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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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Explaining the financial aid gap

What exactly is a 'financial aid gap'? How would it affect my college affordability, and what can I do to minimize it?

7 months ago

A financial aid gap occurs when the financial aid package offered by a college does not cover the entire cost of attendance, leaving a gap that must be paid by the student and their family. The term is often used to describe the difference between the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) that's calculated through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the actual cost of attending the college (tuition, fees, room and board, books, and other expenses).

The financial aid gap might affect college affordability for some students because it represents an out-of-pocket cost that could lead to additional loans or financial strain to cover the remaining balance. This may result in students having to explore alternative funding sources, such as private loans or extra work during school.

To minimize the financial aid gap, there are several steps you can take:

1. Apply for scholarships: Scholarships come in different forms, including merit- and need-based. There are countless scholarships available, ranging from those offered by local organizations to nationwide competitions. Make sure to research and apply for as many scholarships as possible to help bridge the financial aid gap.

2. File FAFSA early: Filing the FAFSA as soon as it becomes available (usually around October 1) might increase your chances of receiving federal aid, as some aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, ensure your information is accurate to prevent any delays or issues with your aid package.

3. Appeal financial aid offers: If the aid package you receive from a college is not sufficient to cover your needs, consider writing an appeal letter explaining the circumstances. Provide relevant documentation to support your case, such as family income changes or medical expenses not considered in the original financial aid calculation.

4. Explore work-study: Work-study programs provide part-time employment for eligible students, which can help cover educational costs. These jobs are typically available on campus or nearby, so they're convenient for fitting work around your class schedule. Make sure you indicate your interest in work-study on your FAFSA application.

5. Choose an affordable college: You may want to consider applying to colleges that are known for offering generous financial aid packages or have lower costs of attendance.

6. Consider attending a community college: If the financial aid gap makes attending a four-year college unaffordable, you could consider starting at a community college and transferring to a four-year institution later on. This can help lower the overall cost of obtaining your degree.

Overall, the financial aid gap can be a challenge for some students, but with proactive research and planning, there are strategies and resources available to help minimize its impact on college affordability.

7 months ago

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