After determining your financial need, financial aid administrators decide how much aid they are able to offer you. Colleges may often offer aid that is less than your financial need. This is called the financial aid gap (sometimes referred to as unmet need). Here are a few ways to bridge that gap.
Meet with your financial aid advisor to discuss an appeal. If your financial situation has changed dramatically since you filed the FAFSA, you should meet with your advisor to discuss your situation. Circumstances, such as death in the family, sudden unemployment of a parent, unusual medical expenses, etc., can lead to more financial aid. You should provide your advisor with documentation of the changes. Keep in mind that adjustments to aid awards are not made based on negotiations but on actual financial changes in your family.
See if you are eligible for work-study. The Federal Work-Study Program provides jobs for students with financial need. This program offers you the opportunity to earn money to help pay education expenses. If you indicated an interest in work-study employment on your FAFSA, then you should have been notified of work-study eligibility via your award letter. However, if you did not indicate an interest in work-study on your FAFSA but are interested now, you should contact your financial aid office. If you are eligible, you could be put on a waiting list for work-study funding. If you are not eligible, try to find another part-time job on or near campus.
Research scholarships. To help with your unmet need, look for scholarships. Scholarship opportunities can be found in many places including financial aid offices, major departments, libraries, local civic organizations, your (or your parents') employer, local businesses, your high school guidance office, or the Internet. Be sure to perform a free scholarship search and register for a chance to win a $1,000 scholarship from eCampusTours.
Cut back on expenses. Try to find ways to reduce college costs. If the college you want to attend is located near your parents' house, consider living at home. If you will be living in an apartment, be sure to get roommates so you can share expenses. Ride your bike or take the bus so you can save on gas. Don't use credit cards for everyday purchases. Be sure to create a college budget and stick with it.
Look into private loans. If you are borrowing the maximum that you can in Stafford loans and you still have a gap, consider getting a private loan. A private student loan helps fill in the gap when other sources of aid have been depleted or when annual federal loan limits have been reached.
Trying to fill the financial aid gap can be a daunting task. Performing the above-mentioned tips should make the process much easier.