For financial aid directors, summer holds both promise and uncertainty.  While summer courses hold the potential to accelerate graduation (reducing total loan burden), the reality is only 41% of college students graduate in four years, often juggling work and financial concerns that can impact their course load and success1.

This article will help get you started with actionable strategies to empower students for a summer of success, lowering defaults and boosting graduation rates. Let's dive into practical solutions that turn summer semesters into launchpads, rather than financial sinkholes.

Student Success Strategies for a Debt-Free Summer Semester

Summer can be a double-edged sword for students. A chance to accelerate progress or a pitfall leading to loan delinquency. Here's a 5-point plan to empower students for summer success, foster graduation, and minimize debt:

  1. Financial planning transparency: Conduct pre-enrollment workshops focused on summer-specific costs. Include tuition, housing, course materials, and living expenses. Encourage realistic budgeting through tools like expense trackers and mock scenarios. 
  2. Maximize grant and scholarship opportunities: Highlight summer-specific scholarships and grants through targeted communication channels. Partner with external organizations offering aid for summer enrollment. Organize scholarship application workshops to guide students through the process and increase their competitiveness. Leverage technology to create a centralized scholarship database that is easily accessible to students.
  3. Flexible payment options: Advocate for flexible payment plans tailored to summer semesters. Explore short-term loan options with low interest rates, partnering with responsible lenders if necessary. You can also offer late fee forgiveness programs within reasonable limits to ease temporary financial hardships.
  4. Targeted academic support: Implement peer mentoring programs connecting experienced summer students with newcomers. Offer writing centers and tutoring services specifically geared toward summer courses. Consider making online learning resources accessible throughout the summer. 
  5. Career exploration & development: Integrate career counseling into summer support services. Offer workshops on internships, networking, and resume-building relevant to summer opportunities. Partner with local businesses to create micro-internship programs providing valuable work experience alongside coursework.

Create Coursework on Skills

Summer semesters aren't just about ticking off academic boxes. They're prime opportunities for students to hone key skills and gain financial literacy. Here, we dive into two crucial workshop categories: career development and financial literacy programs.

Interactive sessions like these can equip students with valuable tools and knowledge, transforming their summer experience into a springboard for future success.

Career Development Workshop Ideas:

  • Internship 101: Master the art of securing and thriving in summer internships. This workshop hones resume writing, cover letter drafting, interview skills, and workplace dynamics.
  • Networking essentials: Learn the art of building online connections, attending industry events, and engaging in meaningful conversations. Mock scenarios and role-playing exercises solidify these crucial skills.
  • Resume building boot camp: Craft powerful resumes that highlight summer experiences and transferable skills, boosting both internship applications and future job searches.
  • Career exploration workshop: Uncover strengths, interests, and potential career paths through personality assessments, skills inventories, and interactive exercises.

Financial Literacy Workshop Ideas:

  • Budgeting for success: Create realistic budgets tailored to summer expenses, covering tuition, housing, groceries, and entertainment. Budgeting apps, mock scenarios, and interactive activities solidify crucial budgeting skills.
  • Smart borrowing strategies: Gain knowledge of responsible borrowing practices, loan repayment options, and potential risks associated with summer loans. Guest speakers from financial institutions or credit counseling agencies add valuable expertise.
  • Debt management workshop: Equip students with tools to manage existing debt effectively while taking on new summer loans. Explore consolidation options, repayment plans, and responsible credit card usage.
  • Saving strategies for the future: Prioritize saving for future goals, even during a short summer semester. This workshop introduces practical saving techniques, investment basics, and the importance of emergency funds.

While these workshops provide a strong foundation, remember to tailor them to your specific campus community and student needs. iGrad offers tools and resources for colleges and universities to support student financial wellness

Our customizable platform includes budgeting tools, loan management resources, and career preparation materials that could complement your program or provide further support.

Workshop Accessibility

While the benefits of these workshops are undeniable, financial barriers can prevent at-risk students from accessing this crucial support. This raises a critical question: how can we ensure these empowering resources reach the students who need them most?

Consider offering these workshops free of charge to at-risk students. It could involve partnering with financial aid offices to identify eligible students or offering need-based scholarships to cover workshop fees. Doing so removes cost as a barrier and opens the door to invaluable knowledge and skill development.

The impact of free workshops for at-risk students extends far beyond individual success. Studies have shown that financial literacy education can lead to:

  • Reduced student loan default rates: Equipping students with budgeting and borrowing skills empowers them to make informed financial decisions, minimizing the risk of debt delinquency.
  • Improved graduation rates: Financial stress can significantly impact academic performance and persistence. By addressing financial concerns, free workshops can contribute to smoother academic journeys and higher graduation rates.
  • Increased future financial well-being: These workshops equip students with lifelong financial skills, promoting responsible money management and setting them on a path toward financial security.

Funding free workshops might seem challenging, but several avenues exist:

  • Seek grants: Explore federal, state, and local grants aimed at promoting financial literacy or supporting at-risk students. Collaborate with other departments on campus to broaden funding opportunities.
  • Partner with community organizations: Local non-profits, financial institutions, and businesses might be willing to sponsor workshops as part of their social responsibility initiatives.
  • Leverage alumni support: Engage alumni who understand the value of financial literacy and might be willing to contribute towards making workshops accessible.
  • Offer fee-based workshops for non-at-risk students: Subsidize free workshops for at-risk students by charging nominal fees for workshops offered to other student groups.

Remember, investing in these programs means investing in the future well-being of at-risk students and, ultimately, the financial health of our communities. 

Ready to explore innovative solutions? Schedule a demo with iGrad. Let's turn summer semesters into launch pads, not debt traps. Together, we can empower students for success, regardless of the semester.



  1. New York Times