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  • There may be a gap between your financial aid package and how much money you need for college.
  • It may be possible to unlock more financial aid, even if you’ve already submitted your FAFSA®.
  • Additional funds can come from scholarships, grants, student loans, and more.

You've been accepted to your dream school, but there's just one problem—your financial aid package isn’t enough to cover your costs. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to change your plans. There are some creative ways to bridge the funding gap that go beyond reducing your tuition. If you’re wondering how to get more financial aid, start with these seven tips. 

1. Contact the financial aid office

The first step is contacting your school's financial aid office and telling them about your situation. If it could affect your ability to accept their offer, the school might help you by providing extra funding or suggesting alternative funding sources. They might also have additional financial aid, including scholarship money—you won’t know unless you ask. When it comes to securing more financial aid, being proactive is key.

2. Apply for scholarships and grants

Grants and scholarships, on average, cover $7,500 of tuition per student every year according to the Education Data Initiative. Both are free money that doesn’t need to be repaid.

  • Grants: These are generally provided by the federal government, states, and colleges. Grants are typically given to students who demonstrate financial need.
  • Scholarships: These are available through private organizations and colleges. Scholarships can be need- or merit-based.

While many scholarship deadlines are in the fall, some aren't dispersed until later in the academic year. To find them, use online resources like the Discover® Student Loans Free Scholarship Search. You can also ask your guidance counselor and financial aid office if there are any scholarships or grants available in your community or at your school. Your parents' employers might also offer scholarships. 

Apply for any awards that you qualify for, even if the award amounts are small. Every little bit helps—and these grants and scholarships may be less competitive, increasing your chances of winning.

3. Appeal your award letter

Begin by comparing your financial aid award letters to see how far your money will go at each school. Once you’ve decided where you want to attend, high tuition costs may not be the only thing stretching your financial aid package. If your family’s financial situation has changed since you submitted the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), you may be eligible for more money. This starts with appealing your award letter from your school. You might do this if your family has experienced a: 

  • Job loss or change in income
  • Birth, death, divorce, or separation
  • High medical expense or other special circumstance that has affected your family's finances

You'll likely have to submit additional documentation, but the extra effort could help you get more financial aid.

4. Sign up for a payment plan

Many colleges offer payment plans for students who can't pay all of the semester's tuition and fees at once. That could result in multiple interest-free payments that are spread out across the school year. If this could help you, contact your school's bursar's office to see what payment options are available. There might be a nominal fee to enroll, but the benefits could be worth it.

5. Find ways to earn money

Another way to secure extra money for college is to pick up a part-time job. Play to your skills to find potential income-earning opportunities. That might look like:

  • Tutoring
  • Babysitting or becoming a nanny
  • Working at a local restaurant or retailer 
  • Selling creative projects online
  • Looking for a job on campus
  • Seeking a paid internship

If you demonstrate financial need, you may also be eligible for a Federal Work-Study job. This federal program could allow you to earn extra money through a part-time job often related to your studies or in service of the community. Check your financial aid award letter to see if it’s an option. 

6. Look into federal student loans

If you’re still looking for ways to cover college costs, consider federal student loans if they were included in your award letter. These loans are offered by the government and typically come with a six-month grace period after graduation for undergraduate loans. You can defer payments while in school if you’re enrolled at least half-time. However, depending on your loan type, you may decide to make payments while in school to avoid capitalized interest. There are also PLUS Loans available to graduate or professional students and parents of undergraduate students. 

7. Consider private student loans

Private student loans are funded by financial institutions and based on creditworthiness. They can be a great way to cover funding gaps left behind by your financial aid package. Terms, borrowing limits, and interest rates can vary from one lender to the next. Shopping around and comparing lenders can help you find the right private student loan for your circumstances.

A gap in your financial aid package isn’t ideal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get more money for college. Between scholarships, grants, student loans, and other funding opportunities, you might have more options than you think.

FAFSA® is a registered trademark of the US Department of Education and is not affiliated with Discover® Student Loans.

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