Maximizing Financial Aid Awards

How do you maximize potential financial aid awards?

Today I want to share with you a wonderful resource – TuitionCoach — that may be able to help you do just that. Until last week, you had to pay to use TuitionCoach, but not anymore.

The site contains college funding videos, a library of financial aid resources and software that can help you evaluate competing financial aid awards. On the site, you can also learn how to avoid the most common mistakes families make on student financial aid forms.  Most parents, by the way, make errors on their financial aid applications, which can cost them dearly.

The Best Financial Aid Calculator

TuitionCoach also provides a financial calculator on its site that will generate your Expected Family Contribution.

There are other free EFC calculators on the web and I’ve discussed them before on my college blog. Here is what’s different about Tuition Coach’s EFC calculator:  Once you obtain your EFC, Tuition Coach will help you attempt to lower that figure. The lower your EFC, the more likely that you will be eligible for a better need-based financial aid package.

On this post, I’m assuming that you understand the basics of an EFC, if you don’t read this now:

What Is Your EFC?

For many, if not most parents, the biggest factor impacting their EFC figure is going to be their yearly income. There are ways, however, to legitimately lower an EFC on the margins.

Here’s an example:

If you saved for your child’s education through a custodial UGMA or UTMA that money will be assessed more harshly by the financial aid number crunchers because it’s considered the child’s money.

You could, however, pull the money out of a custodial account, pay the taxes and move the cash over to a custodial 529 plan. Money in custodial and regular 529 plans is assessed far more favorably for parents.  The TuitionCoach would show you what kind of impact that move would have on your EFC.


The brains behind TuitionCoach have also rolled out another tool at TuitionAdjuster. I would recommend using this tool once your child has begun receiving financial aid packages. The tool can help you decide how much of the college financial aid burden the parents will assume versus the child’s obligation. The site can also create a customized paying-for-college plan for you.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also write a college blog for and US News.

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