Top money hacks to get more college financial aid

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1. Apply for financial aid

In ordinary years, high school graduates miss out on billions in federal grants because they don’t apply for financial aid. Many families mistakenly assume they won’t qualify and don’t even bother to fill out an application.

Even now, many families haven’t applied for financial aid.

As of February, 38.4% of the high school class of 2023 had completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form, according to the National College Attainment Network. (The FAFSA season for the 2023-24 academic year opened Oct. 1, but students who haven’t filed can still apply.)

“It’s not too late,” said Mary Jo Terry, a managing partner at Yrefy, a private student loan refinancing company.

For families who have already filed the FAFSA but are still concerned about making ends meet, it is also possible to amend their FAFSA form or ask the college financial aid office for more aid, particularly if you’ve experienced a change in your financial situation, such as a job loss or a disability, according to Kalman Chany, a financial aid consultant and author of The Princeton Review’s “Paying for College.”

2. Negotiate for more school aid

How families can appeal for more college financial aid

Then, prepare a response with documentation showing any changes in assets, income, benefits or expenses. If the financial aid package from another comparable school was better, that is also worth documenting in an appeal.

“Syrupy” letters aren’t as effective as taking a more quantitative approach, Chany advised.

“This is a business transaction,” he said. “They are trying to meet their enrollment goals and maintain revenue.”

To that end, “play hard to get,” he added. Don’t post wearing the school sweatshirt on social media or make any moves to give the indication that you will enroll anyway.

Colleges are likely receptive to appeals, Chany said, but “it’s not a buyers’ market like it was at the onset of the pandemic.”

3. Leverage private scholarships

Otherwise, consider other sources for merit-based aid, Terry advised. “There is so much money out there that people don’t even know is available.”

In fact, there are more than 1.7 million private scholarships and fellowships available, often funded by foundations, corporations and other independent organizations, with a total value of more than $7.4 billion, according to higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.

“Every 40 hours you spend applying for scholarships and grants will result in $10,000, on average,” Yrefy’s Terry has calculated.

Check with the college, or ask your high school counselor about opportunities. You can also search websites like Scholarships.com and the College Board.

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Source : CNBC