6 last-minute strategies to pay for college

With college classes starting soon, ideally you’ve made all your payments and are ready to settle in. But if you’re still looking for financial aid to help cover your tuition, you’ll have to move fast. Here are six strategies recommended by people who specialize in college admissions.

1. Contact your school’s financial aid office

Call your school today to discuss your options with a financial aid officer, who can lay out funding options or direct you to the school’s payment plan, if available.

“They want the student, they’re expecting the student, they have the deposit, they’re holding a dorm for them, so they have a huge incentive to work things out for the student,” says Donald Heller, provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of San Francisco.

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Confusion around borrowing money and questions about how to finance a degree can scare people off, says Ofelia Morales, director of financial aid at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“Why not come to the people who understand it and can help guide you?” she says.

2. Submit a student-aid application

If you haven’t already, fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid , or FAFSA, which is used by the federal government, states and schools to determine what kind of aid might be available to you.

Since you’re submitting it close to the start of the fall classes, you may have missed out on certain grants, scholarships or need-based aid, but federal loan options are still available. The student aid award letter you receive from filing the FAFSA will detail what federal loans you may qualify for. The sooner you apply, the better the chances that you’ll receive any aid that’s on the table. Let your school’s financial aid office know that you have submitted the FAFSA and keep in touch once your award letter arrives.

3. Appeal your financial aid offer

If your family’s finances have taken a hit since you received a financial aid award, let your school know, since you could be eligible for more aid.

“They should be honest,” says Lisa Sohmer, an independent college consultant in Los Angeles. “They should say, this is what happened — ‘my mother left her job’ or ‘the family relocated’ or ‘my sibling had a health crisis’ — or whatever it is that caused the sudden inability to pay the bill. Find out if there’s anything the…

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