Summer will be here before we know it, and that means a new academic year for colleges and universities is also on the way. After a few months of work or relaxation, new high school graduates and college students will pack up their bags and head to their campus apartments and dorms. What happens next depends mostly on the student, their focus on academics, and how hard they are willing to work toward their goals.
Unfortunately, the increasingly high costs of higher education will not have changed by then. Student loans have not been forgiven (and most experts agree they won’t be) and college at any school — including public colleges and universities — is still not free.
As students unpack their laptops and get their fall wardrobes ready, they’ll also need to resign themselves to paying out the nose for tuition and fees, either by working during school or borrowing money with student loans.
How To Get More Financial Aid – Experts Weigh In
If you’re hoping to minimize the cost of higher education or how much you borrow, however, it’s still not too late to seek out forms of financial aid. Experts agree that now is a great time to do just that if you’re willing to put in some extra time and effort.
But, how can you score more financial aid so late in the game? Here are several strategies suggested by the top experts in their field:
Be Willing To Commit To A School
This tip is for students still deciding on an institution and in talks with a school’s financial aid office, but it still applies nonetheless. Alix Coupet, who is a former Standord admissions officer and the current Lead Counselor at Empowerly, says that it’s imperative to communicate that, if your financial aid needs are met, you will attend the college you’re in discussion with.
“No college wants to offer money to students who they aren’t sure want to come,” he says.
That said, don’t hesitate to share competing offers with institutions of similar prestige, especially with merit scholarship funds, he says.
However, Coupet adds that the emphasis here is on similar prestige, since “showing off your merit aid scholarship from your safety school to your high reach school is unlikely to yield results.”
Either way, make sure to ask the school directly for what you want and need. Coupet says that some colleges will ask you exactly how much they would need to amend your financial aid package for you to attend.
“Try to be reasonable here without selling yourself short,” he says.
Follow Up On Scholarship Applications
Jayson Matlock, who is the Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Southern Utah University, says that you should always strive to apply for scholarships in particular before their closing date. However, you should also follow up with your school’s financial aid office during the first few weeks before and after school starts to see if any funding is unclaimed.
“If students are offered funding and they no longer plan to attend your university, this may be an opportune time for you to secure scholarships that are now available,” he says.
Apply For More Scholarships
Martin Lassen, who is the founder & CEO of GrammarHow, says that you can also apply for last-minute scholarships, and that you may be surprised at how many opportunities you find.
“Private organizations give scholarships all year, so looking for last-minute opportunities is always a good idea,” he says.
Lassen adds that a scholarship search engine can help you find scholarships based on the date, category, grade level, and grant amount. Plus, thousands of scholarships are listed on search engines available with details, so you can spend less time looking for them and more time applying.
“Keep track of all of your deadlines, award amounts, and application status in a spreadsheet as you apply,” he says. This will help you stay organized and let you know which scholarships you need to follow up on.
File An Appeal
College Counselor Robert Powers of College Torch also says that students whose situation has changed can always appeal either unofficially or officially for more financial assistance from their school.
An unofficial appeal is a very nice request for help, he says, adding that the financial aid office doesn’t have to help but it’s worth a try to ask.
Powers said that students should reach out and not their parents since that tends to have a better outcome. Students should also communicate clearly and without ambiguity.
“If they need a certain dollar amount, they should say it.”
If filing an official appeal for more aid, Powers adds that students should follow the official process for their school to the “T.” Also be thorough and include all the information they ask for and anything else you believe could help your case.
Fill Out The FAFSA
If you haven’t already done so, student loan expert Mark Kantrowitz says it’s crucial to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student AID (FAFSA). This is a good move even if you are already a college student, he says.
“If you are currently enrolled in college, you can even get financial aid retroactively for the fall term if you were eligible at the time,” he says.
Kantrowitz actually wrote a book on this topic called How to Appeal for More College Financial Aid. He also says that you should appeal for more financial aid any time your financial aid package falls short or if there’s been a change in your family’s financial circumstances.
Use The Tax Code To Your Benefit
Considering this year’s tax deadline just passed for the 2021 tax year, you may want to save this tip for next year. Either way, Kantrowitz recommends taking advantage of all the tax-related benefits you can use to pay less for college. This isn’t necessarily “aid,” per se, but it can help you pay less for higher education over the long haul.
For starters, he says you can save for college in a 529 plan.
“Even if college enrollment is imminent, you might be able to save for college with a 529 plan since two-thirds of the states provide a state income tax break for contributions to the state’s 529 plan,” he says.
Kantrowitz also says to claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit, and the Student Loan Interest Deduction on your federal income tax return.
The Bottom Line
It can be difficult to secure more financial aid late in the college enrollment process, but it’s not impossible. Depending on how much aid or financial support you need, there’s still a lot of time to find the money over the summer.
Make sure you take the time to analyze your financial position for school, and fill any gaps now – so you’re not caught in bind halfway through the fall semester.