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Scholarships and Financial Aid: Plan Ahead

It’s the time of year that high school seniors have received their college acceptance letters, are waiting for their letters, or are doing the best to evaluate schools based on financial aid.

Smart Money put an article together detailing 9 Ways to help you get more financial aid [1].

It cites the following costs:

The average total cost to attend a private, four-year institution — including tuition, fees, room and board — has increased 30% over the past five years, to $32,307 for the 2007-08 academic year, according to the College Board’s Annual Trends in College Pricing report. At four-year public colleges and universities, costs are 40% higher, averaging a current $13,589. While the amount of financial aid has also risen, it’s done so at a comparatively sluggish pace of 11%. During the 2006-07 academic year, the average package of loans and grants for undergraduates was $9,499.

Here’s the nine ways to help you get more financial aid:

  1. Apply for aid ASAP
  2. Play hard to get
  3. Dig into offer details
  4. Look long term
  5. Study scholarship policies
  6. Exploit school rivalries
  7. Get the college in your corner
  8. Request a hardship review
  9. Keep asking

It may be too late for those headed to college in the fall, but here is another tip to add to the list. 

10. Plan Ahead

Before I entered high school I found out that my state offered a full tuition scholarship for the top 1% of students at each high school in the state.

I was able to do some research to find out that the percentages were calculated at my school using grade point average. If there was a tie, ACT scores were used to break the tie.

Because I was armed with the knowledge, I was able to secure one of the scholarships through the following steps:

  • Earned a perfect grade point average
  • Asked around to find out who else I was tied with
  • Asked the others their ACT scores
  • Retook the test to make sure that I had one of the top ACT scores to break the tie

Without planning, research, and action I probably wouldn’t have received the scholarship.

Other articles about college and financial aid: