Will I get more financial aid with two kids in school at the same time?

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Q. I make too much money to get any need-based financial aid for college. I will have one child starting law school at the same time another starts undergrad. Will the colleges give more aid because I have them both in school at the same time?
— Mom

A. We’re glad you’re planning ahead for college.

Several issues come into play here.

Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is calculated when a family applies for federal financial aid, and it can change from year to year based on how many siblings are in college simultaneously, said Jean McAllister, a certified financial planner with Peapack Private Wealth Management in Bedminster.

So you should file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year, she said.

“You should file even if you have been denied aid in previous years. Families with multiple children in college at the same time may have greater financial aid eligibility,” she said. “This is because the financial aid formula incorporates a family’s financial obligation to each college student in the household.”

Colleges offer merit and needs-based financial aid, but their review and award practices vary widely across the population of four-year undergraduate institutions, McAllister said.

She said school financial aid offices do consider the number of students within a household and may work in tandem with the financial aid offices of the schools your other students are attending. Graduate schools may offer merit-based aid, but it is more common to find work-study programs to defray graduate study costs, she said.

“Schools that offer financial aid – mostly private colleges – use a supplemental form called the College Scholarship Service Profile  to arrive at a proxy for the Expected Family Contribution to help them determine whether or not aid or awards will be offered to the applying student,” she said. “This form is more detailed than the FAFSA filing and can be time-consuming to complete.”

Each school will have its own review process and your students will need to apply for aid at their respective schools and work closely with the financial aid offices to improve their chances of receiving school-offered financial assistance, McAllister said.

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This story was originally published on Jan. 3, 2022.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.