college

Opportunities for financial aid

"Our advice every year is for students to communicate with their school if they have any challenge with regard to financial aid, and the only thing I'd add this year is that it may not hurt if you have unaddressed financial challenges to make that additional contact with colleges even as late as August to find out if there is any flexibility," he says.

Though most colleges are aware that the large number of uncommitted students this summer may lead to the availability of additional aid in the eleventh hour, Hawkins says the colleges he speaks with regularly "are still unsure as to the magnitude of (how much more may be available)."

Ask for a judgment review

 Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, an online financial aid resource, is less optimistic for students who have already received their financial aid packages.

"Does the size of this year's summer melt mean there's more money available in the budget for incoming students?" he asks. "I don't think so."

Colleges, he says, make their best and final offer to students in the initial financial aid package and aren't likely to give students "a second bite out of the apple."

That said, Kantrowitz notes some students appear to be waiting longer to file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, fearing the need for financial assistance might influence the college's decision to accept them.

"There may be some of that going on," he says. "But you should always apply for aid if you need it because some colleges may admit you under the assumption that you don't need aid and they won't allow you to apply for it later -- so you're admitted but you can't afford to go."

Students should also always ask their school to review their aid package if there's been a change to their financial picture, including the loss of income.

"You can ask them for a professional judgment review if there's something you didn't reveal to them initially or there have been some other unusual circumstances since you applied," says Kantrowitz.

New recruits have advantage

 Kalman Chany, founder of Campus Consultants and author of "Paying for College Without Going Broke," agrees that colleges are more likely to give out excess aid dollars to new recruits than to existing students.

But "it doesn't hurt to ask," he says, noting it's important to understand the application process.

"Just saying 'I need more money' or 'our income is lower' isn't going to hack it," he says. "But if you have high medical expenses, for example, which are not accounted for on the FAFSA form, you should request a review. You then have to be able to document that."

If you or your parent lost a job, have your or your parent's former employer confirm it on company letterhead.

Lastly, if you're still on the prowl for extra cash and you've already selected a major, be sure to contact your academic department before school starts.

According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, some awards are designated for students in particular areas of study and the financial aid office isn't always privy to that information.

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