How to Get a Better Financial Aid Package

Cozby & Company, LLCThe following article was published by the MSCPA.

College costs have become an enormous outlay for every family, and they seem to rise by larger amounts every year. Many families rely on financial aid to help them cover some or all of the costs of higher education. The Massachusetts Society of CPAs advises that there are several steps families can take to be sure they get the most aid possible.

Apply Early

Most families use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for the money they need. The form is typically not due until June, but many colleges that rely on the form have their own deadlines that fall earlier in the year. In order to ensure that your request is considered on a timely basis, be careful to apply early in the year—and at least no later than your chosen schools’ own deadlines.

Get It Right

This may seem obvious, but the first best step for ensuring fair consideration for your financial aid request is to make certain that you read the directions on the form(s) carefully and that you enter all your information correctly as requested. Any errors could cause delays or otherwise hinder the process. When you’re finished, be sure to sign the form and keep a copy for your own records.

Offer Up-To-Date Information

Schools often base their financial aid awards on a family’s most recent tax return. In this uncertain economy, however, that return, which covers last year’s income, may no longer reflect your current financial situation. If one parent has lost a job or if you have suffered a similar economic hardship, write the college financial aid office to let them know exactly where you stand today. (Send this letter separate from the FAFSA form, which should be submitted on its own.) The school may ask you to document the problem, so be prepared to do so. If you don’t tell the school about your current situation, they won’t take it into account in calculating aid.

Don’t Give Up

After you receive the details of the financial aid package the school is offering, you may find that it is not enough to cover your child’s total expenses. There’s no reason to give up hope. It’s a good idea for the student to contact the financial aid office and explain exactly what he or she needs and ask for additional aid. As part of this conversation with the financial aid office, it is appropriate to mention more generous offers you’ve received from other schools. The financial aid office may ask you to fax copies of these offers to them. After consideration, they may be able to offer additional aid if, for example, other candidates who were offered aid decide to go to school elsewhere. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the college will raise its offer, but it’s worth making your case.

Consult Your CPA

Applying for financial aid can be a confusing and frustrating process, but remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Your local CPA can offer advice on college planning and financing as well as any other financial concerns facing your family. Turn to him or her whenever you need expert advice on managing your money. If you have questions about your personal financial planning or need help finding someone to assist you, contact us at (508)830-0007.

About cozbycpa

Heather L. Cozby is a CPA on the South Shore and Cape Cod. The managing partner of Cozby & Company, LLC, Heather has the resources and experience necessary to provide quality professional services on a timely basis and at a reasonable cost. She specializes in tax planning & preparation; audit, review & compilation services; management advisory services; bookkeeping; and accounting. Her unique niche is in working with homeowners’ associations and condominium trusts, advising with rental real estate, and providing outsourced financial consulting for mid-sized companies. She is more entrepreneurial than most accountants, and offers the best of both worlds - providing the services of a larger firm while retaining the ability to connect with her clients on a personal level.
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