10 ways to get colleges to show you the money

Posted on January 7th, 2014

With the cost of college as high as $63,200 per year at the nation’s most expensive college, Sarah Lawrence, getting financial aid has become a necessity for most families and students.

There are several steps families can take to maximize their financial aid package in order to make college more affordable.

According to U.S. News Education, here are 10 ways to get colleges to show you the money.

1. Fill out all necessary financial aid applications. This includes the FAFSA and College Board’s CSS/Financial Aid Profile if your school is one of the 300 colleges that use this application. Once you’ve received your tax returns and filed your taxes, you can go back to check them to make sure they accurately represent last year’s finances. Check out this post for more tips on filling out the FAFSA.

2. Read all of your college’s financial aid documents and check your college’s financial aid webpage. Some have instructions or forms for filing an appeal. If you don’t see any instructions, call the office and ask for help.

3. If you aren’t satisfied with your financial aid award, send a letter to your college’s financial aid office asking for a “professional judgment” review of your award. Give specific reasons why you need more aid. When filing a financial aid appeal, Patricia Williams, director of financial aid at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md¬†says it’s important to give the college accurate numbers.

Don’t just say, ‘My medical expenses are high.’ Detail what the medical costs are, how much insurance paid, and how much you paid. We work with formulas that require real numbers.

4. Make sure to send all requested W-2s and tax forms to colleges that require them in a timely fashion. When filing an appeal, you should also include your hospital bills or any other documentation of large expenses.

5. Send your financial documentation and the appeal as soon as possible. At many colleges, financial aid is doled out on a first come, first served basis. In the words of Pat Watkins, director of financial aid for Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida:

When the money has been committed, the school may not be able to offer (latecomers) any assistance.

6. Honesty is the best policy. Don’t attempt to lie or hide anything. The government can take back your financial aid, fine you, and even send you to prison for lying on the FAFSA.

7. Don’t let your pride stop you from filing a financial aid appeal if you really need it. As Smith-Hammond says, It is your right as a taxpayer to appeal your aid. It never hurts to try.

8. Be respectful and don’t demand grants to replace student federally backed Stafford and Perkins loans or earnings from a work-study job. The vast majority of colleges can’t afford to give out most of their financial aid in grants. As McDaniel’s Williams says,

The basic premise of financial aid is that the student and family will do all they can first. Taking out loans is how the student does his or her part.

9. Don’t expect a bankruptcy filing to guarantee you more aid. Since bankruptcy wipes out most debt, some colleges may assume that you now have more money to spend on tuition, according to Eckerd’s Watkins.

10. Make sure the financial aid appeal comes directly from the student and/or family, not an outside party. This doesn’t mean you can’t seek help from a college financing expert to craft a more convincing appeal. In fact, this can be an effective technique for winning the appeal and getting more financial aid. But it’s generally more effective and personal to see a letter from the students or parents themselves.

Need more help affording college and getting the most financial aid possible? Give Rick and Andy a call at 1-888-234-3907 or contact us using this form.

Category: Financial Aid

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