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The Power of the College Money Strategy: $65,028 in Free Money!

Category: College Money Strategy, Must Read Posts
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This is an Example Of What The College Money Strategy™ Has Done For One Student !


Here’s another headline I could use:

How A Freshman College Cost of $29,274 Was Reduced to $11,161!


Or how about this one:

WOW……. This Student Got $15,488 In FREE Money Their First Year Alone!


Read below for the details……


Ok here are the details. This  student came to me with one college choice and only one. That was his first mistake. That particular college, a hot school at the time, wait listed him. If you get wait listed by a college they may not accept you and even if they do your chances for a great aid package drop substantially. I did a college search for him based on our strategy of picking the ‘right” schools and he visited a few and decided there were other colleges he would be happy to attend. The college he eventually chose had a cost of attendance of $29,274 and the family’s EFC was $20,656. You subtract those two and you get the financial need of $8,618.


Final College Choice

Cost of Attendance   $29,274
Expected Family Contribution (EFC)   $20,656
Financial Need   $8,618


Below is the original financial aid award mailed to the student. Look under the financial aid source column. Notice that the top three awards are scholarships/grants given by the college and the last three awards are federal student aid (two of which are loans and have to be paid back).The last one is self help and does not have to be paid back. Everything in bold is free money! Count the free money…. go ahead! That would be $11,000.


Original Financial Aid Award

Estimated Direct Charges




Tuition $11,308 $11,308 $22,616
Student Activity Fee $150 $150 $300
Board 15-meal plan $1,675 $1,675 $3,350
Residence Hall – Dbl Occupancy $1,504 $1,504 $3,008
Total Charges $14,637 $14,637 $29,274

Financial Aid Source

College Academic Scholarship $3,500 $3,500 $7,000
Odyssey Distinction Award $1,000 $,1000 $2,000
FAFSA Early Filer Grant $500 $500 $1,000
Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan $673 $673 $1,346
Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan $640 $640 $1,279
Federal Work Study $500 $500 $1,000
Total Awards $6,813 $6,813 $13,625
Net Cost $15,649


What was the financial need? and what were the total awards? I’ll wait a minute while this sinks in. Their financial need was $8618 and they aid package was $13,625. This student was offered $5,031 MORE aid than their financial need! That’s huge.

College costs were basically cut in half for the freshman year just by picking the right schools.

But wait…..there is so much more!

The second way to dramatically boost your financial aid is by appealing the financial aid award. But it has to be done correctly! I helped the family develop an appeal strategy and after talking to the financial aid officer they received a revised financial aid award. Check this out….


Revised Financial Aid Award

Estimated Direct Charges





Tuition $11,308 $11,308 $22,616
Student Activity Fee $150 $150 $300
Board 15-meal plan $1,675 $1,675 $3,350
Residence Hall – Dbl Occupancy $1,504 $1,504 $3,008
Total Charges $14,637 $14,637 $29,274

Financial Aid Source

College Academic Scholarship $,3500 $3,500 $7,000
Odyssey Distinction Award $1,000 $1,000 $2,000
FAFSA Early Filer Grant $500 $500 $1,000
College Aid Grant $1,994 $1,994 $3,988 NEW AID
Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan $1,313 $1,312 $2,625 MORE
Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan $0 $0 $0 LESS
Federal Work Study $750 $750 $1,500 MORE AID
Total Awards $9,057 $9,506 $18,113
Net Cost $11,161


Hey look! They added another grant and they replaced the unsubsidized stafford with a maxed subsidized stafford loan. (Basically the subsidized is interest free until the student is out of college while the unsubsidized is not). They also increased the federal work study.

So free money was increased by $4,488!


There is so much I can say about this but let me make one important point. The Financial aid officer has discretion that means that they have the ability to award what they want! (within the federal and college guidelines) even, and listen closely to this, even with federal financial aid. This student’s financial need did not change but the federal aid amounts increased as well as the college specific aid amounts!

Here’s how the entire 4 years played out:

All Four Years






Cost of Attendance $29,274 $31,698 $33,260 $36,420 $130,652
Gift Aid Awarded $13,988 $11,784 $14,956 $18,300 $59,028
Work Study $1,500 $1,500 $1,500 $1,500 $6,000
Loans Awarded $2,625 $4,500 $5,500 $5,500 $18,125
Total Aid Awarded $18,113 $17,784 $21,956 $25,300 $83,153
Parents Total Cost $11,161 $13,914 $11,304 $11,120 $47,499
Total Free Money $65,028


The grand total was $83,153 in financial aid of which $65,028 was FREE … yes free college money!

Now you see why you need to develop a Strategy and I will help you anyway I can! If you have a success story like this please share it. If you have a story about how you could have been more prepared please share that as well. The community wants to learn how they can better their own situation and you can help!

Leave a Comment

2 comments… add one
  • chioma

    l need to know how to get money for my son for his college. He wants to do arts/computer He has gotten arts school and a technical college and the total of these school cost each is roughly eighty six thousand each and how do i go about getting scolarship for him for we do not have the money to pay. l am on ssi.

    • Jonathan Pagano

      Is he currently a senior in high school? If so then your options are limited. You will need to contact the financial aid officer at the college and discuss your financial situation with them. If he is a sophomore or junior then you have many more options to consider.