Improve Your Financial Aid Eligibility - COLLEGEdata - Pay Your Way
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Improve Your Financial Aid Eligibility

Can you get a great aid offer by crossing your fingers? Probably not, but you can take steps to improve your chances.

Before you tackle your financial aid applications, consider what you can do to improve your eligibility for the best kind of aid.

Be an excellent student in high school (and college)

Applying to colleges where you stand out academically can pay off. Students whose grades and scores put them within the top fourth of the current freshman class are more likely to get better awards. These students need to keep up the good work in college. Some aid requires the student to earn a minimum GPA each year of college.

Find colleges that are generous with aid

Research the financial aid track record of colleges. Look at their history of meeting financial need and offering cost-reducing need-based gift aid and merit aid. Also look up the aid offered after freshman year for signs of "front-loading," when gift aid amounts shrink after the first year of college. (View this data in any CollegeData College Profile.)

Anticipate the aid formulas the colleges will use

Most colleges calculate aid with a government formula, using information provided by the family in their FAFSA. But about 260 mostly private colleges also use the PROFILE aid application to allocate their own aid. The PROFILE formula dives deeper into a family's financial picture. For example, the FAFSA does not count home equity, but many PROFILE colleges do.

Get smart about college savings

529 savings accounts are designed for college saving. If they are owned by the parent or student, aid formulas will assess them at a lower rate than other assets. Other savers, such as grandparents, should wait to provide college money until the student's last aid application has been filed. Otherwise the money given to the student (or given to the college for the benefit of the student) will be counted as student income and assessed at 50 percent.

Reduce parental assets

Colleges expect parents to use from 5 to 5.64 percent of their assets to pay for college. (A portion of assets is protected by the FAFSA formula.) Parents can reduce assets by paying off consumer debt or making major purchases.

Reduce money belonging to the student

Colleges expect the student to use substantial portions of his or her income and assets to pay for college. Consider spending down student savings and assets on items needed for college, such as a computer. Or place that money in a 529 savings account, where colleges using the government formula will assess it at the lower parent rate.

Apply for aid well before the deadline

Submit your aid applications sooner than later since cost-reducing aid (grants and scholarships) is often allocated well before the official financial aid application deadline.

Know when and how to appeal aid awards

Some financial circumstances are temporary or change after an aid application has been submitted. For example, a parent might have received a one-time bonus. Or a job might have been lost. You can file an aid appeal successfully if you have a good reason. You can also show the college a better offer from another college and ask for reconsideration of your aid package.

What's Next?

  • Use College Match to search for colleges based on their "financial friendliness," and see aid-related data in their Profiles.
  • To get your potential out-of-pocket cost to attend a college, use the Net Price Calculator.
  • To learn more about financial aid, see What Is Financial Aid?
  • .

Note: Financial information provided on this site is of a general nature and may not apply to your situation. Contact a financial or tax advisor before acting on such information.

For Students Age 18 and Older

Have you received a Personal Invitation to apply for a Student Credit card?

Learn how to qualify for a Personal Invitation to apply for a Student Credit Card


1st Financial Bank believes students who pick colleges wisely will also want to learn how to use credit cards wisely.

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COLLEGEdata Dollars are
points you earn by
completing certain
COLLEGEdata activities

Ways to earn
COLLEGEdata Dollars:

  • Complete your Admissions Profile.
  • Add colleges to your College Choices.
  • Update your Admissions Statuses.
  • Use the College Match tool.

What are COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$)?

COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$) are points you earn by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. The maximum number of CD$ you can redeem is 5000. Once you have earned at least 2500 CD$, you can redeem them for $25, which will be provided to you on a Loyalty Card, and once you earn another 2500 CD$, you can redeem those CD$ for a second $25, which will also be provided to you on a Loyalty Card.

Earn points and redeem them for
U.S. Dollars

Complete certain COLLEGEdata activities (for example, signing up, starting your Admissions Profile, searching for colleges, calculating your chances for admission, searching for scholarships, updating your Profile with your admission decisions). Each activity is worth a specific amount of points (CD$). You can redeem the points you earn for U.S. Dollars that will be issued to you in the form of a 1st Financial Bank USA Loyalty Mastercard®.

How do I earn COLLEGEdata Dollars?

You can earn CD$ by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. As soon as you sign up and activate your COLLEGEdata account, explore COLLEGEdata and begin completing COLLEGEdata activities to earn points.

Here is a full list of COLLEGEdata activities for which you may earn CD$ and the number of CD$ you can earn by completing each activity.*

Activity
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Check your CD$ Dashboard at the bottom of the page to view your CD$ balance, find other activities that you can complete to earn CD$, and redeem the CD$ you have earned for U.S. Dollars.