3 Ways To Get More Free Money for College

Dear College Made Simple reader,

For many of our readers, it’s time to start putting some college plans into place.

In fact, one of the most common mistakes I come across when helping families is poor planning – specifically, starting too late.

So today, I’ll discuss three great ways to increase your financial aid payouts – and one you’d be wise to start thinking about right now.

-Scott

3 Little-Known Ways To Get More Free Money For College

1.Base Income Planning

This is incredibly important: When assessing your ability to contribute to college costs, colleges will look at the previous year’s income.

Specifically, that covers the period from January 1st of a student’s junior year, to December 31st of that same year (when the student should be a senior).

During that time, you want to legally ‘minimize’ your income (and “includable” assets). For example, you might consider avoiding capital gains… you might consider avoiding retirement withdrawals… and you might NOT want to switch to a Roth IRA (because the money you transfer – and pay tax on – also counts as income).

As a handy shorthand – if it will add to your taxes, it will add to your income. Most things that legally lower your taxes will also legally lower your income – and hence, typically lower your expected family contribution (EFC). There are some exceptions – a number of colleges won’t give you credit for money deposited into retirement accounts, for instance – but, as a general rule, this is a good guideline.

The lower your base income, the lower your expected contribution – and the more grant and loan money you’ll be eligible for.

2.Be A Star Somewhere

One college applicant we worked with got accepted at three different colleges – each a good, $50,000 school.

Fairfield offered around $14,000 in grants, as did Syracuse.

But Villanova offered her almost $40,000 in aid!

That’s a perfect illustration of our second key – every student is wanted somewhere. It’s tough to know where you’ll be most wanted – one school may love your academics, but another might need your tuba expertise in the school band. You never know where your skills will be most in demand.

That’s why you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. Apply to a number of schools, and see which one wants you most. It might be your favorite – or another offer might help you get your favorite to sweeten the pot.

3.The Big Retirement Plan No-No

Not only are you hurting your retirement by borrowing from the future – when you won’t get lent money – to pay for the present – when college loans are accessible.

Not only are you risking penalties for early withdrawals, and hence paying extra fees for no good reason… You’re also artificially increasing your income – and hence your Expected Family Contribution.

99% of the time, when you withdraw from a retirement account to pay for college, you’re going to have a higher bill – on top of making a mess of your future finances.

Taking from retirement accounts should be an absolute last resort – and even then, it’s questionable. If there is any way to avoid it – do it.

Follow these three little rules, and you’ll wind up with a better payday ahead.

To your college funding & admissions success,

Scott Weingold

Co-Founder, College Planning Network LLC

Publisher, CollegeMadeSimple.com – The free educational resource of College Planning Network, LLC

 

Related Article:

The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Explained: What It is and How to Use It

 

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by CollegeStats.org.  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News, TheStreet.com, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.