6 Things Financial Aid Might Not Cover

Most students and parents realize that it's crucial to apply for financial aid, regardless of what your financial status may be. However, many families don't realize how expensive college can be, even if you receive a great financial aid package. It's important to recognize what items financial aid may not cover so that you can be better prepared for the school year ahead.

What Is Covered

Every student's financial aid package is different, so there are no exact expectations on how much you will receive and what will be covered. The package is based on the full cost of college, which includes tuition and fees, room and board, and sometimes, things like books and school supplies. Financial aid may also cover a summer session, but again, it all depends on how much is included in your particular package.

If you live at home or off-campus, your package may include an allowance for things like transportation, housing, and food. If you live on campus, the dorm room and required meal plans may be covered.

What Isn't Covered

Students should be prepared for unexpected charges, which can quickly become overwhelming. Some of the most common college costs not covered by financial aid include:

1. Transportation

Some schools offer aid for transportation, but it's rare and something you should budget for. You'll need to find money for gas or public transportation. There may also be parking fees, campus shuttle fees, and transportation costs to travel back home during the summer and winter breaks.

2. School Supplies

Books may or may not be covered by a financial aid package, but you will still need to find money for pens, pencils, notebooks, and any other school supplies you may need for the semester. You may also be charged extra for art supply fees or other course necessities. You may also need to purchase things like a new laptop or printer for your dorm room.

3. Dorm Supplies

If you'll be living on campus, you'll need to buy items for your dorm. This can include everything from a mini fridge and television to new sheets and beanbag chairs.

4. Lab Fees

There are frequently lab fees, equipment charges, and other fees associated with certain courses.

5. Activity Fees

If you're planning on participating in sports, clubs, sororities or fraternities, or other on-campus activities, there will be additional fees.

6. The College Experience

Part of the fun of college is going out and meeting new friends, which will result in costs for eating out, going shopping, going to concerts or sporting events, and paying for other forms of entertainment.

How to Fill in the Gap

According to Damian Rothermel, a CFP who specializes in college funding, it's possible to negotiate your financial aid package. He says that once you receive your financial aid package, you can contact the school to appeal for more money.

For instance, if the Expected Family Contribution is too high, you can appeal the offer. You can also provide documentation to support your request for increased funding.

If a student needs more funding for the school year, then there are a number of options available.

  • Grants and scholarships. There is no limit on how many scholarships you can apply for, so it's best to get into the routine of searching for and applying for scholarships whenever possible.
  • Work-study jobs. Students can earn money through work-study jobs either on or off campus.
  • Part-time jobs. There are endless part-time jobs available to students, which can help them earn the extra money needed for items that aren't covered by financial aid.
  • Payment plans. The school may have payment plans available, allowing you to spread the remaining costs you owe throughout a semester.
  • Student loans. Student loans should be your last resort, as the last thing a student wants after graduation is to be saddled with debt. Your best bet is to first apply for a federal loan, which offers flexible payments if you don't find employment after college. There are also private or alternative loans available to students. Many banks also offer special student loan rates that you may not have to begin paying off until graduation.

If you still have questions about how to fill in the gap, the school's financial aid office is available to help however they can. You may want to call and speak with them about how you can receive more funding. They may be able to help you find scholarships, part-time work, and good private student loans.

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