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High School Sophomores and Financial Aid: What You Need to Know Now

Updated: May 7, 2021

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Understanding your financial aid picture early provides efficiency when researching school types.

Step 1 – Review financial parameters based on school type

  1. Flagship State School - Expect the minimum cost of attendance to be at least that of your state’s flagship university.  Check out admission requirements based on GPA and Test Scores

  2. Regional State School - If admission requirements are selective for your State's Flagship School, then review Non-Flagship State Schools or consider regional tuition sharing programs such as the Academic Common Market.

  3. Highly Selective Private College - This school type could be generous with need grants but not merit scholarships. Be sure to estimate your EFC or run the numbers through each school's Net Price Calculator.

  4. Moderately Sized and Traditional Private Colleges - Private colleges that provide generous merit or need-based giving, plus graduate the majority of students in 4 years, can be competitive with in-state cost of attendance

Step 2 – Parents need to know that students’ college financial aid awards will be calculated on the base year that starts January 1 of the student’s sophomore year.

  1. Move assets out of your student’s name.  FAFSA assesses money in the student’s name at 20% while parent’s assets are assessed only a 5.65%.

  2. Inform relatives of the best way to help contribute. If a 529 plan has been created to help pay for a grandchild’s education, grandparents should consider waiting until after January 1 of the student’s year to make any withdrawals and avoid the dispersion as counting towards income that will reduce financial aid eligibility.

  3. Consider with whom the student of divorced parents lives – Students whose parents are divorced should research further if living with the parent that will increase their financial aid eligibility, makes sense.

  4. Avoid selling a house during the base year and while the student is in college.

  5. Avoid home equity loans as any unspent portion of a home equity loan is considered a cash asset on the FAFSA.

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