Just be careful not to overextend yourself. Bianchi says her college recommends students work six to seven hours a week; Lindberg puts 10 hours as a reasonable amount. But some students may be able to handle more based on their schedules and activities. Check emergency aid programs Many schools offer emergency financial assistance. For example, the University of California, Davis, has emergency grants that don’t require repayment. It also offers short-term loans that range from $500 to $1,500. 3 Always opt for grants first, and know the costs of any loan before borrowing. Leslie Kemp, director of the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center at UC Davis, also encourages students facing financial shortfalls to think long-term.
“What’s your plan when the $500 runs out?” she says.
One solution is to use free resources that make other expenses, like groceries, more manageable. Kemp says there’s a line out the door when her school’s food pantry opens. If you can’t find similar services on your campus, Kemp says to look for help at religious organizations, food banks and other nonprofit groups.
Borrow student loans
Money you don’t repay — like donations, wages and emergency grants — is the best way to address unexpected college costs. But student loans may be a necessity for some: Among the 61% of students surprised by the cost of college, 30% underestimated what they needed by $10,000 or more. “If you’re short by enough that there’s a comma in the number, you might need to borrow,” says Joe DePaulo, CEO and co-founder of College Ave Student Loans.
That assumes you haven’t already reached your borrowing maximum.
The government limits the amount of federal loans you can receive. Most first-year students can take out up to $5,500 in their name, and no one can borrow more than their school’s cost of attendance, the total needed for tuition, fees, room and board and other expenses. Visit your school’s financial aid office to discuss your options — especially if your financial situation has changed since you started school. “It’s important to work through why the student is experiencing a shortfall in order to determine the best course of action,” Lindberg says. That action may be borrowing, or it could be something else like starting a tuition payment plan or earning an outside scholarship. Ultimately, the financial aid office should be your first stop if you run into trouble.
Ryan Lane is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website.
The article 4 Ways to Pay for College If Your Financial Aid Isn’t Enough originally appeared on NerdWallet.
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