Squeezing every last drop out of financial aid is important before considering borrowing money for college. The federal government, states, schools, and other organizations provide opportunities to secure money such as grants and scholarships to help pay for college that does not have to be paid back. This can help reduce the cost of college significantly and cuts down the amount students need to borrow.
It’s important to put in a little work up front because looking for more financial aid can get overwhelming. There are a lot of deadlines to keep up with and detailed information is often needed. The answer to the question of how to get more financial aid is simple: get organized, do the research and follow these five steps.
5 Steps to Get More Financial Aid for College
1. File the FAFSA Early
Filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as it becomes available every year is a good place to start. The FAFSA qualifies students for grants, work study, and all federal student loans. While it can be cumbersome to fill out, waiting too long can hurt the chances of getting needed aid.
Applying early can lead to many rewards. Some aid, is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Missing the deadline could mean waiting until the next academic school year qualify for financial aid. . The federal deadline to turn in FAFSA is June 30th, 18 months after the application period began, but schools and states each have their own deadline, which are often much earlier.
2. Fill out all necessary Forms
Be sure to check if your state requires any additional forms to qualify for state financial aid. Each state has their own financial aid programs and deadlines.
Some schools may also require you to complete the CSS Profile. The CSS profile is used to award institutional aid like grants and scholarships. The CSS Profile may qualify you for more financial aid than what’s available from the federal and state governments and about 400 schools require this form to be completed in addition to FAFSA.
3. Get Other Scholarships and Grants
To get more financial aid that doesn’t need to be repaid, research and apply for outside scholarships early and frequently throughout college.
Scholarships and grants are available from a variety of outside sources such as private businesses and professional organizations, and each one has its own criteria and deadline. Some are as simple as putting your name in the drawing to win a thousand dollars, while others give more aid and are academic, service or career-based.
Here’s a complete guide to scholarships.
4. Double Check for Mistakes on Applications
Getting details wrong on financial aid applications can have an impact on how much aid you are awarded. It’s important as you complete them to double check all the information is accurate. If you later find that errors on the FAFSA or your CSS profile and needs to be adjusted, updates can typically be made online. Just be sure to confirm changes with the school’s financial aid office.
5. Make an Appeal
You can typically appeal your financial aid award if a student’s or their family’s economic situation changes has changed. Whether there’s been a loss in income, unforeseen expenses such as medical bills, or a change in filing status, getting more financial aid could be possible. To discuss changes to your financial situation, contact the school’s financial aid office.
More Ways to Pay for College
If more financial aid is needed after appealing to the school, there are still a few more options.
Ask the school if they offer installment plans. Paying tuition in increments throughout the enrollment period could be more manageable than paying it all in one lump sum.
More federal student loans may also be available. If the student has not reached the maximum annual limit of federal student loans, it’s possible more can be taken out.
If a gap in funding remains, look into private student loans. Loans from private lenders are based on an applicant’s credit and financial history, not financial need. Each lender offers their own interest rates, terms, and application process. Some may offer ways to save, like auto-pay discounts and rewards. Undergraduates and students with little to no credit may need to find a cosigner with good credit to qualify.
Some lenders offer the ability to pre-qualify, which lets you know if you qualify and gives you an interest rate estimate.
To Get More Financial Aid: Get Organized
Getting more financial aid for college is labor intensive. There are federal, state, school, and outside sources to track down throughout the year, and a lot of applications to fill out. But, it pays off if you are organized. Start early, do a lot of research, stay on top of deadlines, and stay focused. It can almost seem like a second job, but in the end it helps make your dream of going to college a reality.