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Financial Aid Secrets

Did you know that most college students do not get any free money? Most of the time it is because the do not know the ins and outs of college financial aid. They also refuse to do any leg work on going to college. The more you know, the better off you will be when it comes to awarding you financial aid.

You have to learn to work the system and be prepared to do just that. Colleges are looking for outstanding students. Not an average or below average student. You need to be the top of the top. The best of the best. Or at least look like it. Your grades, especially in core subjects matter. Strive for As, at least Bs. If not, colleges will shove you to the bottom of the list. The government and many states give extra grants to needy students who show ability in some science and language courses. Be a top student!

Do extracurricular activities-band, orchestra, clubs, even city and state organizations. Do you have a special talent like playing the violin? Expand upon it. Your SAT or ACT scores need to be well above average. Over 1170 and 1500 respectively. Retake the test as many times as you need and boost that score. Your GPA at least 3.5 and a minimum of 3.0. The top secret to more financial aid is that schools want the best students and will award MORE financial aid to these top students.

Here's another financial aid secret: Apply to more than one school. Your application should go to as many schools as you can picture yourself attending. But do not send one to a school you know you will be unhappy with. Studies have shown that the more colleges you apply to, the larger your financial aid award is. Apply to more than one school that has more money for financial aid or is relatively cheap. Financial aid officers often look at what other schools are competing for you and are willing to up the award to snag you. That is, if you are one of the students described above.

Want another financial aid secret? You may be able to get a better deal on tuition and other costs. If you read the college catalog, you will see the set price. Forget it. See if you can get a better deal. Here's how. Contact the financial aid office in the fall, well after school starts. That is, in your senior year of high school. This is the time when the financial aid office is slow. They will have time to negotiate with you on an aid package and tuition deal. Parents contacting the financial aid office is a very good tip. Ask about all financial aid packages and what's options are available. Negotiate. Get a set tuition rate for the full four years. Yes, they will do this. Talk your child up. Make them sound like they are the best of the best. Get the financial aid officer wanting your child. Did you know that overall, wealthy parents are using these strategies? Concentrate on grants and scholarships from the state and college. Most come with a minimum GPA and can be guaranteed for four years. Bottom line: Don't be afraid to negotiate!

A little known financial aid secret is that there are colleges with similar programs in the same area that are competing for the top students. And they know it. Financial aid officers and admissions is looking at what top students they can lure. Why? It looks better for them! Part of the criteria for making US News & World Report's College Rankings is having student's test scores and grades at the top level.

The more of these students a college has, the more ranking points the college scores.

Guess what? You can show the college of your choice other financial aid offers from other schools if they are better. If one school really wants you, they will match or beat the other financial aid offers. Don't let them fool you. Some may claim they will not look, but they will. If they want you, they will. They may not do better, but they will take another look at your financial aid package and see if there is "something" they can do.

That's the biggest secret. You have to know that you can and should negotiate. But the key is to have leverage. You have to have something that can nudge a financial aid officer. You have to show that you are worth getting and other schools are willing to do better. There is no top college that will let you get away without doing something. But they need to be coaxed. If you are not willing to do the battle, you will get whatever financial aid is tossed your way and perhaps be in over your head financially.

Your goal is to get into the best school you can, with the biggest financial aid package.

Here's the last financial aid secret: The cost of attending a specific college or university has nothing to do with how much you will eventually pay. In other words, a top school that costs $90,000 a year, and offers you $80,000, is a better deal than one that costs $20,000 and offers you $15,000. Or even a school that costs $15,000 and offers you $11,000. You need to put your out of pocket expenses in perspective.


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