for in financial aid from the government. Government aid can come in the form of grants or low-interest student loans that carry more protections for the borrower than private loans. 

    For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government announced it would halt interest accruing on all federal student loans from March 2020 through the end of September 2020. Private loans weren’t required to do the same, so it’s up to the company if it provided relief. 

    Emergency loans for college should be used as the last resort. If tuition increases or your financial situation changes, you can use emergency student loans to cover the hidden or unexpected costs that pop up. However, before you take out this type of loan, be sure you understand all the terms. Know how much you’ll pay in interest, how long of a grace period you have after you graduate and whether there are any fees. Also, consider asking a guardian to co-sign on the loan if your interest rate is too high.

    [ Read: The True Cost of Student Loans ]

    How fast can I get an emergency student loan?

    The best student loan companies know that you need the money, like, yesterday. You can usually get an emergency student loan the same day or within a few days after applying; these loans are meant to be quick.

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    Student loan application

    Applications can take as little as 15 minutes to complete. To finalize a request for an emergency student loan, you’ll need to provide things like:

    • Proof of ID
    • Social Security number
    • Date of birth
    • Details on the school you’ll attend
    • Intended major
    • Employer information, if you have a cosigner

    Enrollment status

    The lender will check with the school to make sure you are enrolled to attend school there. It will also ask for the cost of attending the school to verify the amount of funding you need.

    [ Read: What I Wish I Knew Before Taking Out Student Loans ]

    Steps to finding the best emergency loan

    1. Get your rate. Go to the website or call the emergency loan provider to receive a rate quote. Do this for at least three different lenders to find the best rate. You can usually receive an estimated rate from a lender without having to complete a full application or go through a hard credit check.
    2. Gather your information. Check what each lender needs for the application. Get all the information together in an easy-to-read way.
    3. Apply. Select the lender offering you the best rate and terms and apply. The process usually takes less than 30 minutes, and you can do it all online.
    4. Receive your funds. Once the lender checks how much you need for expenses with the school and confirms your application, you get get the funding the same day. It may take a few days, but the process is typically quick.

    Emergency Student Loans FAQs

    Read the requirements for each lender before applying. Some lenders won’t fund students who are less than half-time, for example. Also, make sure you understand what you’ll have to do to receive all the perks the lender offers.

    Most emergency student loan companies will send the funding directly to the school, rather than your bank account. That way, you don’t have to be in charge of making payments yourself.

    That depends. If you don’t qualify for emergency student loans by yourself, a cosigner may help. Rather than turning to a bad credit personal loan, you can ask a trusted adult with a good credit history to sign, as well. A cosigner proves to some companies that you have the means to pay back the loan.

    Yes. You’ll have to repay the lender everything you borrowed plus interest. Interest can add up, so make sure you understand how much you’ll owe on the loan in the long term.

    A promissory note is a fancy way of saying a signed promise. You sign it to promise to pay back the funds you borrow with the terms you agreed on.

    Tiffany Verbeck

    Contributing Writer

    Tiffany Verbeck is a personal finance expert. She uses her storytelling skills gained from a master’s degree in writing to run a freelancing business focused on helping people make and manage their money. She has been published in The Financial Diet, Fast Capital 360, The Write Life, Matador Network and other publications

    Reviewed by

    • Courtney Mihocik
      Courtney Mihocik
      Loans Editor

      Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in personal loans, student loans, auto loans, and debt consolidation loans. She is a former writer and contributing editor to Interest.com, PersonalLoans.org, and elsewhere.