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Articles / Applying to College / Effect of Snazzy Older Car on Financial Aid Awards

Effect of Snazzy Older Car on Financial Aid Awards

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | June 16, 2010

Question: We had an accident (with our very old car, high mileage, paid off) SUV and the insurance company sees no value in repairing it given its age and mileage.

The financial aid forms require us to report what kind of cars we drive and how much is owed on them. We must buy a new vehicle and have found some affordable options in older cars once thought of as symbols of excess. Now however they are at bargain basement prices (exactly where we live financially). We have a big family and can't squeeze everyone in a Prius no matter how politically correct it may be, never mind the price.


How closely is the type of car driven by financial aid applicants scrutinized? Can we buy a car that in 2006 was a symbol of affluence but now is more often viewed with raised eyebrows? I can take the raised eyebrows (because the price is very low) but I can't risk future financial aid for my kids because of a false appearance of wealth. Help!

Long question but short answer :) ...

This car that you plan to buy will have no impact on your financial aid awards.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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