After filling out your FAFSA, disputing a disappointing package, and explaining your special circumstances; you may find that your package is simply not enough to cover your school fees and be left wondering how to fill the gap of financial aid. It can be a blow to your school excitement and send you into a tailspin. While it can be disheartening, there are still ways you can fill the space that is left after your financial aid package falls short.
Ask About Payment Plans
It is important to remember that every school wants their tuition to be paid and for students to be able to pay it. With that being said, just about every financial aid office offers a payment plan option that breaks down the left over balance into manageable payments that will be due over the course of the semester or the year. Talk to your financial aid adviser as soon as possible to inquire about your balance and payment plan options available to you. While you may still have a couple thousand dollars left to pay after your financial aid award, the amount due can become less intimidating for you and your family when split into smaller, reasonable payments.
While they may seem like the rainbow colored unicorn prancing in a forest, scholarships are real and available to students but do require diligence and effort to seek them out. However, if you are facing a large balance after your financial aid package has been awarded, scholarships may be the answer to your problem. But, where do you find them? There are online search engines specifically for scholarships like Fastweb.com and Scholarships.com. Outside of the online portals, you can find more accessible scholarship opportunities through your state, region, or specific organizations. Contact your local churches, community groups, and city boards to research any scholarship or grant opportunities they may have. Contact your school as well as most schools offer scholarships specifically for their students. Finding worthwhile scholarships is a full time job in itself but can be worth it.
Extra Federal Loans
School loans are offered within your financial aid package typically along with grants. However, if those loans are not enough, your parents may be able to apply for additional funds through federal loans. Your financial aid office will be able to guide you through the process and advise on which loans you and your family should apply for.
After you calculate how much your financial aid package will cover, you may be left with a credit. That credit is usually disbursed directly to students or their parents after the semester begins. While your tuition may be covered, the financial aid might not have covered your housing or the exorbitant costs of books and travel. There are costs associated with college that reach far beyond tuition that can come between you being able to successfully complete even your first semester. In this situation, you can talk to your financial aid adviser about requesting an aid advance. An aid advance is when the school releases your financial aid ahead of time, therefore releasing any available credits after your tuition and fees are covered.
Work Study or Part Time Off Campus Work
It would be nice if every student could go to a college or university and totally focus on school without worrying about holding down a job to help pay their way through. Unfortunately, that is not the case for thousands of students that are faced with a disappointing financial aid package. If your balance is reasonable, consider picking up a part time job or joining an on campus work study program to earn extra cash to pay down your balance. In conjunction with a payment plan, working part time can help make the money you owe less intimidating and more manageable.