How to Get More Financial AidMarch 3, 2022
Updated July 20, 2022
It’s no secret that college is expensive. In fact, the average cost of a college education has been on the rise for years and shows no signs of slowing down. According to The College Board, the average cost of college is $27,330 for public four-year schools and $55,800 for private schools.
The first step in getting financial aid for college is to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, even if you qualify for grants and scholarships, your financial aid package may not cover the full cost of tuition, room and board, and other expenses. If you or your parents can’t afford to pay for your remaining costs, you may be wondering how to get more financial aid.
If you find yourself in that situation, don’t despair! By learning how to get more financial aid, you can get the help you need to cover your college education.
How to Get More Money from FAFSA
The FAFSA is what the government and universities require students to complete to qualify for financial aid, including grants, work-study programs, and student loans.
How to get more money from FAFSA has varied approaches. Submitting the FAFSA early is key to getting the maximum amount of aid, but what do you do if you did everything right but still didn’t get enough aid? Whether your parents make too much for financial aid purposes or your school’s total cost of attendance is higher than expected, here are some steps you can take with the FAFSA to adjust your financial aid options:
- Look for Mistakes on Your FAFSA & Correct Them
- Appeal the Financial Aid Decision
- Ask for Additional Federal Student Loans
1. Look for Mistakes on Your FAFSA & Correct Them
The first step is to check your FAFSA for any mistakes. If you or your parents make a mistake when completing the form, it could impact your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and reduce the amount of financial aid you’re eligible to receive.
[Please note: In the 2023-2024 academic year, we can expect Student Aid Index (SAI) to replace Expected Family Contribution (EFC) in the financial aid formula.]
- Review your FAFSA. Be sure to review your FAFSA carefully for any mistakes or misinformation.
- Get feedback from a counselor. Ask a financial aid counselor who is familiar with the FAFSA to review your form. They may find questions that you misinterpreted and thus provided incorrect answers.
- Submit a corrected FAFSA. If you find a mistake on your FAFSA, you may be able to fix it by submitting a corrected FAFSA. The best way to do this is through the FAFSA website. You’ll need your Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) to log in, and you can find instructions on how to correct your FAFSA here. It’s also a good idea to contact the school’s financial aid office. They may be able to make the adjustments to the FAFSA for you.
[Tip: If the information submitted on the FAFSA is outdated — a common problem since the FAFSA uses tax information from two years prior — you can contact the financial aid office in writing and explain the circumstances. If your family has a new child, your dependency status changed or your parents lost a source of income, you may be eligible for additional aid.]
2. Appeal the Financial Aid Decision
If you’ve checked your FAFSA for mistakes and corrected them but are still unhappy with the financial aid package you were offered, you can appeal the decision. This process is known as a professional judgment review.
Don’t think it’s worth the effort? Think again. According to The Princeton Review, one-third of all financial aid appeals are successful.
The best way to start an appeal is by contacting the financial aid office. Every school has its own financial aid appeals process, so the financial aid staff can tell you what steps you need to complete. In general, appeals must be made in writing with supporting documentation to show that the financial aid package is inadequate based on changes to your family’s circumstances from the time you originally completed the FAFSA.
In the appeal form, be polite and explain why the financial aid package is insufficient for your needs and provide any supporting documents. For example, if your parents were laid off, you can submit copies of their termination letter or unemployment benefits.
The financial aid office will review the appeal. If necessary, they may adjust your financial aid package and award you more grants, scholarships, or student loans.
You can also use the appeal process to request a change in your cost of attendance. If your school’s cost of attendance doesn’t reflect your actual expenses — such as if you have to pay for child care or have high medical expenses — you may be eligible for additional aid. Financial aid offices may make adjustments for special circumstances, such as:
- Medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance
- Childcare costs
- Recent unemployment of a parent or family member
- A change in the family’s income
3. Take Out Additional Federal Student Loans
If the financial aid office can’t help you and your family with more money, you may want to consider taking out additional federal student loans.
If your parents are willing to take out loans in their names, another option is federal Parent PLUS Loans. Parent PLUS loans have higher maximums than some other loan types and can be borrowed up to the school-certified cost of attendance, minus any financial aid. However, Parent PLUS Loans have much higher interest rates than other federal student loans.
