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Summer Melt: The Financial Aid Secret that Can Earn You Big Bucks

Summer Melt: The Financial Aid Secret that Can Earn You Big Bucks

Take advantage of the summer melt and score more money for college!

By Lauren Bayne Anderson

March 05, 2009

A staggering economy, issues obtaining student loans and rising tuition are making it increasingly harder to pay for college.

But there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel for those in the know.

The yearly phenomenon known within the financial aid community as the “summer melt” is working in students’ favor — this year more than ever — offering the opportunity for extra financial aid that previously didn’t exist. And if you’re one of the few students who know the secret, you can get more cash than ever before.

The summer melt happens every year when students decide at the last minute not to attend a college, leaving their financial aid package on the table. That cash then goes back into the pool of resources — and becomes available for students who know to ask for it.

In fact, all you have to do is ask nicely. Call or write a letter to the financial aid office asking if there’s any money that has become available since other students have made their decision — and let them know if your financial circumstances have changed.

So what else can you do? Here are Alise LeSueur’s, a certified college planning specialist with the National Institute of Certified College Planners, top five tips:

  • Write a letter to the financial aid office, thanking them for the “generous” financial aid package they’ve already awarded you. Tell them that you’re planning to attend and ask if there is any more money that could be awarded to you now that other students have made their decisions.
  • Make sure you know exactly what you’re being asked before you fill out a financial aid form like the FAFSA or an institutional form. You don’t want to be dishonest but you also don’t want to volunteer unnecessary information that can wind up costing you.
  • Try to negotiate before you’ve sent in your deposit confirming enrollment. There’s nothing wrong with letting a school know what another college has awarded you.
  • Let the financial aid office know if your financial circumstances have changed since the original package was awarded. If your parents lost their job or work in a field being particularly hard hit by the economic downturn, some schools will take that into account.
  • Above all, be nice! No student is so valuable that a school is going to drop to their knees to give you whatever you want. “When you approach the financial aid office, approach with hat in hand-never demand,” she said. “Go in with a demanding attitude and you’ll get the cold shoulder.”

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