Navigating Finances

Penn is committed to ensuring that every undergraduate student’s financial aid package meets the gap between the cost of attendance (including tuition and fees) and the Expected Family Contribution calculated by the Federal government with university scholarships and grants. There are many opportunities to which a Penn education opens a door, and Penn offers a myriad of resources to make those opportunities – some of which have accompanying costs – accessible to our students.

Budgeting Resources

The Financial Wellness Program at Penn provides an initial overview of budgeting basics on their website. Lyndsi Burcham, C’19, is Penn’s Financial Wellness Program Manager. Lyndsi, Student Registration and Financial Services, and Penn First Plus will be offering more opportunities to engage in discussions about financial wellness at Penn. You are welcome to contact Lyndsi at or Penn First Plus at to schedule a time to learn more about budgeting your financial aid award and other forms of financial wellness.

Financial Aid Hot Topics

If you have been notified of being selected for federal verification, Student Registration and Financial Services provides guidance on next steps.

  • Benefits Available to Highly Aided Students
    If you are a highly aided student, Student Registration and Financial Services (SRFS) provides an outline of all benefits available on their website. For funding questions that fall outside their programs, you are welcome to meet with a Penn First Plus staff member by contacting
  • Highly Aided Meal Break Program
    Because our dining facilities close during specific times of the year, Student Registration and Financial Services provides a stipend to cover these periods of time. Visit the SRFS website for more information about this program.

On-Campus Employment

  • Work-study
    Work study is a program that guarantees a certain amount of paid work for students who decide to take on a part-time job. Such work can be at Penn, or someplace in the local community. Although you may opt to have these funds converted to loans, you are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this funding, as it provides a guaranteed source of income for miscellaneous expenses while you are in Philadelphia. These positions also allow you to build connections in Philadelphia for future work, and/or support in your experience as a student.
  • Non-Work-study
    There are also a number of positions (both on- and off-campus) that are advertised through the Student Employment website that do not require work study funding and for which all students – regardless of financial need or country of citizenship are eligible. All students are limited to working 20 hours on-campus.
  • Both work-study and non-work study positions may be found using the Student Employment Job Search tool.

Textbooks & Course-Related Expenses

  • What to do when book costs exceed the budget allotment
    • For the 2023-2024 academic year, Penn has estimated that textbooks and other course materials will cost a student, on average, $1358. Some terms, you may spend more than $679 on books. If, at the start of the term, you find that your total expenditures on books and other materials required by faculty will exceed $1358 for the academic year, you should schedule an appointment with your Financial Aid advisor to discuss potentially increasing your financial aid budget to cover those higher costs.
    •  Use the course reserves. The University Library attempts to collect one or more reserve copies (copies that cannot leave the library) for each course each term, depending on how much information they receive from faculty. These books are free to borrow and use within the library, and there are scanners available if there are pages you need for later reference. Penn First Plus collaborates with Penn Libraries to expand course reserves where enrollment of limited-income students is particularly high.
    • Penn Libraries, maintains a small collection “The GIC Collection at Penn Libraries” of books that have been previously used in courses taught at Penn. These books were once managed by the FGLI Program at the Greenfield Intercultural Center. You are welcome to browse their collection and submit a request for a copy of an available book. You need to register for access to this collection.
  • MUSIC 005
    • On a limited basis, students receiving financial aid may qualify for subsidy for the College House Music program through Penn First Plus. Contact for eligibility criteria.

Unexpected Costs, Emergencies, & Opportunities

Because we lead complex, human lives, there are some expenses that might arise during your time as a Penn undergraduate that are not accounted for in your financial aid award. Subsequently, should you encounter financial need that exceeds your financial aid budget, we encourage you to submit a funding request through the Emergency and Opportunity Fund.

Requests are reviewed weekly, and typically involve a meeting with a member of the Student Intervention Services, Penn First Plus, and/or the Student Registration and Financial Services team to learn more about the various expenses impacting your experience at Penn.

Typically, funds are granted for unique academic and professional opportunities that exceed available funding awards from Penn, or for emergencies related to personal health and family matters. While there is no limit on the amount of funding a student can request or how often they can apply, typical awards are for one-time needs. Needs in excess of $1,000 or for ongoing concerns involve advising and supporting the student through sustainable means.

Emergency and Opportunity Fund Application

With gratitude to the Goldman Sachs Gives / Ashish and Sapna Shah Penn First Plus Career Launch Fund, P1P is able to support students seeking opportunities to enhance their future careers in in the fields of consulting, banking, marketing, and technology. For more information about the opportunities available, please visit the application below.

Career Launch Fund



CHAS Tiers/Costs

Typically, on-campus housing offers a variety of single- and double-occupancy rooms as well as suites or apartments with dedicated kitchens at both price tiers. However, students receiving financial aid should be aware that their package is calculated based on the lower price tier. The additional funds for the upper-tier housing will impact their available funding for food and school-related supplies. Subsequently housing should be chosen with a plan in place for adequately funding food costs for the academic year.


Expected Costs & distance from Penn

  • Rent
    Penn’s financial aid package includes sufficient funding to cover nine months of rent and utilities (academic year-only) within a 30-mile radius of campus. This means that a student should budget to spend no more than $1,000 a month on rent and utilities using their financial aid.
  • Food
    Penn’s financial aid package reduces the expected cost of dining to account the lower cost of cooking for one’s self, while still allowing a student to opt into the 2-meal-per-day meal plan.
  • Moving Costs
    Unfortunately, Penn is not able to advance students’ financial aid to cover the costs associated with moving off-campus. As you evaluate your preparedness to move off-campus, you should be prepared to budget for:

    • Application Fees
    • Security deposits (to hold the apartment while your application is reviewed and as insurance against any damage the space might incur)
    • First and/or last month’s rent
    • Utilities
    • Furniture
    • Kitchen and other household equipment
  • Transportation
    As you consider where to live, also factor in increased transportation costs, if you end up renting in an area that requires use of public transportation, paid parking, or more than the occasional trip home via a taxicab or ride share service.

Role of financial aid

Financial aid at Penn is designed to meet the typical costs associated with attendance – including the basic costs of living on-campus or off-campus. Costs that exceed those estimates based on university pricing or market research require additional contributions or budgeting creativity by the student.


Meal Plans

Generally speaking, it is in the best interest of all students to participate in some variety of meal plan during the academic year, and Penn’s financial aid budget includes a full meal plan for students living on-campus and a self-catering budget for students living off-campus. Meal plans guarantee the ability to visit a campus dining location without the need for cash or a bank card, which is useful when you might not have time to cook for yourself or locate less expensive, yet quickly served food options close to campus. First-year students are encouraged to select the full meal plan, which maximizes the value of the meal plans available.

Community Kitchens

The Greenfield Intercultural Center, Penn Womens Center, and LGBT Center maintain small stocks of food items and condiments in their community kitchens. Please note that these are not food pantries, and students experiencing chronic food insecurity should consult with a member of the Student Intervention Services team about finding a sustainable solution.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Penn recognizes that students may – through a variety of circumstances – encounter challenges to remaining food secure. Your first steps should always include an application for Emergency Funding through the process above, or to visit your Financial Aid advisor to determine if Penn is able to award you additional funding for academic expenses not predicted in your award budget. In the immediate term, we can provide you with meal swipes, a food box delivery, and/or emergency funds. However, when the resources above are insufficient to meet your needs, you may qualify for state-facilitated food security programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The federal government maintains a benefits eligibility website which provide initial guidance. To apply directly to the State of Pennsylvania for assistance, you will need to visit their COMPASS website.

Health and Wellness

As you begin your studies at Penn, it is essential that you are adequately covered by a health insurance policy, as outlined in our requirements. These requirements are established so that you can be ensured a certain quality of care in the event of a physical or mental health concern that may impact your academic success. For students whose healthcare plan does not meet Penn’s requirements, you can enroll in Penn’s Student Insurance Plan. For students receiving financial aid, your award will be adjusted to cover the cost of a single student insurance plan.

Importance of Healthcare

Penn’s insurance requirements allow for healthcare that is both preventative and remedial in nature. That is – you should attend regular physicals, not hesitate to see a doctor if feeling unwell, and check in with a mental health professional if there is a lot on your mind or your emotions are distracting you from your work. These early measures prevent later crises that could prevent participation in classes or the completion of coursework and are often less costly than more serious cases. You can always contact Student Health Services to get an estimate of the out-of-pocket cost of an appointment or procedure. They are available via phone at: 215.746.3535. You will want to have your health insurance card with you.


Imposter Syndrome: Remembering That You Belong at Penn

For International, DACA, and Undocumented Students

Although some of this guidance applies to international students (with the exception of U.S. federal financial aid and assistance programs), international students are also subject to federal withholding tax on scholarship/grant aid that exceeds the cost of tuition, fees, and books. This would include funding for housing, dining, transportation, and personal expenses. To meet federal requirements, Penn withholds 14% of this excess, which may be returned to a student upon filing a tax return by April 15. Because each student’s financial aid package is different, you may wish to reference your award letter, subtracting the cost of tuition, fees, and books (estimated to be $67,462 for academic year ’23-‘24) from your grant, and applying the 14% rule to estimate how much will be withheld. Note: Do not include any private loans or work study funds in this calculation. More detailed information on the forms of financial aid available to international students can be retrieved from Student Registration and Financial Services.

For international students, we must note that there are restrictions on where (typically on-campus) and how often (less than 20 hours per week when classes are in-session) international students can work. Exceptions to these policies can be made in the event of a financial emergency. Please note that there are also specific eligibility requirements students must meet to be eligible for work authorization.

Many of these same restrictions apply to DACA and Undocumented undergraduates. Specifically, the primary form of financial aid for these students is the Penn grant, and additional funding is contingent upon access to a qualified co-signer for a loan, or work authorization (for DACA recipients). Additional information on the role of immigration status in navigating the finances of a Penn education is available from the Vice Provost for University Life. Career Services also offers job search advice specific to DACA and Undocumented students. For students with questions about affording DACA fees (new or renewal), please submit a request for a confidential consultation (do not mention the specific reason) with P1P’s Executive Director via