Personal finance tips and advice on money and investing to increase your financial intelligence and welfare

Everything You Need to Know about Your College Financial Aid Package

Financial aid helps millions of people attend college each year. It is super easy to apply for, using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and many students are so happy to be receiving such aid that they don’t even question the finer details of their financial aid award package. You might be surprised to learn that your award can be tailored to your circumstances in a number of different ways. Here is everything you need to know about your college financial aid package:

You can negotiate your financial aid. Many people don’t know this because they only apply for financial aid for the one school they are attending. However, you will find that if you apply for financial aid at three different schools, you can get three different award amounts. Therefore, if you don’t think your financial aid package is reasonable in comparison with your real life expenses, you can always make an appointment with your school’s financial aid advisor in an attempt to renegotiate the package.

Colleges sometimes give students more money for staying longer. Therefore, it could pay – literally – for you to choose one school and stay there for as long as you pursue a degree (as opposed to dropping out and transferring to different schools). Just how much colleges reward you for staying loyal is relative to each individual institution, but it can add up over the long haul.

Student loan interest rates vary from lender to lender. The government makes it very easy for you to apply for student loans via the FAFSA. Really, all you have to do is check a box. Additionally, approval is almost guaranteed. For these reasons, many students accept these loans without a second thought, without realizing that they may be able to save themselves thousands of dollars in the long run by inquiring with other lenders.

Your financial aid advisor may be able to help in times of financial crisis. It is not unusual for colleges to have an emergency fund they can draw from in the case of unexpected financial hardships. For example, if your college textbooks cost more than you expected and as a result you are short this month’s rent, you can present your case to your financial aid advisor and ask for help.

Apply as early as possible. The longer the financial aid staff has to process and consider the terms of your application, the more likely it is you’ll receive your most optimal award package. Also, schools generally award the most favorable aid options (free money and low interest rates, for example) on a first come first serves basis.

Financial aid is big business, and your college’s financial aid office is there to serve the college’s best interests. Therefore, you are responsible for representing yourself when it comes to securing the best possible financial aid package for your needs. Use what you know now to optimize your award and secure your education.

About the Author: Thaddeus Leftridge spent a great deal of time working with his finances throughout college. He out out very infrequently, tried to buy used textbooks, and shared resources with his roommates as often as possible.