How Do I Get My Financial Aid Back?

If you’ve lost your financial aid, it doesn’t mean you need to quit college. Solutions exist, such as appealing the decision through your university, raising your GPA back to a qualifying level, obtaining funds from other sources, altering your budget and spending, or even changing majors or universities. The most important things are to stay calm, continue to study diligently, and explore your options. 

Why Did I Lose My Financial Aid?

There are several ways this can happen, but the most common is a lack of satisfactory academic progress (SAP). Your GPA is the biggest factor used to determine your SAP. Every form of financial aid has its own set of SAP standards. Athletic scholarships, for example, tend to have lower SAP requirements than academic scholarships. Always pay careful attention to the award letter you receive when your aid is approved — the terms and conditions can be found there. 

If your grades begin to slip, you may receive a warning that your financial aid is in jeopardy. While it may be a wise decision to drop a class in lieu of failing it, tread carefully. Some financial aid conditions prohibit too many dropped classes. It may be a better idea put extra effort into that class instead. Even if it means a possible low grade by the time it’s over, you will have completed and passed the class.

Taking too light a class load can affect your eligibility as well. If circumstances arise that force you to register for fewer classes, contact your financial aid administrator right away.

Appeals Process

Many universities have an appeals process in which you can present your side of things so that possibly an exception can be made. Perhaps your studies were interrupted by a crisis outside of your control, such as a death in the family. Maybe your parents filed bankruptcy and you had to take fewer classes and get a job. You could have sustained an injury of some sort that impacted your ability to study. 

Not all universities offer this option, however. There may be a waiting period before your case can be reviewed, during which you’ll have to do without your financial aid. Your circumstances may be of the sort that can’t be documented, which will make it harder for you to present your case. Ultimately, your university has the right to deny your appeal.

Increase Your GPA

If your SAP is suffering and your financial aid is at risk, the simplest and smartest solution is to raise your GPA to meet the necessary standards. You may need to find a tutor, cut your work hours to create more study time, or temporarily give up hobbies and other diversions. Yes, you may even need to quit Facebook for a while. Don’t worry — it’ll still be there when you get back.

While not the best option, pursuing easier classes to raise your GPA is better than dropping out altogether. Some instructors are simply more forgiving than others. Ask classmates for a few leads, or use a website such as RateMyProfessors.com that provides scores based on “easiness.” Find classes in subjects that you’re more familiar with instead of taking risks. Just remember that the purpose of college is to push your boundaries. Once your GPA is back on track, start challenging yourself again as soon as possible!

Look for Additional Financial Aid

Every year is a new opportunity to score financial assistance. While it’s generally easier to obtain financial aid when you first start college, there’s always a chance that new doors will open as you progress. Perhaps you’ve moved toward a major that offers work-study programs or grants that previously weren’t available, for instance.

In any event, it’s necessary to submit a new FAFSA® form every year in order to continue receiving financial aid. Many students only submit their FAFSA® before their first year of university. The tedious process, plus the reduced funds available after the first year, discourages them from going through the process again. However, this is one of the reasons almost 3 billion dollars in federal aid goes unclaimed annually. Getting help with your FAFSA® can make the yearly ritual much less daunting. 

There’s always the option of private student loans. Many of these loans don’t involve a stringent SAP, but they must be paid back, of course. With the rising student loan crisis in the United States, it’s inadvisable to run your entire college tab through student loans. However, if you’re close enough to graduation and you lose your aid, it could be a good way to hobble through the last lap and cross the finish line.

Tighten Your Belt

The best financial aid is the kind you create yourself. Moving back home, taking on additional roommates, shifting from an apartment to a dorm, or cutting back on entertainment expenses are all ways to save money. Look into scholastic campus clubs or study groups as a way to enjoy time with others without spending any money — while pumping up your grades at the same time.

In Case of Emergency

While it may be fairly extreme, another option that may save you from dropping out of college is to change universities. You can find a less expensive college, transfer the credits you already have, and even move to a city where you have a wider support network and can live with relatives or friends. Many forms of financial aid will allow this change. You can also benefit from a whole new range of university-sourced financial aid at your new school. 

Changing majors is another possible strategy that some students have used to retain their aid. Perhaps the fine print of your award letter restricts a failing grade in the associated major but doesn’t specify that the aid will stop if you change your course of study. It’s not the best option, but it can at least keep you in school.

Losing your financial aid should not be considered a tragedy. Instead, think of it as a small roadblock that you’ll have to overcome as you move toward your goal. Once you have that degree, the doors it unlocks will make your struggles worth the fight. Keep calm and study on!