How to Maximize Aid Eligibility

The cost of a college education is significant, and competition for student aid is as intense as ever. However, there are some steps you can take to maximize your eligibility for student aid. No matter what your financial situation, you should fill out a FAFSA as soon as possible because most students apply for some type of aid. Don't wait to fill out your tax forms first. You can estimate your income now and correct the numbers later.

Here are some other useful financial aid tips:

  1. Many student aid awards are merit-based. Your grades, standardized test scores and other criteria usually determine your eligibility. Be sure to study hard and keep your grades high. Your hard work will pay off!
  2. List your name and Social Security number exactly as they appear on your Social Security card. A mistake will delay the processing of your FAFSA.
  3. Make sure to double-check your FAFSA responses prior to submitting. It sounds simple, but the smallest mistake will affect your aid eligibility and award.
  4. If you are unemployed due to being laid off, you may be considered a dislocated worker for FAFSA purposes. If you meet the criteria to be considered a dislocated worker, this could affect how the government treats your assets and could even reduce your Expected Family Contribution to zero.
  5. Understand what types of investments and assets are to be reported on your FAFSA. Mistakenly reporting investment value or assets could inflate your Expected Family Contribution and affect your student aid.
  6. Check to see if the colleges you apply to require a "CSS Profile" or any college-specific financial aid forms. Be sure to submit these in time to meet deadlines. (The College Board, a not-for-profit membership association, administers the CSS Profile for colleges.)
  7. Don't be discouraged if you didn’t get the type and amount of student aid you want. Reapply each year, as your eligibility or the amount of aid available may change. Keep in mind that a little extra effort will go a long way!