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What to Do If Your Financial Aid Is Not Enough

By Gary Williams

September 05, 2008

You want to go to college, but you can’t meet the costs. According to financial aid expert Gary Williams, all may not be lost:

After all of the work it takes to be successful in high school and gain admission to college, it can be extremely disappointing if your family cannot afford tuition. To avoid this situation, take a few basic precautions:

Be sure to apply for aid

If you are in doubt about your family’s ability to pay for college, be sure to apply for financial aid—you have nothing to lose by applying. Submit a FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1, and apply for scholarships and grants. Also, talk with your college’s financial aid office. They may be able to suggest additional sources of financial aid.

Keep good records of your family’s income and assets.

These documents will be invaluable if you have to appeal to a college for more aid.

Be timely with applications and paperwork.

Submit your financial aid application as early as you can. As enrollment season progresses, the school will have fewer and fewer financial aid dollars to distribute. And this can spell trouble for students.

Even with these precautions, it’s not uncommon to find that college is still out of your price range. If this is the case, I can offer one piece of advice: Don’t give up! It may not work out in the end, but you should never walk away without trying the following step:

Meet with a financial aid counselor at your college.

Let them know that you want to attend, but tuition is still not affordable. Explain to them why you cannot meet the suggested cost, and offer to verify it by giving them more information than was considered necessary on the financial aid application. Your circumstances may make you eligible for additional financial aid.

A word of caution: Do not put yourself in a “bargaining” position. That approach can spell trouble. No one wants to feel that they are being used unfairly—least of all, the staff member who is trying to work with you. Just state your case and ask for their continued assistance.

Remember, careful records will help you make your case. Be patient, communicate honestly and you may discover a solution that works for all.

Gary L. Williams served as the Director of College Counseling at the Columbus Academy in Gahanna, Ohio. He is a Past President of the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC).


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