Personal Finance and the Student Lifecycle

Depending on what type of student you are and where you are in your academic career, your financial concerns may be very different from other students. First-year undergraduates may just be trying to understand the basics of financial aid still while fourth-years may be thinking about graduation and beginning work. We understand your questions are different at different stages of your student life, so we've put together these resources to help you be more financially savvy and confident, no matter the stage you find yourself


Living Off Grounds

Financial Aid for Off-Grounds Living

One of the most common questions we get in Student Financial Services, especially in the fall and winter, is "will financial aid pay for me to live off-Grounds?"  Really, the question to ask is, "how does housing factor in to my financial aid award?"  Even if you receive financial aid, the total amount of aid you receive may or may not be enough to cover all of your rent, food, and utilities after it pays off what it can of your tuition and fees. Your financial aid will first credit towards charges from the University, and then any excess financial aid will come as a refund to you for you to budget for the semester.

Yes, housing is a necessary cost of attending the University, so it almost always factors in to determining your financial aid amount, regardless of whether you live on-Grounds or off-Grounds. (Students living at home are a separate matter, as their housing budget is much lower. Think fall 2020 or a student who commutes to Grounds.) The only difference there is who you pay, the University or a landlord.  You can see how much housing factors in by visiting the Cost of Attendance page we update every academic year.

It's really important that you know how much you can afford to pay in rent before you commit to a lease.  Many apartment complexes in Charlottesville (you all know which ones, probably) are not going to be within reach of those on financial aid based on the budgeted amount for the 9-month academic year.  Do not live above your financial means! Spending more than you can afford will derail you from your financial plan to graduation.

An important note about financial aid and your housing costs, specifically for those who are considering becoming an RA (resident advisor). Students who receive financial aid should become an RA because they really want to do that work, not because they believe that they will get more financial aid than they would get if they were not an RA.  The housing and dining benefit are treated the same as if the student were bringing in an outside scholarship or receiving tuition benefits from a parent's employer.  UVA will continue to meet 100% of the student's need, but the RA benefit will be part of how that need is being met. If you are considering applying to be an RA and you received financial aid, we encourage you to write to us at with any questions you have.  Learn more about non-University assistance and financial aid.


Creating a Budget

If you live off-Grounds and you do get a refund of financial aid each term, you need to understand something very important: this is not mad money for you to spend!  This money is intended to help you pay rent, utilities, food, transportation costs, books, supplies, pretty much anything that has to do with going to school outside of tuition and fees.  You have to get good--and fast--at making your refund stretch as far as it can.  Financial skills are freedom skills, so it's time to level up your financial game.

We recommend that everyone living off-Grounds create and stick to a budget.  There are lots of apps and resources out there on budgeting, including CashCourse (free to UVA students), Mint, and YNAB (free for the first year to college students).  Start by taking a hard look at what your needs are (like rent, food, electric, cell phone) and separate out things that are just wants, the "nice to haves" (eating out at Roots every day, living at a specific high-end student apartment, ride shares to and from Grounds)


Dealing With Roommates

Yes, you most likely have to do this. Unless you can swing rent living on your own, it's almost inevitable that you'll need to have "the conversation" with your roommates about the things that, if you don't, will make you crazy by Halloween.  Even before you sign the lease, talk about:

  • Chores and cleaning: who's going to do what? how often? what happens when someone isn't pulling their weight?
  • Splitting up paying the bills (gas, electric, cable, internet) and the rent checks.  You can probably automate most of these, but you need to have the discussion anyway.
  • Sleep/wake habits: are you all night owls or early risers?  are you a mix?  how are you going to set guidelines that are fair and reasonable so everyone feels like they can be themselves without getting under someone else's skin?


Learn to Cook! (which means you also have to learn how to shop)

Take a class, buy a book, learn from your parents or your friends, but learn how to cook. This is an adult skill. You'll save a ton of money cooking for yourself over eating out. And if you share cooking with roommates, you all win. Oh, and pouring milk over Cocoa Puffs 3 times a day is not "cooking". It may be delicious, but it's not very healthy. Remember, adult skill! Eat healthy, yes?

Some of our tips for shopping for groceries:


Other Off-Grounds Things to Consider

  • You'll probably need to sort out some other questions if you are living off-Grounds as well.  How will you get to and from Grounds? Will you walk? Bicycle? Take the bus? Take a scooter? Take your magic carpet?  You'll want to consider your transportation logistics before you sign the lease.
  • Set someone you trust up with power of attorney rights for you if something happens while you are here.  Your parents and other loved ones will be grateful that you did this, especially for those who are far from home when they are in Charlottesville.  Talk with your trusted person sooner rather than later to take care of the legal business.


Health Insurance Requirement

All students at the University must demonstrate that they have basic health insurance coverage for every year they are in attending. Students demonstrate this in one of two ways:

  1. they can provide information about a health insurance policy under which they are covered that meets or exceeds the coverage provided by the Univeristy's own health insurance policy, or
  2. they can purchase the University's policy, administered by Aetna. 


The Annual Health Insurance Process

Every summer, students receive multiple email messages from Student Health alerting them to the requirement to either complete the "Insurance Verification" option (#1 above) or to enroll in the University's plan. Those who enroll, who attempt to waive but are denied, or who take no action at all will be charged the health insurance fee in late September. The charge is due each year by October 31st. It's important for students and their parents to understand that demonstrating health insurance coverage is an annual process!


Options for Paying the Charge

Students have several options to cover the charge for the health insurance plan, and we encourage students to seek out help from Student Financial Services sooner rather than later for their questions about their options.

Pay out of pocket.  In this case, the student will wait for the charge to appear on their UVAPay account and then make payment through UVAPay by the October 31st due date.  If the charge remains on the student account into November, the student will likely have a finance hold that will prevent the student from pre-enrollment for the spring term.

Enroll in a payment plan.  We now offer a payment plan option for the health insurance charge.  Students or their parents can log in to UVAPay, click the "Payment Plans" tab, and enroll in the health insurance payment plan option.  There is a $45 administrative fee for enrolling in the health insurance payment plan, but there is no interest charged on the deferred payments, and once the student is enrolled in the plan, they will not have a finance hold.  This is a good option for students who simply need more time to pay the charge and who do not want to take out a loan to cover it.

Take out a loan to pay the charge.  Students who wish to pay the charge directly by taking out an education loan should complete the Health Insurance Expense Request Form, located in our forms directory.  For students who have enrolled in the University's plan, choose option 1, which allows us to have the loan funds pay the charge directly.  The loan will be listed as an Institutional Loan on the student's financial aid, and payment on the loan does not begin until after the student graduates or otherwise leaves the University.