Financial Aid Information
Big Future - Just starting to learn about the college process? See real students' stories and advice about college with high-level information on Why GO, What to Do, and How to Pay.
College Checklist - The checklist is one of our most popular resources for students and parents. Use the checklist to find out what you can do to prepare yourself (or your child) for college.
FAFSA4caster - FAFSA4caster will help you get an early start on the financial aid process by:
- Providing you with an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid.
- Giving you an experience similar to FAFSA on the Web
- Allowing you to transfer all of your FAFSA4caster data to FAFSA on the Web once you are ready to apply for aid.
- Providing you the option to apply for your Federal Student Aid PIN.
- Increasing your knowledge of the financial aid process, and providing information about other sources of aid.
- Another feature of FAFSA4caster is the "FAFSA4caster Tip". These tips appear throughout the site and provide you with information that will help make preparing for college and the financial aid process easier.
FAFSA - Step by step instructions on completing the FAFSA can be found here. Please remember the application is FREE to complete.
Scholarships - Scholarships are available throughout your college education. A number of privately operated scholarship search services charge fees ranging from $50 to over $500 to aid you in locating scholarships, often with varying degrees of success. Here are some sources of FREE information about scholarships.
Maximizing Financial Aid
A common question we all receive as parents start thinking about the FAFSA is, “How can I maximize my financial aid eligibility?” This is a tougher question than it seems. We would never want to encourage anyone to do anything dishonest or illegal, but with such a complicated system, there are always loopholes that parents can take advantage of and should be aware of. The following are some of the strategies that can be used to honestly increase your eligibility for financial aid. A more thorough explanation of all these strategies and more information can be found at www.finaid.org/fafsa/maximize.html
These strategies will have the largest impact on need-based aid eligibility:
- Save money in the parent’s name, not the child’s name. Or use a savings vehicle that is treated like a parent asset, such as a 529 college savings plan, prepaid tuition plan or Coverdell Education Savings Account.
- Pay off consumer debt, such as credit card and auto loan balances.
- Parents should go back to school to further their own education at the same time as their children, or have multiple children in college at the same time. The more family members in college simultaneously, the more aid will be available to each.
- Spend down the student’s assets and income first.
- Accelerate necessary expenses, to reduce available cash. For example, if you need a new car or computer, buy it before you file the FAFSA.
- If you feel that your family’s financial circumstances are unusual, make an appointment with the financial aid administrator at your school to review your case. Sometimes the school will be able to adjust your financial aid package to compensate using a process known as Professional Judgment.
- Minimize capital gains.
- Maximize contributions to your retirement fund.
- Do not withdraw money from your retirement fund to pay for school, as distributions count as taxable income, reducing next year’s financial aid eligibility. If you must use money from your retirement funds, borrow the money from the retirement fund instead of getting a distribution.
- Minimize educational debt.
- Ask grandparents to wait until the grandchild graduates from college before providing them money to help with their education.
- Trust funds are generally ineffective at sheltering money from the need analysis process and can backfire on you.
- Prepay your mortgage.
- A section 529 college savings plan owned by a parent has minimal impact on financial aid, and one owned by a grandparent has no impact on financial aid.
- Choose the date to submit the FAFSA carefully, as assets and student marital status are specified as of the application date.