How You Can Maximize College Financial Aid Offers

The cost of going to college has exploded in recent decades, which has made it unaffordable for many people without financial aid. While the majority of people have been upfront and honest when filing for this, it has also led to many people becoming more creative with their applications.

Recent reports have claimed that many parents are giving up legal guardianship of their children, with this often been to close friends or family members. This has been so their assets and income wouldn’t be taken into account when the financial aid application is being made.

While many people may believe that this is an effective way to receive financial aid, experts have warned against it. This is because it’s unethical, at best. In many cases, it could often mean perjury and fraud, which is something that everybody will want to avoid.

This could lead to many people wondering how they’ll be able to successfully apply for college financial aid while keeping everything above board. There are a variety of ways that this can be done without breaking any ethical, or legal, boundaries.

Make Sure You Fill Out FASFA Accurately & Early

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step every potential college student and their family will have to go through to receive financial aid. This can be incredibly complex and difficult to fill out, as it involves submitting a variety of documents, including tax returns, assets, household-income, and more.

The complexity of FAFSA means that you should start filling it out as early as possible. This is further enhanced by the fact that the earlier you get in your application, the quicker you can find out if it’s been successful.

Alongside this is that financial aid is given out on a first-come, first-serve basis, which makes an early application vital. This also means that early applicants may receive all of the funds that they need, whereas those who leave it later may get a fraction of this amount.

If there are any inaccuracies or mistakes in an application, then it will be sent back for correction. This could take a significant amount of time, which means that later applications may not have enough time to send it back in and receive financial aid.

FAFSA applications typically have a cut-off point where those who come from a household whose income is above a certain amount may not receive funds. This has meant that many people above that amount don’t tend to apply for financial aid. Many experts have recommended applying anyway.

This is because there can be a variety of factors that will be weighed into the decision on whether or not to grant the funds. These include whether or not there will be another member of the household in college at the same time, how many people live in the house, and much more.

This means that you may still qualify for subsidized loans regardless of how high your household’s income is. Because of that, it may still be worth applying for them.

Watch Your Earnings

If you happen to be a college applicant who works, then this will be a factor in the decision to grant you financial aid. This is especially true if you earn more than $6,400 per year, which will reduce the amount of funds you may receive.

This isn’t a large amount of funds, even if you’re working a minimum wage job. For example, if you work more than 20 hours a week at minimum wage, then you’ll be above this threshold. Though there can be a significant number of reasons to have a job while you’re young, you should keep an eye on how much you’re earning while you do go.

This is because, for every dollar above $6,400 you earn at work, you could be losing up to 50 cents in college aid. There can be several ways around this, with the most notable being to reduce your working hours in the year before your application.

This will be the period that your FAFSA will look at when deciding on your application. Instead of working as much as you previously had, you should consider doing things that may enhance your college application. This will allow you to earn money while boosting your chances of being accepted into a college of your choice.

Put Money Into Non-Reportable Assets

There can be a variety of assets that you will have to include in a FAFSA application, with household income being one of the more prominent. What many people may not have thought of, however, is that some assets shouldn’t need to be reported and that will not be factored into your application.

The more prominent of these are your family home and car, which means that you can put a significant amount of money into these without affecting your application. This isn’t the case for any funds that may be in your parent’s bank account, which will play a large role in determining how much financial aid, if any, you may be entitled to.

This means that it can work out much better for an application if your household pays off as much of a mortgage and any car loans that they may have. By doing so, you’re not only ensuring that these loans will be paid back as quickly as possible while increasing your chances of receiving financial aid for college.

Decreasing your family’s liquid assets is the key to this, as non-liquid assets are primarily what a FAFSA application will look at. This could also include any college savings accounts, among others.

Be Prepared To Negotiate

Many people believe that they will have to accept the first financial aid offer they receive from a college. This isn’t necessarily true, as you may receive offers from several of the colleges that you applied for and were accepted into. You may be able to use these to your advantage.

This means that you may be able to negotiate with the financial aid office, which is something that you should do as much as possible. By doing so, you may be able to urge them to increase the offer that you have received.

Alongside this may be any special circumstances that may affect you. While this is something that you should have included with your initial application, if you haven’t done so, then it’s recommended that you do so now.

There may be other ways that you might be able to improve the financial aid offer that you have received. If your family had an unusually good financial year for the year that was reported on your FAFSA application, then this could be beneficial for you.

Should this be the case, then you should submit tax returns for previous, and preferably subsequent years if possible. This will be something that should be taken into account once they’re sent to the financial aid office. By doing so, you may see yourself getting a larger offer than you initially did.

It can be up to you and your family to decide on which tactics you should use to optimize your financial aid application. As we noted above, however, you should keep this above board and focus on legitimate, ethical, and legal means when making your application.