All need-based financial aid colleges in the USA require filling out the CSS Profile and IDOC Form to determine financial need. Hence it is in the student and his family's interest to show their assets and income to be as low as possible. Can someone provide any helpful tips on how to manipulate the input without actually doing anything illegal? I will be applying from India to USA Universities.

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Can someone provide any helpful tips on how to manipulate the input without actually doing anything illegal?

The key is to start several years before the form needs to be filled out, some would say you need to understand the financial aid and scholarship forms before you start to save for you child's education.

The forms from the college board CSS Profile and IDOC Form and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) treat different types of income, investments, and assets differently. Knowing how they treat those categories far in advance gives a family time to plan the savings and investments to maximize the chances of getting scholarships and grants.

Keep in mind that the best way to maximize the chances of aid may not be the best way to structure your families resources during the time frame your child is growing up. The risk is that you do everything right according to the plan, but still don't qualify for as much aid as you expect.

This is always the dilemma when saving for college. The fear is that more you save the less aid your child will get; but if you don't save anything they can't afford to go to school.

The helpful tip is to on the day you submit the forms fill them all out truthfully, provide all the documentation they require and hope for the best.

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