The Financial Aid Gap: Do You Have Funds for The Next Semester?

Have you checked your student funding for the next semester? If you haven’t checked, now’s the time to do that. It’s always a good idea to check your student loan funds at the end of the semester. That way, if you’re experiencing a financial aid gap, you still have some time to find a way to raise some money. If you wait until the last minute, you may want to look into private student loans. However, hopefully, private student loans will be your last resort. 

So go ahead and check your loan funds for the next semester. Do you have sufficient funds or are you falling short? If you have enough to cover next semester’s tuition and other school expenses, great! If you don’t, here are some things you can do help fund your financial aid gap. 

7 Ways to Help Fund Your Financial Aid Gap

1.  Apply for Scholarships

Scholarships are available all year round. Organizations set up scholarships at different times of the year, each with different deadlines. It’s always a good idea to search and apply for scholarships regularly even if you have sufficient student loan funds. Scholarship award money is free and you don’t have to return it, making this the best source of free money for college. Yes, you must spend time looking for opportunities and putting together a strong application. But you’ll agree, it’s worth it. 

Start by looking for scholarship opportunities online but don’t stop there. Expand your search further by exploring local newspapers, your school notice board, and local notice boards too. Many local businesses offer scholarships to help students in their community. 

Apply to a mix of large and small scholarships. Larger scholarships may offer a bigger reward but they are also more competitive and that much harder to win. Smaller scholarships on the other hand are less competitive and easier to win. The small awards can add up to a substantial amount and can narrow the loan fund gap over the year. The most important thing is to make sure you send all scholarship applications before their respective deadlines. 

2. Ask About Tuition Payment Plans

Many colleges offer tuition payment plans to students who can’t afford to pay the tuition fees upfront. These plans allow students to spread the tuition cost over multiple payments throughout the year. Spacing out the costs can take the stress out of paying the college tuition bill in one large installment. It helps you budget your payments better while giving you time between payments to raise more funds. Above all, you won’t have to worry about late payment fees if you can’t afford the one-time lump sum payment. 

3. Take Up A Part-Time Job

Yes, juggling work and studies can be challenging but you can do it. Any money you earn means you’ll need to borrow that much less in student loans. You’ll be glad you put in the hard work now when you graduate with lower student loan debt. 

If you’ve been awarded Federal Work Study, use those funds as they come in to cover some expenses through the semester. If you haven’t been awarded Federal Work Study, speak to your school’s financial aid office and ask about part-time, on-campus jobs. If there’s nothing available, explore part-time jobs off campus. Fast-food places are almost always in need of part-time employees and are a great place to get started. 

Freelancing is another great way to earn some money if you’re falling short of loan funds for next semester. With freelancing, you can take up assignments that play to your strengths and skills. Best of all, you can take on as much or as little work as you can manage. 

4. Request A Reevaluation Of Your Circumstances

When you submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), your financial aid eligibility is calculated based on your family’s financial circumstances. If your family’s finances have changed since you submitted the FAFSA, you may be eligible for more federal financial aid. This can happen due to several circumstances. A parent may have lost their job or their income was reduced. A divorce or separation also changes your financial aid eligibility. 

If your family’s finances have changed, speak to your school’s financial aid office and request them to recalculate your eligibility. You will need to submit documentation supporting your request. The financial aid office will not proceed without the proper documentation indicating a change in financial circumstances. 

5. Check Your Eligibility For Additional Federal Student Loan Funds

Regardless of family circumstances, you may be eligible for additional federal student loan funds. Your school’s financial aid office will be able to help you out with this. Before speaking to them about taking on more student loan funds, make sure you’ve exhausted all other options including scholarships and part-time jobs. You don’t have to pay back money earned through scholarships or working. But you will have to pay back student loans with interest. 

Even if you’re eligible for additional federal student loan funds, only borrow what you need to cover your college costs. Do not be tempted to borrow more than that. 

As a last resort, your parent may be able to secure a Direct PLUS Loan. This is a type of federal student loan that only parents can apply for on behalf of their college student. The advantage of these loans is that there’s no limit to the amount your parent can borrow. The downside is that these loans have a higher interest rate so use this option judiciously. Only borrow as much as you need and no more. 

6. Consider Asking For Family Support

Family members are usually very supportive and will be more than happy to help out if you’ve proven responsible and trustworthy. Start a discussion with your parents or grandparents. Speak to them about your need for more student loan funds for the next semester. Ask how they can help you and discuss the terms of the loan. 

It also helps to put it out there and tell family members that you’d rather receive cash gifts occasionally. These amounts can add up and lower the amount you need to borrow in student loans. 

7. Apply For Private Student Loans

Lastly, private student loans can help you fill the financial aid gap and ensure your funds for the next semester. These loans certainly help but may come with higher interest rates and more rigid terms. You may be able to get a lower interest rate if you apply with a cosigner though. 

If you have to take a private student loan, it’s important to take time to compare lenders and their rates and loan terms. These vary significantly among lenders and you want to make sure you’re not paying a higher rate unnecessarily. 

If grants and scholarships aren’t covering all your college expenses, consider a private student loan. College Raptor’s student loan finder lets you compare loans from multiple lenders, side-by-side. The loan finder is fast, accurate, and won’t hurt your credit score.