After evaluating your financial aid award letters and choosing the best academic and financial fit, you may find that you still have a financial aid gap. Meaning, the amount of aid you’ll receive in scholarships, grants and federal student loans isn’t enough to cover your cost of attendance. Discovering you have a financial aid gap can be scary, but there are a few things you can do to try and fill in those gaps.
To determine your financial aid gap subtract your total financial aid award from the cost of attendance. The remainder is your financial aid gap i.e., money you will still need to come up with to pay for college. Note: Not everyone will have a financial aid gap.
Cost of Attendance – Total Financial Aid Awarded = Financial Aid Gap
If you find yourself with a financial aid gap, there are strategies available to you for reducing or eliminating that amount.
You want to make sure you have the best package available. So make it a priority to have a conversation with them. Ask the following questions:
Also, don’t forget to mention if you and your family have had significant changes to your income since you filed the FAFSA®. You may be able to submit a financial aid appeal.
You may not have the money to cover your financial aid gap upfront, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it over time. Many schools offer a tuition payment plan to help families cover the costs of college. If you find a plan that makes sense, you can avoid borrowing additional funds for college.
But ALWAYS be realistic about what you can afford. If you aren’t able to keep up with one of these plans, you may have to take an unexpected break from school.
Gift aid such as scholarships and grants, can come in many different forms from many different sources. If you are still enrolled in high school, set up a meeting with your high school advisor or college counselor. Ask them if there are any opportunities through the community or local organizations for scholarships. Not every opportunity is widely publicized.
If you have some time, do a scholarship search to see if there are any last minute scholarships you can apply to. A scholarship matching tool like, StudentScholarshipSearch.com, will help you identify scholarships you may be eligible for.
There are scholarships that are awarded seasonally, as well as scholarships that are awarded on a rolling basis. Keep your eye on opportunities and deadlines, and apply throughout the year. Scholarships aren’t just for graduating seniors, so remember to search for opportunities all throughout your college career.
*Always keep an eye out for gift aid. Don’t stop looking just because you figured out how to pay for one year.
The reality is, sometimes taking out additional loans may be your only option to cover your financial aid gap. When you need to borrow additional funds, you should always have an open and honest conversation with yourself and your family. Here are two additional loan options to consider.
There is always a word of caution when it comes to borrowing. If you are borrowing for your first year, there is a high probability you will need to borrow for each additional year you attend college. That can really add up. Think about your future. Only borrow what you truly need to borrow, and what you can realistically afford to pay back.
What happens if you’ve taken steps to find additional aid, and you still have a financial gap you can’t fill? It doesn’t mean the end of the road. It just means that you may need to find creative ways to achieve your higher education goals.
Financial aid gaps can make families feel defeated, but there are still ways to achieve your dreams. Be ready to discuss all options with your financial aid office, and your high school counselor. Use all of the resources made available to you to discover the best strategy for covering your financial aid gap.
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