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JUNIORS - Prepare Yourself: What to Do If You're Denied Financial Aid

Picture this scenario, mid-March, next year:

You've been accepted to your dream college. Congratulations! Your hard work, commitment, and college application dedication has finally paid off. Or, has it?

You're not so sure, especially after you and your parents looked over your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), listed on your Student Aid Report (SAR). You couldn't help but be a little concerned at that EFC figure. It seemed like a lot to be expected to contribute toward college costs. But, you crossed your fingers and hoped for the best. You were definitely going to get aid... right?

Perhaps not. It may turn out that you don't qualify for enough need-based student aid, namely federal grants and loans. Here's why: Your family's income and assets are tabulated based on a standard (but not perfect!) federal methodology, which decides what portion of your dough you get to keep and what portion you can afford for academics. If the government feels your family can cough up a certain amount of cash for college -- and it can't -- it may be time to explore alternative financial remedies.

"Even if a school's award letter has left you with a package you cannot accept because your need was not fully met, you may still be able to negotiate a better deal," explains Kalman Chany, president of Campus Consultants, Inc.

Search for Scholarships
Many scholarships are awarded not on your family's financial status, but on your academic potential, goals, ethnicity, etc. Look into free on-line scholarship search engines that match you to specific awards:,,

Or, scour your local bookstore for scholarship books like The Scholarship Handbook (The College Board, $27.95). Then, put some time and effort into landing yourself some free college money.

"Diligence and persistence pay," says Chris Vuturo, author of scholarship books, who scored $885,000 in scholarships when he was a student. (not too shabby!)

Military Opportunities
You may wish to apply for a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship offered by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corp (accepted at most colleges).

These programs allow you to earn either a full or partial scholarship plus a monthly stipend in exchange for four years of active duty and two more of reserve duty after college. Speak with your local Armed Forces recruiting officer or ask your high school counselor for more information.

Non-Federal Loans
If you don't qualify for federal, need-based loans, look into...

PLUS loans: Loans to your parents for your college education

Private loans: Available from lenders such as TERI, Citibank, Sallie Mae, Nellie Mae, PLATO, etc.

Home equity loans or extended lines of credit: Have your parents check with their bank.

Stafford loans (unsubsidized): Up to $23,000 (total, for dependent students) is available for your first four years of college.

State-sponsored programs.

Then, to estimate the amount of educational debt you and your family can reasonably afford, check out the free on-line loan calculators at, or

Pay It Off Little by Little
Many colleges offer monthly payment plans that allow families to spread payments over the academic year instead of having to pay in one up-front, lump sum. Other schools even accept credit card payments toward tuition. Have your parents contact your choice school's financial aid office to discuss such options.