The holidays are over and the new year brings a new semester. For many students, that means a new round of bills and expenses, which makes now a good time to evaluate your finances and make sure your budget is in the right place.

If you attended college in the fall, you may have relied on financial aid to help cover your educational costs. With a new semester about to begin, you may want to consider your options to help pay for your college-related expenses. Many students still owe a balance from fall semester expenses, or just realized additional funding may be needed to help pay for the upcoming semester. Use this time to take stock of your financial resources and make a plan to ensure everything is covered.

  1. Do you still owe a balance on outstanding charges from your fall semester?You may be required to fully satisfy outstanding charges before you can complete your enrollment for the next semester. Make sure you take care of the previous balance as soon as possible to avoid any potential delays with your upcoming enrollment. If you didn’t have enough financial aid or personal resources to pay your prior semester’s bills in full, you may want to consider using a private loan to help cover the balance you still owe. You can find private loan solutions at
  2. Did you apply for financial aid either before or during the previous semester?It’s always a good idea to apply for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, even if you don’t think you’ll qualify. You may not qualify for grants or other “free” money, but you may be able to qualify for federal student loans, like unsubsidized loans, which are not based on financial need. You can still complete the FAFSA, even after the school year has started. It’s free and doesn’t take much time, so it’s worthwhile to submit it to make sure you’re not missing out on any financial aid programs.
  3. What are your expenses going to be in the upcoming semester?By January, you should have an idea of what your direct college expenses will be for the upcoming semester, including tuition, books, housing, and other costs. You will need a plan for how to pay for those expenses. Do you have financial aid that will pay for everything or will you still have a gap where additional money is needed? Make sure you look at your full semester and anticipate all of your expenses. It’s a good idea to set a budget for yourself so you’ll know exactly what your expenses will be and what types of income or financial resources you’ll have available to cover those expenses. Once again, make sure you use all your available financial aid resources, including federal loans if necessary, to help pay your costs of attending college. If you still find yourself in need of additional money, you can explore the possibility of a private education loan at and find a solution to help cover your college expenses.
  4. When should you apply for next school year’s financial aid?In case you missed it, you can now complete the FAFSA starting on October 1 (formerly January 1) for the following school year. You may only be halfway through the 2016-2017 school year, but it’s already time to submit your FAFSA for the 2017-2018 year. If you haven’t completed the FAFSA for next year, then it’s important to get that taken care of as soon as possible. With the earlier submission date for the FAFSA, it’s critical to get your application in as quickly as possible so you don’t miss any priority deadlines for state grant aid or other types of aid that may not be available if you apply too late.

For more tips and resources on planning and paying for college, visit Remember, now is the time to make sure you have everything in order not only for the current semester, but also for the next school year.

Ron Hancock
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Ron Hancock is the Regional Director for U‑fi Student Loans and is an expert in many aspects of financial aid, student loans, and debt management. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Ron has worked in a number of areas of higher education finance, including positions in a college financial aid office, training and development for a state agency, and most recently as National Manager for Nelnet’s Partner Solutions team. Ron has spoken at numerous financial aid conferences all across the United States.

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