Need money for college but worried that you won’t qualify for financial aid? Read this! Here’s how to improve your chances of receiving financial aid.
You’re about to start a new journey. The next four years of your life are going to be filled with excitement and learning. You’re going to make memories you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.
There’s just one little thing you have to iron out first:
How you’re going to pay for it.
The cost of college is no joke, which is why financial aid exists. It gives you the opportunity to follow your dreams without having to borrow so much money. You want to get the most of it.
Below, we’ll show you some tips you can use to improve your chances of receiving financial aid. We’ll also show you how to make sure you’re getting as much as you deserve.
1. Don’t Make Assumptions
Never ever assume that you’re not eligible for financial aid.
Many factors determine what kind of aid a student gets and how much they are awarded. Just because you live in a high-income household doesn’t mean you’re ineligible.
If you never ask, the answer is always no.
On top of that, a lot of schools have their own forms of financial aid, such as scholarships. In order to become eligible, you’ll have to fill out a FAFSA form.
Look at it this way:
Filling out the FAFSA is free and entirely worth the time and effort it may cost you. Even if you aren’t awarded financial aid, at least you tried. And you may end up surprised by the results.
There’s no reason not to try.
2. File Earlier
Financial aid operates on a first-come, first-serve basis. So, the earlier you file, the more likely you are to get the aid you need.
There’s only so much money to go around.
The earliest date you can file is October 1st. File your FAFSA as close to that date as possible to ensure you really get your foot in the door.
A few weeks before the due date, gather everything you need to complete the FAFSA. Don’t wait to do it. Once you are ready to file, you can just sit down and do it without any fuss.
3. Move Around Assets
Your assets play heavily into how the algorithm determines your expected family contribution.
That’s the amount of money the government thinks you can chip in for tuition and fees during school. They assume that 20% of a student’s assets can and will be put toward their college education. On the other hand, parents are only expected to contribute 5.6% of their assets.
That’s a pretty big difference.
By moving your assets to your parents’ account, you can significantly lower your Expected Family Contribution and qualify for more financial aid.
The fewer assets you have under your name, the better.
4. Adjust Taxable Income
The largest factor when determining your family’s EFC is your income level.
If you’re looking to qualify for more financial aid, or you’re worried you won’t qualify at all, then reducing the taxable income for your household is a big step in the right direction.
Try to keep taxable income to a minimum before filling out the FAFSA.
Some low-impact ways to do this are:
- Don’t sell stocks and bonds for profit.
- Don’t withdraw money from a retirement fund early.
- Ask to put off any cash bonuses until after you receive your aid.
By taking a few small steps to “minimize” your income, you’ll end up with a lower EFC, which may grant you a higher financial aid award.
5. Check for Mistakes
You need to go over your FAFSA with a fine-toothed comb.
Now is not the time for skimming. You’ve really got to get in there and read every single bit of information you entered. It will be so worth your time.
If you end up submitting your FAFSA with incorrect or missing information, you’ll have to revise it.
And like we said before, timing is everything when it comes to financial aid.
The longer it takes for your application to go through, the less money will be available to you. Even worse, mistakes could end up delaying the process so much that you miss out on financial aid entirely.
So don’t take this step lightly. Make sure those t’s are crossed and those i’s are dotted!
6. Make an Appeal If Necessary
Financial situations change on a dime. If there is a good cause for it, you absolutely should make an appeal regarding your financial aid. It may just up your awarded amount.
This is a great step to take if something unexpected happens after you’ve already submitted your FAFSA.
A few reasons to make an appeal include:
- Someone was hospitalized.
- Someone lost their job.
- There was a divorce.
- You had to use retirement money to cover an unexpected expense.
If you feel that you may be able to get more financial aid because of your situation, don’t hesitate to make your appeal as soon as possible.
7. Don’t Rely Solely on the FAFSA
The FAFSA isn’t the be-all, end-all of financial aid. You shouldn’t be putting all your eggs in one basket.
Schools sometimes offer their own forms of financial aid to students who meet certain criteria. Scholarships for excellent students are one example. Athletic scholarships are another.
Grants, loans, and work-study are all incredibly useful types of financial aid.
These things should factor into the school you choose to attend. Pick a college that is a good match for your skills and experiences. Contact the financial aid office to find out as much as you can about their options.
Being well informed is half the battle.
Going off to college is a whirlwind time in anyone’s life.
Being prepared and buckling down will make it easier for you not to get swept up in the transition to higher education. Financial stability is one of the bigger things you have to prepare for.
No need to get caught up in the whirlwind. These simple tricks will help you get the financial aid you need so you can focus on your education.
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Grove at Waco to help them with their online marketing.