Aim a little low.
Have your student apply to schools for which he or she is slightly
overqualified (and tell the kibitzers to stuff it). "I think more
is made of the prestige factor than should be," says Richard
DiFeliciantonio, vice-president for enrollment at Ursinus College.
"There are a lot of good schools out there."
Cover your bases.
A big state school may use a different system for awarding its
money than a small private school, and a highly competitive college
will likely have a different approach than a middle-tier school.
The more types of schools your student applies to, the better shot
you have at a break on tuition.
File the forms.
Even if you think you won't qualify for aid, file the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which makes you
eligible for federal grants and loans, and whatever applications
the college requires for aid. Says DiFeliciantonio: "If you apply
for financial aid here, we're going to pay attention. Very few
students get nothing."
Appeal the decision.
Let the financial-aid office know if your circumstances have
changed -- say, because of a job loss since you submitted your
application. Last year, Ursinus received 200 appeals and responded
favorably to half of them.
Mention the competition.
If the school's archrival offered your student more money,
tactfully bring up the competing award, says DiFeliciantonio. "We
cannot match every college's offer, but we take very seriously
offers from colleges that are comparable to us."