What to Do If Financial Aid Is Not Enough?
So, you have completed your FAFSA, applied for financial aid by the deadline, and were accepted by your dream college. However, the combination of your family’s contribution and the financial aid does not cover the entire bill. What can you do?
This is not an uncommon situation. In the financial aid world, this is known as a “gap” where the financial aid and family contribution do not cover the entire bill.
Sometimes, there are other situations that are outside of your control that can impact your ability to pay for college. Whether one of you parents loses their job, your family has to deal with unexpected medical bills, or some other financial challenge, all can impact your ability to fund your education. We know that this is especially relevant to students in 2020 with a global health crisis and economic challenges impacting millions of students around the world.
Fortunately, you do have options in this situation. Here are a few ways that you can secure the additional funds to pay for your education and minimize the burden on your family:
Apply for scholarships
Scholarships are essentially free money for students. There are millions of dollars of private scholarship funds available for students! This is free money that does not have to be paid back, so scholarships are an obvious first step to “bridging” your financial aid gap. You should make applying for scholarships your job. To get started, check out our ScholarshipFinder or Scholarship Directory to search for scholarships that are a good fit for you.
Appeal for more financial aid
At most colleges and universities, there is an appeal process for both merit and need-based financial aid. If you want to appeal the amount you were offered, you should immediately get in touch with the financial aid office at the college in question and ask about options to be considered for additional need-based and merit based financial aid. To be clear, a change in need-based financial aid generally would require a change in family financial circumstances (ie: a parent loses a job), but can result in a much more favorable financial aid package for your situation. For more information on navigating this process, you can check out our blog post on the topic.
Federal Student Loans
Chances are that your college financial aid package included some federal loans. Federal student loans are better than other student loans because they have more favorable rates, repayment terms, and options for loan forgiveness. Definitely take some time to explore the federal student loan options that you are eligible for. If you are unsure of these options, contact the college’s financial aid office to get more information.
Consider more affordable options
While this is technically not a way to receive more money to pay for college, it can help bring the overall cost of college down. Chances are that some of your financial aid packages are more generous than others or are for colleges that are more affordable (such as in-state public institutions). Take some time to review the financial aid packages at other colleges you have been admitted to. In addition to cost, you should consider your ROI (return on investment) and also review the average starting salary at each college. The College Scorecard is a great tool to discover ROI.
Consider a Gap Year
Many colleges will allow students to take a “gap year” or year off before they begin their freshman year. A gap year can give students the opportunity to get a full time job to save money to put towards their college education. This can be a solid option if the financial gap is relatively small.
Private Student Loans
Once you have exhausted all of the above options, including federal student loans, you can consider Private Student Loans. The best way to research private student loans is through a private student loan marketplace which will allow you to compare different private student loans. We always recommend that students shop around and explore their different student loan options.
Unexpected financial situations and “gaps” can be very stressful for students to deal with. We know that you have worked hard and hope that these steps will help you find an excellent college option that will allow you to thrive and graduate with minimal debt. Best of luck!