college

When enough isn't enough

You say that you've gotten government grants, earned private scholarships, and cleaned out your savings account, but there's still not enough to pay for tuition? Don't despair. You still have options.

Document, document, document. If there's been a recent job loss, death, disability, divorce, or other unexpected financial emergency, it could have an impact on your estimated family contribution (EFC). Document the changes and contact your financial-aid administrator.

Position yourself. Apply to schools where you'll be a standout student (the top 25 percent of an incoming class). If you'll be in the middle of the pack at School A but head of the class at School B, you'll likely have a better shot at getting a good financial-aid package at School B. Schools want to attract the most talented students they can, so if you'll be an academic star, they'll probably do more to get you to enroll. Be sure to point this out when making a request for additional aid.

Make your request early. Many schools, particularly private colleges, have discretionary money for scholarships. The funds aren't unlimited, though, and they'll be gone before you know it. Ask as soon as you know you'll need the assistance, and you may be surprised at what schools will offer if they want you as a student.

Seek competitors. Try to apply to schools that are similar to each other. For example, if you apply to one private college, consider applying to another that's very similar. If you can show that a similar school has offered a better financial-aid package, the other school may be willing to meet or even exceed it.

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