Ways to Pay for College When Financial Aid Isn’t Enough
If you have performed the above steps for how to get more money through filing the FAFSA and still don’t get enough money to cover the entire cost of your education, you may wonder what to do if need-based financial aid is not enough. There are other ways besides the FAFSA, and your college’s financial aid office may be able to assist through these sources:
- Apply for Scholarships and Grants
- Ask for a Tuition Payment Plan
- Parent Student Loans
- Private Student Loans
- Get a Part-Time Job on or off campus
Apply for Scholarships and Grants
The first step in what to do if need-based financial aid is not enough is to apply for outside scholarships and grants. Unlike student loans, most scholarships and grants don’t have to be repaid.
While your college is one source of gift aid, it’s not your only option. Scholarships and grants can be found through churches, non-profit organizations, and private companies. They can range in value from small amounts to covering the total cost of attendance.
You can apply for many scholarships and grants at once, and if you win multiple awards, you can combine them to reduce or even eliminate the need for student loan debt.
- How to Get a Scholarship
- Scholarships for Black and African American Students
- Scholarships for Latinx and Hispanic Students
- Scholarships for Women
- Scholarships for Grad Students
- Scholarships for Pharmacists
- Scholarships for Adopted and Foster Care Students
Ask For a Tuition Payment Plan
Another option for how to pay for college when financial aid isn’t enough is to ask the school’s bursar or business office about setting up a tuition payment plan.
Under a tuition payment plan, you agree to pay the school a certain amount of money each month until the balance is paid off. The benefit of a tuition payment plan is that it allows you to spread out your payments over time, rather than having to pay the entire balance all at once.
The downside of a tuition payment plan is that you still have a large monthly bill to worry about, and there are often enrollment fees. For example, Rollins College charges a $50 enrollment fee per semester, and debit or credit card transactions are subject to an additional 2.75% processing fee.
Parent Student Loans
If your parents want to help you pay for college but are ineligible for Parent PLUS Loans — or simply are looking for more competitive interest rates — another option is private parent student loans.
Private student loans for parents are solely in the parent’s name, so the child isn’t obligated to repay them. The upside is that the application is reviewed with the parent’s credit and income, so you may qualify for better terms than if the student applied.
Interest rates on parent loans vary by lender, but you may be able to get a lower rate than you’d get with federal loans if you have good to excellent credit.
Learn more: Private student loans vs. Parent PLUS loans
Private Student Loans
If you reached the federal student loan borrowing limit and your parents are unable to take out additional loans, you may want to consider private student loans.
Instead of being issued by the federal government, private student loans are from banks, credit unions, and specialty lenders. They have different rates and terms, and they are underwritten based on your credit and income.
As a college student, you may not have much income, and you may not have any credit history yet. So how do you get approved for student loans? The trick is to get a co-signer. A co-signer is someone with good to excellent credit and a reliable source of income who guarantees the loan; if you fall behind on the payments, the lender will go to the co-signer.
Get a Part-Time Job
Finally, if you are wondering what to do if financial aid is not enough, consider getting a job to avoid student loan debt. There are two employment options while in school:
- Federal or state work-study programs: Work-study programs can help low-income students offset their education costs. By working with the financial aid office, you could get a job related to your major and use your earnings to cover some of your expenses.
- Independent employment: If your school doesn’t participate in federal work-study programs, you can always find a part-time job on your own. You can get a job on campus or off campus. Consider on-campus positions in the school library or cafeteria and off-campus positions in coffee shops or retail stores.
If you go this route, make sure you get a job that fits your schedule. You don’t want a job that conflicts with your classes or that makes it difficult to finish your coursework on time. To find jobs suitable for college students, visit SnagaJob and SimplyHired. You can filter jobs based on the type of work, pay, and hours required.
Learn More: Best Jobs for College Students
Apply for Private Student Loans With ELFI
If your financial aid package isn’t enough to cover the full cost of college, there are a variety of ways you can make up for it. One option is applying for scholarships; another is getting a part-time job. If these options don’t work out and you need more money, consider bridging the gap with federal and private student loans.
ELFI’s private student loans have no origination fees and no prepayment penalties.* You can check your eligibility and get a rate quote without impacting your credit score with the Find My Rate tool.*