10 Tips for Getting More Financial Aid

Schools are approving a record number of appeals and giving more aid.

Students look over financial aid materials.


  • Lie or shade the truth. Most aid officers demand lots of corroborating evidence, and they scrutinize it. And the government can take back your aid, fine you, and even send you to prison for lying on the FAFSA.
    • Let shame, embarrassment, or ego stop you from filing a legitimate appeal. You've got lots of company right now, notes Smith-Hammond. "It is your right. You are a taxpayer. You need help, and we are here to help you," she adds.
      • Demand grants to replace student federally backed Stafford and Perkins loans or earnings from a work-study job. Although a handful of schools are promising enough grants to allow low-income students to graduate debt-free, the vast majority of schools can't afford to give out that much aid. "The basic premise of financial aid is that the student and family will do all they can first. Taking out loans is how the student does his or her part," McDaniel's Williams says.
        • Expect a bankruptcy filing to guarantee you more aid. Since bankruptcy typically wipes out debts, colleges may conclude that you now have more money to spend on tuition, notes Eckerd's Watkins.
          • Have your appeal filed by your accountant. Financial aid officers say the most persuasive appeals are filed by students themselves. Letters from parents also are often rewarded. If you can still afford to pay an accountant big bucks, aid officers may suspect you can afford more tuition, too.
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            • How complicated, dysfunctional financial aid system fails students