Emergencies and Unexpected Expenses

The FGLI Community fully advocates for increased financial resources for its most financially vulnerable students, and will work to its furthest extent to realize this change structurally. We recognize that money and finances are a frequent concern for members of the FGLI Community. To assist with this understanding, the university has launched Financial Literacy: Managing Your Money at Yale, a new online tool designed to help undergraduates manage personal finances. Developed in collaboration across the college and the University, it is now available at https://finlit.yale.edu.  

However, occasionally students will experience a personal emergency which requires more immediate funds or financial help. To address these concerns, the university has created to a new funding portal, SafetyNet. SafetyNet will now be the single application platform for students to request funds to meet unexpected financial need. Students in an emergency and who require immediate funding (within 24 hours) can also find guidance on how to seek help.

SafetyNet ensures consistency and fairness in providing all students with the same opportunity to seek funds when they can find no other solution to a financial problem. It will help students from having to ask multiple sources for support.Examples include suddenly traveling home due to a health crisis in your family or emergency dental care. If this kind of extreme emergency occurs, you should immediately contact your Head of College and/or residential college Dean to discuss your circumstances and submit a request via SafteyNet .

The following options are more a reminder for what options still exist; explore options, like SafetyNet and those already presented in other pages, and talk to a mentor and dean before considering the following options.

Student Loans

If you have a large expense looming that you will not be able to meet with your current income/savings, consider taking out a Federal student loan. Student loans do not charge interest while you are in college, charge much less interest than credit cards, and have extended payment plans. A modest loan, used for a specific purpose, may save you from going into a cycle of long-term credit card debt.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are best used to bridge short-term cash flow gaps. For example, a student needs to buy an airplane ticket several months before they travel in order to save money on the ticket. They don’t have enough in their bank account to cover the expense right now. Using a credit card to buy a $300 ticket and then paying it off the following month or in the next three months at $100/month plus interest can be a responsible choice. 

Keep in mind that credit cards usually charge relatively high interest rates: up to 19% per year. Any card that charges more than this upper limit is predatory and should be avoided. Many credit cards charge lower rates, and may give a lower introductory rate that then rises after 6 months to a year. Choose a credit card through a thorough and informed search—don’t just take the first card you are offered. Read the entire credit card agreement, noting whether rates are fixed or variable, when introductory rates are set to rise, credit limits, and fees. You may find it easiest to have a credit card from the same institution that you bank with. When deciding on a credit card, always look for the lowest-interest option with the minimal amount of fees. For further guidance on responsible credit card use as a college student, consult this advice from Consumer Union.

Credit cards should always be used judiciously. Don’t use a credit card for every day expenses like food or entertainment, as this can increase your balance more quickly than you think. Instead, use a credit card for a specific purpose and limit what you plan to spend so that you can pay off the balance within a few months. For example, a student might use a credit card to pay for books in January because of unexpected travel or emergency expenses during winter break. The student would plan only to put books on the credit card, and include payments in their budget to pay off the bill by May. Always make a plan for paying off the credit card balance as soon as possible, and stick to the plan. Pay more than the minimum balance due. Always pay credit cards (and other bills) on time. Missing a credit card payment can result in large fees and/or increased interest rates, and can hurt your credit score, which will be important for renting an apartment and other post-college transactions. Carrying a large balance can also drag you down financially for years to come. If you have an especially difficult time limiting your spending (including due to anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder), it is best to avoid credit cards all together.

Have More Questions/Concerns?

Any Financial Aid-related questions can be answered by contacting Financial Aid: https://www.sis.yale.edu/sfas/sfs/contactus/index.html

For information about campus jobs, visit the Student Employment website:


Your Residential College Dean should be your first point of contact for personal emergencies, including financial emergencies.

Talk with residential college deans, cultural house deans, Frocos, and other trusted peer mentors (peer liaisons, Academic Strategies Mentors) for informal but fruitful discussions about maintaining a healthy financial life while at Yale. While at first it may feel uncomfortable to talk about your personal or family financial circumstances, reaching out when you first have questions or concerns can help you find solutions before a small financial challenge becomes a full-blown crisis. Finding ways to proactively manage your financial resources will lessen your stress and give you more time to focus on your academic, extracurricular, and professional opportunities at Yale.

As always, you can reach out to José (jose.lopez@yale.edu) for more specific questions and for assistance with more particular circumstances.

Note: Some of the information on this web page was initially compiled by Yale UFLIP (Undergraduate First-Generation Low-Income Partnership)