5 FAFSA secrets for getting the most financial aid

By Ashley Eneriz

It's no secret that college is really expensive, but financial aid is available for most students. Before you apply for the FAFSA, check out these five secrets for getting the most money you can.

1. You can appeal the award amount

If your FAFSA award isn't enough to pay for your college expenses, you have the right to appeal. The appeal allows the financial aid officer to look deeper at your individual needs. However, those who are awarded more aid money as a result of an appeal usually have an extraordinary hardship that happened since filing, such as a parent's job loss, wage cuts, or death, or a house fire, just to name a few. Even if you're not sure if you have a good case, it's still worth taking the time to appeal.

2. Submit ASAP

Don’t wait until the very last second to apply for the FAFSA. For some colleges, award money is based on a first-come, first-served basis. You can still apply for the FAFSA even if you don't have a college acceptance letter or haven't yet filed your taxes.

3. Check your application for errors

Even a small mistake on your FAFSA application could cause processing delays. So it's important to go over your application not once, but twice, or maybe even three times, before submitting. If your application is delayed, you may miss out on some federal financial aid, as some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

4. Apply every year

In order to qualify for financial aid, you must submit the FAFSA every year. Changes in student and parent finances, changes in institutional and federal policies, and other factors can affect your award amount.

5. Empty the student's bank accounts

According to Time, “The FAFSA formulas assume that students should be able to spend 20% of their assets on college. For parents, the rate maxes out at 5.64% of assets.” This means that it is better to transfer a student’s assets to their parents before filing the FAFSA. Also, parents should always save college money in their own accounts, rather than putting their child’s name on it.

Applying for financial aid may seem like rocket science, but take your time, follow the instructions, and double-check for any mistakes. For the best results, just remember to apply early, apply yearly, and be sure all college funds are in parents' accounts.

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About the author

Ashley Eneriz has been writing about personal finance and financial aid for the past eight years and has a passion for helping students make wise financial choices. She lives California with her husband and two daughters. She loves writing, reading, and is a sucker for thrift stores and garage sales.