Help with FAFSA.How to Get Max. Aid....pls Advice

Updated on October 10, 2016
N.A. asks from Westborough, MA
13 answers

Hi friends, Very soon I will be filling out the fafsa form for student aid. My first child is senior in high school now. Please advice me on how to get max. Student aid. I have no debts and looks like my liquid cash amount will get her very less aid. Are there any ways to lower that before I fill out fafsa form? Please help.

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answers from Dallas on

This is something you should be working closely with her high school counselors. They are well versed on all of the forms to fill out for college.

What about 529 plans. Have you saved anything for her college funding? We started my daughter's college savings when I found out I was pregnant.

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answers from Philadelphia on

"FAFSA be like "I see your parents order 2 topping on your pizza, you don't need aid""

I thought it was a total a total waste of time and effort...we didn't get anything but the $5,500 loan that everyone is offered. We didn't even bother to take it. Good luck!

( daughter is now a freshman at a state school. It was not her first choice of schools, she wanted to go to a private school, but my husband and I want her to graduate debt free and that was what we can afford. Fortunately, she now LOVES her college. She's already anchored on the weekend news, she is assistant stage manager for one of the college plays and she has a really nice group of friends.)

(My daughter's SAT scores were pretty high...just under Ivy League school requirements. This, her grades and her extra curricular activities got her scholarship money but it still did not bring the cost down to even close to the tuition at a state school).

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

You have to fill out the form honestly and completely. You would be better off talking to a financial manager/planner if you have a lot of cash on hand anyway - you want someone different from the accountant who does your taxes because they keep each other honest. None of us here know your financial profile (and we shouldn't), so we are not qualified to advise you.

If you live in Westborough as your profile states (as I do), you should attend the evening sessions re college prep at the high school. BUT (important) we were advised to look into MEFA (Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority) for funding (although it's late for you to do that for the child in question) and now there were reports on the local news this past week or so about irregularities and rip-offs. MEFA itself wasn't the problem, but the company they outsourced their billing/accounting to has devastated families and students with debt. I'm so glad now that we didn't go that route. You can check with the attorney general's office and a financial planner about how to get money out of that program if you have used it. You can go to the Boston TV stations' websites for the report.

You will also find that the financial aid offices at the colleges are very helpful, and your child should be open to more than one college to be able to go where the aid is most generous. These offices continue to be helpful through the 4 years of attendance, mixing together a bit of a patchwork of need-based and merit-based aid.

Aid is a mix of federal student loans, federal grants, individual college aid, college scholarships, possible work-study, and some local scholarships (Westborough High School and local civic organizations have hundreds of small ones available, but they add up). Your child should get a list from the guidance office and start looking early on at the requirements, essays needed, and so forth.

Finally, do not put the loans in YOUR name, but in your child's name even if you plan to help the child pay them off. Payment rates are based on the child's starting salary after college, rather than the parents' income. You can still give your child some of the money to pay them, but neighbors of ours really got hit with huge payments because they co-signed those loans.

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answers from Boston on

Pretty much nothing because its based on last year's tax info from what I remember.

When picking school be realistic about what you can afford and how much she takes out in student loans. Private colleges are beyond expensive because people keep sending their kids there and adding debt that will take 20 yrs to pay off. Don't risk your future and hers by saddling her or yourself with college debt.

I'm a big advocate of community college followed by state college if a 4 yr degree is required. Don't let her waste time and money going to school to figure out what she wants to do when she grows up. Have her get an education that will get her a job. She can always go back later and take additional courses if she decides she wants to do something else. I can't tell you how many of my kid's friends wasted their parents money only to end up working at the mall.

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answers from Washington DC on

You need to see your son's school counselor.

You see a Tax accountant and they help you complete the forms to get the max aide.


You need to see your son's school counselor.

You see a Tax accountant and they help you complete the forms to get the max aide.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

There are lots of websites out there with this information. Just Google it. There are guidelines around things like what % of parent assets are considered available for college expenses (currently 5.64%), what % of the student's income and assets are considered eligible (currently 20%), etc. If your child has money saved up for something like a car or computer or another large purchase, it makes sense to make that purchase before filling out the forms so that those funds don't get reported as cash in the student's bank account. Likewise for parents, things like taking a home equity line of credit instead of a home equity loan can make sense - the unspent money from a HEL looks like available assets even if you have it earmarked towards something else while with a HELOC, unspent funds are simply part of a line of available credit and not an asset to you. You say that you have no debt but do have cash - if you have a mortgage, it might make sense to make some extra payments and lower your cash because cash is an asset but home equity isn't. If you have younger children, you can also move money into custodial accounts for them so that the assets are in their name and not yours. You can contribute to an IRA, or increase your 401(k) contributions and spend down some of your savings to make up for the money that's coming out of your paycheck. So there are ways to manage your cash/debt to maximize your aid but keep in mind that no matter how much you have in savings, only 5.64% of your assets count towards your FAFSA EFC so unless you have hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash lying around, it's not really going to make or break your award.

