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Summer Steps for Financial Aid

By: TxCAN   |  

Recent graduates may face challenges with their financial aid packages after high school graduation. In this blog, TxCAN will highlight some of the ways you can provide support and knowledge to students and their families and help avoid summer melt. Thank you to our partner uAspire for hosting this webinar and sharing these resources with our community.

College advising is a year-round profession. While students have received acceptance letters and walked across the graduation stage, there is still work to be done to ensure that they understand the options they have when it comes to their tuition bill.  Here are a few steps you can take to ensure your students are set up for success: 

  1. Set up an online student portal 

Once the student has committed to their college or university of choice, they should set up their student portal. The student portal is the one-stop shop for all things related to registration, enrollment, and financial aid.  

  1. Paying the Fall Bill 

Students are billed for the portion of direct costs not covered by financial aid. They typically arrive in July and are due in August before classes start. Students should pay close attention to the date of bill release (i.e., is this the most recent bill sent to the student?).  

  1. Options to lower the bill 

  • Appeal for more financial aid- Perhaps there has been a change to the family circumstances (divorce, medical costs, loss of job, etc.).  Students can also use “SwiftStudent” to help write an appeal letter.  Launched in 2020, SwiftStudent is the only free, central repository of financial aid appeals and request letter templates for students. It is a free, foundation-backed resource designed for college students and financial aid officers.  

  • Select a less expensive housing or meal plan- Sometimes students’ default to a certain meal plan depending on where they live on campus. If there’s an option to change their housing or meal plan, they should consider this as an option. 

  • Live at home instead of on campus- If the student plans to attend college near their hometown, ask them if they would consider living at home and commuting to campus at least for their first year.  

  • Waive college health insurance- Many colleges automatically enroll students in a school-sponsored health insurance plan. The annual cost can be between $1,000-$4,500, which is usually frontloaded to the fall bill. Students can waive this charge if they can prove they have comparable health insurance coverage.  

4. Option to cover the bill 

  • Student and family savings- Families often have a 529 for students or other savings put aside for their college tuition. 

  • Summer job earning- Does the student plan on working during the summer? Have they considered using some of their salary towards their tuition bill? 

  • Outside scholarships- Let students know that scholarships continue to pop up year-round even after they graduate from high school. They may be able to qualify for departmental scholarships on campus once they start college. Students should continue to check scholarship search engines like Big Future, Cappex, and Fastweb. Additionally, students can contact their university’s financial aid and scholarship office to see if there are other opportunities.  

  • Tuition payment plan- Allows the student to pay the bill in installments over the term of the year. There is no interest charged, however, there is an enrollment fee involved. Students can set up their payment plan through their university financial aid or cashier’s office.  

  • Federal Parent Loan- Also known as Parent PLUS Loans, parents must apply for it. If approved, the parent can borrow up to the cost of attendance minus financial aid. If denied, the student is eligible to borrow additional Direct Unsubsidized Loans, they just need to make sure and make that request to their financial aid office. For more information, please visit the Federal Parent PLUS loan website here.  

Students with undocumented parents who cannot apply for the Parent PLUS Loan can unlock an additional $4000 in unsubsidized federal loans by contacting their school’s financial aid office for more information.  

  • Private Loans (LAST RESORT)- Students should only consider obtaining a private education loan if they have maxed out the Federal Stafford Loan.  

  • Resources for covering the bill can be found here

5. Planning for indirect expenses 

Indirect expenses are difficult to determine because they vary per college, student, and major. You can support students by raising awareness and providing resources on how to budget. Here are just a few items that students should be aware of when it comes to personal expenses: 

  • Course materials (books, lab materials) 

  • Personal expenses (things you need daily/monthly) 

  • Transportation 

  • Social activities  

  • And more… 

Resources on how to save money on textbooks can be found here

6. Complete loan requirements 

If a student is taking out any federal loans in their name, they are required to complete entrance loan counseling which provides info about loan terms, interest, repayment options, and resources. Loan counseling is an online course provided by Federal Student Aid that helps students understand the implications of borrowing loans.  The second step students must take is signing the Master Promissory Note (MPN), which is a legally binding agreement that students agree to repay their direct student loans.  


7. Review College Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy 

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards ensure that you successfully complete your coursework and can continue receiving financial aid. All students that receive financial aid are required to meet SAP standards. There are 3 parts of SAP: 

  • Minimum Cumulative GPA 

  • Minimum Pass Rate 

  • Maximum Timeframe (how long it takes the student to complete their degree) 

If you are not meeting SAP standards, you should receive an email or written notice before the beginning of the next term/semester.  We encourage students to seek assistance at their student affairs or financial aid office if they do receive a notice that they are not meeting SAP.   

You may submit a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Appeal. Check with your university to determine how long you have to submit your appeal.  

8. Finding work-study 

Explain to your student that work-study is not automatic. They still need to apply and interview for a job. Students can reach out to the student employment office for details and deadlines.  

Resume resources can be found here 

Cover letter resources can be found here 


If you would like to share more information with your class of 2023 students and their families, download the “Summer Steps to College” Checklist.  

The Texas College Access Network (TxCAN) connects and supports college access initiatives across Texas, with the goal of increasing access to college and certificate programs.