Paying for college when you don't have enough financial aid
The moment you get your financial aid award letter, compare your award package to your cost of attendance. See “Understanding Financial Aid Award Letters” for tips. If your award covers your full need, great! If not, you’ll need to figure how to make up the deficit.
- File an appeal if your situation has changed
If your family's financial situation has changed since you applied for aid, you should file an appeal. You may be eligible for more aid, including a Pell Grant, subsidized student loans, and other funds.
- Apply for more scholarships
Don't assume you've missed all the deadlines to apply for scholarships—they vary from program to program. Check out one of the free scholarship databases to get started.
Getting a job while you're in school can provide valuable work experience and may even improve academic performance. Try to find work that has meaning for you, and limit your hours. Research shows that 10-15 hours per week is about right. Find more tips here.
Creating a budget is a great way to discover ways to reduce expenses. Every dollar saved on rent, food, and other personal expenses is a dollar that can go toward tuition and fees. See "Budgeting and Financial Planning" for more information, and to create your own budget. You can also use the interactive CashCourse Budget Wizard to create and update your budget. Check out these tips on stretching your dollars.
- Talk with your parents about how they might help
Start a conversation with your parent(s) about how they might be able to come with additional funds to help you close the gap. They may have other assets or funding streams to tap into (ie. home equity loans, or Parent PLUS loans).
- Take out a private ("alternative") loan
Be very careful about private loans. They should not be considered financial aid but rather an alternative financing mechanism, like a credit card or home equity loan, and they usually have higher fees and interest rates than federal student loans. The
Project on Student Debt
has some questions you should consider when choosing this option.
- Signing up for the AmeriCorps program.
AmeriCorps members provide community service through local and national nonprofit groups. Members serve full- or part-time over a 9- to 12-month period. After successfully completing their term of service, they receive an AmeriCorps Education Award of up to $4,725. This award can be used to pay off qualified student loans or to finance college, graduate school, or vocational training at eligible institutions. If you decide to take classes during non-AmeriCorps hours, check with the Financial Aid office first to find about any impact on your financial aid. More information can be found at www.americorps.gov.
- Signing up for the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).
ROTC prepares young men and women for military service and offers generous education benefits in return. College Board has more information.
- Find a job that offers employee education benefits.
Many employers provide tuition reimbursement to their employees. To explore this option, you would need to undertake a full-blown job search with a focus on those employers that offer such benefits. You can search the Web (enter "job search" in your favorite search engine) to find a number of free, commercial job search services.