That said, FAFSA gets tied back to your taxes (this year it will tie to your 2015 taxes) so don't try to fudge or hide any income. Income is the biggest factor in your EFC calculation and really, it is what it is and you can't do anything now to favorably change that.

There is more info online. Just make sure that what you're reading is from this year because the rules change over time and you don't want to make decisions based on outdated information.

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answers from Norfolk on

Be truthful and report everything.
Your daughters high school should be having a financial aid meeting and you need to get info there.
Also, if you can work with a financial planner - they can help you a lot.
Your daughter hopefully has maxed out her scores for SAT and ACT - if her scores are high, colleges will be more eager to work with you on getting the costs down.

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answers from Atlanta on

you go to the school and you talk with your child's counselor and talk to the schools that your child would like to apply to about financial help.

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answers from Chicago on

The Fafsa is going to look at your taxes from 2015. As of this year, you can fill it out as of Oct. 1 instead of Jan. 1. The sooner you file, the better. For Fafsa, your debts are not considered, so having none or having a lot makes no difference. They will look at your income and the amount of money you have in cash, savings (liquid) as of the date of filing. If your child works, they will ask for the same thing, income, taxes and assets. Assets do not include your primary home and retirement accounts but will include other things. Keep in mind, the max on Fafsa is for getting subsidized and unsubsidized federal aid, plus (parent) loan eligibility, work study, and pell grants. The schools you apply to will use the Fafsa results to determine any additional school based grants, scholarships, and the like. Academic and athletic scholarships the schools offer may rely on need, but many rely on merit, which will add to aid packages. Most schools require you to fill out the Fafsa, whether you think you are eligible or not, in order to receive merit offers. As an example, my kids got subsidized and unsubsidized loans, qualified for work study, got pell grants from the Fafsa, AND athletic and academic scholarships, school specific grants, and perkins loans. The big money came from the scholarships and grants, so they will leave school with manageable debt. I also took out a few small plus loans (about 3k worth, so easy to pay off). The Fafsa will tell the schools how much you "need" based on federal guidelines, and the schools can add to that as well based on their guidelines and scholarship/grant criteria.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I would suggest that you talk with a financial planner. I believe the "look back" period on the FAFSA was recently increased to 2 years, so I doubt there is much you can do to change the number for this upcoming year. That said, you should still talk to someone, because you might be able to affect how your numbers are crunched 2 years from now, perhaps increasing the amount of aid she gets starting her junior year.

ETA: In response to those who say to just be honest - of course you should be honest. But a financial planner can help you decide, for example, if you move some of your assets to retirement accounts, instead of having them in a savings account, it might change the amount that is deemed available for your child (that is total conjecture, not a statement of fact). It is worth spending an hour with a professional to find out.

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answers from San Francisco on

The counseling office/college and career center at your child's high school is the best place to go for this help, as they are up to date on all the latest deadlines and requirements specific to the schools where your child is applying.

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answers from Dallas on

We filled it out and all that was offered was a loan for $5,500. Woo-who! We don't bother to take it. That was the case for both kids. Thankfully, we saved money through the Texas Tommorrow fund for both our kids since birth. It still doesn't cover all the costs, just tuition and room and board. But, we are able to pay the difference so our kids are not left with any school debt. Hopefully, your kid can get some academic scholarships which will help. Good luck.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

You have to be honest. They will know if you are fudging on your income. All they have to do is look at your tax returns.

I suggest the two of you go to the college she is wanting to get in and visit with a financial aid counselor and have them help her find scholarships or free money for school based on her race, grades, religion, anything that would give her a little bit more leverage.

When I first went to OU I'd go to the financial aid office and there was a room off to the side. It had large books in it of scholarships that kids could apply for. SOme were based on color of hair and eyes, seriously, one was set up by parents who'd lost their daughter and she had red hair and green eyes, that was their requirement. They paid for the whole year if all their little things were met. Another I saw was for a boy that was Baptist that wanted to eventually go to college to serve God on a mission to China.

There are scholarships everywhere. You just have to go look. If your income is higher than allowed for full financial aid you're just going to have to find additional support or take out loans to pay her educational costs.

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