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Managing Your Financial Aid @ UChicago

Your financial aid award helps fund your educational expenses and with careful planning will cover your direct and indirect college costs. How do the dollars and cents listed on the award translate into living and learning experiences on campus? What parts of academic life is it supposed to cover? Should you anticipate charges that aren’t covered by financial aid? Taking the time to learn about your financial aid award and how it will interact with your bursar bill will help answer these questions and more.

Financial aid awards at the University of Chicago meet 100% of a student’s “demonstrated need.” We calculate your demonstrated need by subtracting your family’s financial contribution from the cost of attendance. We use standard budgets to determine the cost of attendance: a mix of tuition, fees, and living expenses. (You can find the current cost of attendance here.) The thing to note is that the cost of attendance is also a mix of direct and indirect costs: the tuition, fees, and room & board portions of the cost of attendance are direct costs, meaning you will see them billed directly to you on your Bursar bill; the books and personal expenses portions of the cost of attendance are indirect costs, meaning they are estimated (but required) costs that will not appear on your Bursar bill. Managing these indirect costs will require you to budget your financial aid resources: you'll need to set financial goals, implement a spending plan, and track your expenses. Remember to include the components of your financial aid award (grants and/or scholarships) in the income portion of your budget. If you don't know how to create a budget, you can find detailed instructions on the Budgeting Your Money page.

Tips for Living Within Your Budget

The topic of saving money while attending college doesn't get much attention, but it is the key for students to have the money they need to satisfy in-college costs and have a successful lifestyle. Here are five tips that can get you started on the path to savings:

  • Meal Plan: Because dining at House tables plays a central role in community life at UChicago, all students in Houses are assigned a meal plan. First-year students are required to participate in the Unlimited Meal Plan. But after your first year, you may choose to change your meal plan.
  • Books: If possible, buy or rent used textbooks and sell last term’s books back. For books you will only need for a short period of time, try to get them from the library.
  • Entertainment: Think about and plan the number of times per month you eat out or play, keeping your budget limits in mind.
  • Transportation: Walk, bike, or use public transportation instead of bringing your car to campus.
  • Shopping: Shop where they offer student discounts and avoid impulse buying. (Never go grocery shopping when you're hungry!) Also sign up for coupon alerts from sites like GroupOn or RetailMeNot.
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