Bay College Planning Specialists

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College Financial Aid – A Game of Strategy


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By Pete Becker

Every year, tens of millions of students and their parents struggle to complete the required FAFSA and CSS Profile forms. These forms are required if the family wants to receive financial aid. They ask for all kinds of personal, financial, and even religious information. It can be a very invasive process. What most parents don’t understand is that they are playing a Game conceived by the Federal Government and run by the colleges. Rarely do the colleges explain the rules in advance. In fact, this game is very much like a game of Poker.

For most people, the first few times they play a game, such as poker, someone explains the purpose and the rules to follow. They are helped until they understand and can play on their own. After a while, the new player may attempt to learn how to play the game well enough to win more of the time. If the player is really serious, they will seek out books, articles, and software to sharpen their skills. The strategies they learn will give them confidence in their abilities and they will start to win more often.

The College Financial Aid Game is different though. The rules of the game were created by Congress and the U.S. Department of Education. Each college gets to add in their own additional rules or change the rules to benefit that college. The game is aimed primarily at the parents. Where can they go to learn about the game? Playing this game means filling out the forms and pressing Submit. For most parents, there is only a once a year opportunity to play.

This game as I have described it is a lot like poker. Your cards are actually your income and your assets. The higher cards in a poker deck such as the Ace, King, Queen, and Jack are the equivalent of higher income and assets. Lower poker cards like 2, 3, and 4 represent lower income and assets.

In Poker, the hand with the highest cards at the end of the game wins all the time, except if you are good at bluffing. In the College Financial Aid Game, if the parents are holding high cards, they loose and the colleges win. The parents have to pay the colleges or will receive less in financial aid.

If the parents are holding or appear to be holding the low cards, they win. That means that the colleges will offer them a great deal in terms of financial aid, and this will include grants and scholarships. The key to playing this game is knowing the rules and learning the strategies that will make you appear as if you have low cards. This means knowing how to appear as if your income and assets are diminished.

The colleges do not play a friendly game. Their rules are tough. They are allowed to count your income and assets even in ways the IRS does not. For income, your Adjusted Gross Income is what counts. Your deductions and expenses are your problems. For assets, most are considered fair game. There are 153 different strategies that can be used to level the playing field for you.
When playing their game, it is in your best interest to learn the rules of their game and to learn the strategies that will help you to win!

About the author:
I have had a long career in financial products and small business. My new role is to educate high school parents on how best to prepare financially for college. As an introduction, I have just completed my brand new ebook which covers ten examples that colleges don’t want you to know about the process. It is “Secrets That Colleges Don’t Want You To Know”. Download it free at http://www.collegeplanningpathways.com

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Filed under: Admissions, Applications, Banks, College Debt, College Financing, College Planning, College Workshops, Essays, FAFSA, Grants, High School, Out of State Tuition, Pell Grants, Public Service, Scholarship, School supplies, Students, Tax Credits, Tuition, Universities, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. Great post! I have 3 children that will soon be entering college and it will be so great to have the knowledge of how to receive financial aid. I look forward to downloading your ebook and finding out about the secrets to receiving financial aid! Thanks, Jamie

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