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 one of your dream colleges. 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. If financial aid is not enough, you can follow these steps to secure more money:
Apply for scholarships
There are millions of dollars of private scholarship funds available for students! This is free money that does not have to be paid back and is an obvious first step to “bridging” your financial aid gap. You should make applying for scholarships your job.
>>>Resource Discover private scholarships
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). Nonetheless, going through the appeals process should be a priority.
>>>Resource: 3 ways to Negotiate for more Merit Scholarships
Federal Student Loans
Explore Federal Student Loan options that you are eligible for. If you are unsure of these options, contact the college’s financial aid office. Federal Student Loans are better than other student loans because they have more favorable rates, repayment terms, and options for loan forgiveness.
Consider more affordable options
Review the financial aid packages at other colleges you have been admitted to. Chances are, there are some more affordable college options to consider. In addition to cost, you should consider your ROI (return on investment) and also review the average starting salary at each college.
>>>Resource: Using the College Scorecard to discover college 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.