Is There A Way To Increase Your Odds For More Federal & Institutional Aid?

How Expensive Is College?

Flickr user KMR Photography

Financial aid packages are calculated using the information that you file on your FAFSA. While you definitely do not want to manipulate your financial details in an attempt to get a higher aid package, there are a few things you can do to legally increase your odds for more institutional aid.

How Expensive Is College?

Ask Your Parents To Use Their Liquid Assets Pay Off All Consumer Debts

It is advisable for parents to use their liquid assets to pay off all consumer debts such as car loans, mortgages and high credit balances before filing the FAFSA. When calculating your financial aid package, parents’ liquid assets are considered money that they could be putting towards your education. The more money they have in liquid assets, the lower your financial aid eligibility.

Using free cash to pay off debts does more than just lower their overall debt. It also reduces the money your parent’s have in liquid assets, which helps you qualify for more financial aid.

This is one of the simplest and most straightforward ways to increase your odds for more institutional aid.

Pay For Essentials Using Your Own Money

Any balances that you have in accounts in your name or investments made in your name are considered as your personal assets. While it may feel good to have your own assets, it can seriously hamper your ability to qualify for more institutional aid.

College financial aid offices will factor these assets into the calculation when doing a needs analysis. The higher your assets, the lower your perceived financial need. For this reason, it is a good idea to use your personal funds to pay for major purchases such as a new laptop, prep classes, dorm appliances, books, and other necessary school supplies. These do not count as assets when calculating your financial need.

To get the benefit of additional aid, you have to spend your assets by the “base year”, which is by January of the year you begin college. Instead of waiting to buy college essentials after college starts, consider buying them before the base year.

Ask Grandparents To Hold On To Their Monetary Gifts For A Little While Longer

If your grandparents or other relatives or well-wishers outside the immediate household gift you money for college, it is counted as your asset and will instantly lower your aid eligibility. Instead of accepting money towards college right away, ask your benefactors to hold on to that money in their own account and gift it to you at a later time. As long as it is not on your name, those assets don’t get reported on the FAFSA.

Keep The College Updated About All Special Circumstances

If, after you have filed the FAFSA, a parent loses their job or the family is faced with some other challenging circumstances that compromise the family finances, it is a good idea to let the college know. Most colleges will take it into account and if possible, increase your financial aid package.

It is worth keeping in mind that the financial aid package you receive is not final. If you think you should have received a better package, you can appeal to the college’s financial aid office for a re-evaluation.

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