What should I do if my family situation changes?

If you or a family member experiences a major life change such as job loss, illness, death, divorce or separation, contact your college's financial aid office. You might qualify for more aid, based on the circumstances.

Financial aid director Kathy Ruby, of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, says students shouldn't be afraid to contact financial aid counselors with questions.

"We can help people through the process, even if they haven't applied yet," she says.