If your first choice college offers everything you want but the price tag is making you waiver, don’t give up hope: consider appealing the award. While colleges and universities won’t encourage it, the financial aid officers are empowered to make adjustments, if deemed warranted.
To appeal, do the following:
Do not deposit until you’ve settled the financial aid discussion. Once they have your money, colleges will be less motivated to offer a better deal.
Be realistic. 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. If your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is more than the cost of tuition, then make sure that your request makes sense. Do your homework and appeal in good faith.
Be informed. Make sure you have researched the specific financial aid policies at each college before entering into a conversation with them. Don’t contact a college, touting fabulous grades and awesome SAT scores, only to find out that the school offers only need-based financial aid but gives no merit aid awards.
See if the college offers “preferential packaging” – a practice in which they will meet a larger share of financial need based on the academic stats of the student, i.e., stronger grades and test scores will receive more money. Take a look to see if your test scores and grades are in the “middle 50” or in the “top 25.” There will be more money at schools where the student’s stats raise the school’s profile.
Be prepared. Colleges will generally reconsider awards for just two reasons: 1) the EFC from the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) was incorrect due to a change in the family’s financial situation because of illness, unemployment, divorce, death or unexpected medical costs or 2) there is a competing offer from another college. If you plan to mention the competing offer, be prepared to fax a copy of the award letter to the financial aid office.
Send a letter. Put all of your reasons down in writing and ask for a follow-up meeting, in person if possible or by phone or Zoom. Be prepared with documents that validate your claims.
Stay cordial and don’t become desperate or melodramatic.
Financial aid administrators have the authority to make adjustments to the financial aid package on a case-by-case basis. They will use their professional judgment to offer the student the best financial aid package they can based on the information they have.