Financial Matters: How to Appeal Financial Aid

financial aidDoes your first choice school offer everything you want, but the price tag is making you reconsider? Don’t give up hope! Instead, think about appealing to the college’s financial aid office for more money. While schools won’t necessarily encourage it, you are within bounds. Individual financial aid officers are authorized to make adjustments if they are believed to be warranted.

If you are planning on pursuing an appeal with the financial aid office, be prepared with the following:

First Rule

If possible, try to refrain from making a deposit until you’ve settled the financial aid discussion. Once the school has your money, they’re less likely to reel you in with a better deal.

Be Realistic

Gail Holt, Dean of Financial Aid at Amherst College says, “Be realistic about what you, and the college, can contribute. Show the college that this is a partnership that you want to be part of, but need just a bit more assistance.”

Know Exactly What You CAN Afford

But, be honest here! If your expected family contribution (EFC) is greater than the tuition cost, make sure that your financial aid appeal makes sense. Do your homework, and negotiate in good faith.

Be Informed

Be sure to research the specific policies at each school before beginning a financial aid appeal conversation with them. Nothing would be more damaging than reaching out to a college bragging about your child’s amazing grades, fantastic SAT scores and requesting merit aid; only to find out that the school doesn’t offer merit aid. End of discussion.

If merit aid is available, see if the schools you’re considering offer “preferential packaging.” This is a practice in which they will meet a larger share of financial needs based on the academic statistics of your child. Higher grades and test scores will receive more money. Check to see if your child’s test scores are in the “middle 50” or in the “top 25.” There will be more money at colleges where their scores raise the school’s profile. You can check out some financial aid stats, including what percentage of need colleges typically meet at College Data.

Be Prepared

In most cases, colleges will reconsider awards for just two reasons:

  1. The EFC from the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) was wrong due to a change in the family’s financial situation because of an illness, unemployment, etc.
  2. There is a competing offer from another school. If you decide to mention that competing offer, be prepared to send a copy of the award letter to the financial aid office.

Ask About “Second Chance”

Also known as conditional aid. Check to see if the school is willing to add any more aid if your student gets through their senior year with straight A’s.

Send a Letter

Write down all of your reasons, and ask for a follow-up meeting. In-person would be best, but by phone is also an option. The school has already accepted you, so now you’re just asking if they can help make it possible for you to attend.

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