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Paying for College

Improve Your Odds for College Aid

Aim a little low. Have your student apply to schools for which he or she is slightly overqualified (and tell the kibitzers to stuff it). “I think more is made of the prestige factor than should be,” says Richard DiFeliciantonio, vice-president for enrollment at Ursinus College. “There are a lot of good schools out there.”

Cover your bases. A big state school may use a different system for awarding its money than a small private school, and a highly competitive college will likely have a different approach than a middle-tier school. The more types of schools your student applies to, the better shot you have at a break on tuition.

File the forms. Even if you think you won’t qualify for aid, file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which makes you eligible for federal grants and loans, and whatever applications the college requires for aid. Says DiFeliciantonio: “If you apply for financial aid here, we’re going to pay attention. Very few students get nothing.”

Appeal the decision. Let the financial-aid office know if your circumstances have changed -- say, because of a job loss since you submitted your application. Last year, Ursinus received 200 appeals and responded favorably to half of them. Mention the competition.

If the school’s archrival offered your student more money, tactfully bring up the competing award, says DiFeliciantonio. “We cannot match every college’s offer, but we take very seriously offers from colleges that are comparable to us.”