Should I Even Bother Applying for Financial Aid?

Should I Even Bother Applying for Financial Aid?

By Brandon

A reader asks:

I'm a sophomore just starting to learn about colleges and all that stuff. We are an upper middle class family from an extremely rich suburb, so we are on the lower end of the average net income for our area. Still my parents are well respected and known in their field, because of this making just below a 6-figure salary. I had a college account and stuff but I had some health issues and had to have some fairly expensive, but not necessary to live, procedures.

This greatly increased my quality of life while sort of draining my fund account. My grandparents are also extremely sick and we are paying most of their bills. Anyways we have pretty much no money left for me to go to college, and this situation doesn't seem to be changing any time soon. My question is how do I get financial aid? When they see our family income and what school I come from I'm afraid there going to throw out my application because on the outside it doesn't look like I need any help. How should I apply so that they will actually consider me for aid?

This is a great question because so many people can relate to it. Lots of families look wealthy on paper but are, in truth, not well off; lots of others think, "We’ve worked hard and we’ve saved. Should we even bother applying for financial aid?"

And the answer is always, "Yes."

The FAFSA itself is about as easy to understand as any given episode of LOST—but its complexity is actually a good thing. With over 100 questions, the FAFSA takes a lot of information into account, which means there's room to provide a clear picture of your family's financial situation.

Plenty of families complete the FAFSA each year and are surprised to find they do, in fact, qualify for some financial aid.

Sometimes it can feel as if robots, rather than people, are judging your family's financial means. But in fact, the people at your school's financial aid office will be kind and helpful. Once you’ve applied for aid, you can go to them and explain all your special circumstances (health issues, etc.). They key is to document your requests with plenty of supporting information. Keep all those prescriptions and medical bills handy. Make copies of everything. If you can present clear evidence and make a compelling case for why you need help, the financial aid officers will use a privilege known as "professional judgment" to help you get even more money.

Good luck!

To contact Brandon with financial aid questions, email advice@sparknotes.com.

Topics: financial aid

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