What to do if my financial aid award is less than expected?

credit union loan consolidationCosts associated with tuition, housing, food, books and supplies can all add up, and sometimes students find that they simply don’t have the funds available to meet the demands for the fees they must pay. Cash-strapped students like this can fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and in a few weeks, they’ll be provided with an award letter that details how much assistance they’ll receive from the U.S. Department of Education and the school they’re choosing to attend.

Sometimes the amounts detailed on these letters are generous, and students find that they need to do little more than accept the help they’ve been offered. But sometimes the letter holds only disappointment, as the award amounts don’t come close to covering a student’s need for assistance. Here’s what students can do to react if this happens to them.

Seek out other forms of money

Loans are just one tool students can use in order to pay for school. They are not, by any stretch of the imagination, the only source of funds available to students who find it hard to pay for school. Some students, for example, find that they need to obtain a job in order to cover their schooling costs. By working just a few hours a week in a facility that’s located close to campus, they could generate enough income to help them pay for the educational experience they’re craving. Jobs like this could have an added benefit too, as a study conducted by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics found that students who work get better grades than students who don’t work.

Scholarships might be another excellent option students can use in order to pay for school. These forms of assistance rarely cover the entire amount of money a student needs in order to complete a degree, but obtaining several of these forms of free money could allow students to make ends meet, and they won’t be required to pay back those funds when they graduate.

The Scholarship Center

Look into private loans

Some students who work and who obtain a few scholarships still find it hard to pay for school. These students might find relief through the private loan marketplace. Here, they’ll be able to get the funding they need, but they might be required to jump through a few hoops in order to get that help, including:

  • Developing a relationship with a credit union or bank
  • Providing proof of a good credit history

Research conducted by the Project on Student Debt suggests that only 43 percent of students exhaust all of their federal options before entering the private loan marketplace. In general, leaping into a private loan isn’t considered a good idea unless all federal loan options have been used, as these federal loans come backed with protections that might be hard to find in a private loan. But, those people who don’t have any federal options might be relieved that they can get help from private lenders.

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