Boost Your Chances for College Aid

Annamarie Andriotis:

Here’s another source of stress for families with children racing to finish college applications: The moves you make between now and year-end could mean the difference between collecting or losing thousands of dollars in financial aid.

Timing is crucial because the amount of need-based aid a student qualifies for depends largely on parental income in the calendar year before applying for assistance. If parents sell stocks this month to lock in a large gain, for example, their high school senior could receive less aid next fall.

Good fortune also can backfire if, for example, that same high school senior receives large cash gifts from other relatives at the holidays. The formula for federal financial aid requires students to contribute a much greater share of their income than parents do.