How To Overcome Financial Aid “Gapping”

To make the cost of college more affordable, many schools offer financial aid packages to accepted students. These packages are customized for each student based on the information submitted through the FAFSA. Schools usually try and cover 100% of the student’s financial need through a mix of grants, scholarships, work study and loans. However, many times the aid falls short.

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What is Financial Aid Gapping?

When the school’s total financial aid package doesn’t cover all of the student’s need, it’s called ‘gapping’.

Finding yourself in a financial aid gap can create a major problem. You will need to figure out from where you can get the additional funds in order to attend that school. You cannot take borrow any more by way of federal student loans. Your aid package already factors in the maximum amount of federal student loans you’re eligible for. Before you give up altogether, here are a few ways you can cover the deficit and overcome financial aid gapping.

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Appeal Your Financial Aid Award

An appeal is a formal request to your college to reassess your financial aid application. In most cases, schools only reconsider appeals under certain circumstances such a change in your personal or financial situation. If you have a valid reason and the school has the funds, you may earn more aid.

Every school has their own rules for reassessing applications so talk to the financial aid office first. They will advise you as to the best way to proceed with your appeal.

Look for Outside Scholarships

Your financial aid package already includes whatever grants and institutional scholarships you’re eligible for. However, it does not include scholarships offered by private organizations. There’s no limit to the number of private scholarships you can apply to. And there’s also no limit to the amount of award money you can win. Use this to your advantage and spend time looking for scholarships. Don’t just restrict your search to the internet. Check local newspapers, the library and community notice boards. Ask your academic advisor for resources. Find out if your parents’ employers offer scholarships to dependents of employees.

Consider Taking Up a Part-Time Job

If your aid package doesn’t include work study, ask the school’s financial aid office if it can be added. If not, look for a part-time job outside campus. Before looking for a job, figure out how many hours of work you can realistically take on without compromising your studies. Working and studying requires discipline, hard work and strong time management skills, but it’s not impossible.

Apply For Private Student Loans

Unlike federal student loans, there’s no limit to the amount you can borrow by way of private student loans. However, you must be careful about taking on too much private student debt. Private student loans come with high interest rates and no protections. This should be your absolute last resort and that too, you should know your limitations. Don’t be tempted to take on substantial private student loans to meet a large financial aid gap. It may be better to strike that college off your list and consider a less expensive option instead. No matter the reputation of a school, it’s just not worth it if it means graduating with unmanageable debt.


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