Getting the most money for school begins before you even apply by choosing the best schools for you. However, there are a few other things you should know about getting more financial aid, including how to appeal your offer.


1. Apply to the Right Schools

Bottom line, schools that want you to attend are more likely to hand out a generous financial aid package that includes more grants and scholarships, and less loans. Students who are in the top 30% of applicants are more likely to receive the best financial aid packages. Broaden your search to include great schools that may not be as popular as schools on the east or west coast. Schools that don’t get inundated with applications will be more likely to work hard to attract bright students to their campus.

2. Fill Out the FAFSA early

The FAFSA is necessary to fill out in order to take advantage of financial aid from the government. Most schools use the FAFSA as well to determine your financial need for additional scholarships that may be available. It's important to fill out the FAFSA early to get the best chances of obtaining a grant which go on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The FAFSA is now available to complete as early as October 1st in the year before you are planning on going to college. Here are some tips on completing the FAFSA as painlessly as possible.

3. Understand and Compare Financial Aid Packages

Financial aid offers can be confusing to read because they are not in a standardized format. It may be helpful to extract the information from your offers and put it into a separate document so you can compare them more easily.

Each offer you receive should include your total cost of attendance, what assistance you are receiving from the school, and whatever amount is leftover for your family to cover. Make sure that the total cost of attendance includes your room and board, and make sure you understand what sources of assistance are grants and what are loans. An offer can seem very generous at first until you realize it is mostly loans!

Compare your financial aid offers with Cost Cutter.

3. Appeal Your Offer

Many families are unaware that they can appeal or negotiate their offer, but it happens all the time and financial aid officers are prepared to handle it. It never hurts to ask for more money, and the worst thing that can happen is that your appeal is refused and your original offer remains intact.  

First, review your information to make sure it’s accurate and you haven’t left anything out. An extremely low financial aid offer could be the result of a mistake, or an omission. For example, sometimes more money is available for students with special needs or talents.

Sometimes families need to appeal due to a change in financial circumstance such as a job loss. Collect all the relevant information and have it at the ready when appealing your offer. The college will typically have a process for you to appeal and may request additional proof of your financial situation.

Even if your information is correct and your financial situation is stable, you may still be able to negotiate a better offer. Be sure to emphasize the strengths of your student and how it would benefit the college to have him or her attend. You may also ask the college to match an offer you’ve received from another institution.

Interested in learning more? More financial aid secrets are revealed in College Factual’s free eBook, Avoid Wasting Money on College Tuition: Facts and Fiction on Financial Aid.