Paying for College When You're Short on Financial Aid

If there’s a gap between the financial aid you’re awarded and what it costs to attend your school, you'll need to make up the deficit. These actions can help:

  • File an appeal. If your family's financial situation has changed since you applied for aid, you may be eligible for more aid. Learn more about appeals here.
  • 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 the free scholarship databases.
  • Get a job. Working while you're in school can provide experience and may enhance your resume. Research shows that 10-15 hours per week is the ideal amount of time. Find job-hunting tips here.
  • Reduce expenses. Less spending means more dollars available for tuition and fees. See the Smart Student's Guide to Starting a Budget  and use our worksheets or the Budget Wizard to create your own budget. Check out these tips on cutting expenses and stretching your dollars.
  • Talk with your parents. Ask them and other family members for ideas on how to close the financial gap. They may be able to provide additional funds by tapping assets or funding streams (e.g., home equity loans or parent PLUS loans).
  • Look into other aid sources. Here’s a brief look at some avenues you may not have explored.
    • Private or alternative loans are available through financial institutions. With these loans, fees and interest rates are usually higher than with federal student loans. Check out information on the Project on Student Debt before you consider this option.
    • Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) prepares young men and women for military service and offers generous education benefits in return. Check here for more information.
    • Employer-provided education benefits such as tuition reimbursement may be part of your employee benefits package if you’re working. Some job seekers negotiate for them before taking a job.

These strategies will help fill the gaps in your financial aid package, so be proactive and don’t let a funding shortfall intimidate you.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by CashCourse or the National Endowment for Financial Education. These courses and related resources may be used only for nonprofit, noncommercial educational purposes. CashCourse makes every effort to keep the information in these courses current, but, over time, new developments as well as legislative and regulatory changes may date this material. If you discover inaccurate information, please contact us.]

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