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If your first choice college offers everything you want but the price tag is making you waiver, don’t give up hope. Instead, consider appealing to the college’s financial aid office for more money. Using their professional judgment, individual financial aid officers are empowered to make adjustments.
If you plan to pursue an appeal with the financial aid office, be prepared with the following:
First rule – if possible, try NOT to make a deposit until you’ve settled the financial aid discussion. Once they have your money, colleges will be less motivated to reel you in with a better deal.
Be realistic. Gail Holt, Dean of Financial Aid at Amherst College (www.amherst.edu) shares “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 more than the cost of tuition, then make sure that your request makes sense. Do your homework and negotiate 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. Nothing would be more damaging than contacting a college, touting your child’s fabulous grades, awesome SAT scores and requesting merit aid, only to find out that that school doesn’t award merit aid. End of discussion.
If merit aid is available, check if the colleges you’re considering offer “preferential packaging” – it’s a practice whereby they will meet a larger share of financial need based on the academic stats of your child, i.e., stronger grades and test scores will receive more money. Take a look to see if your child’s GPA and/or test scores are in the “middle 50” or in the “top 25.” There will be more money at schools where their stats raise the school’s profile. You can also check out some fascinating financial aid statistics, including what percentage of need colleges typically meet, at College Data (www.collegedata.com).
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 an illness, unemployment, etc., 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. The college has already accepted you—now you’re just asking that they help make it possible for you to attend.
Colleges are prepared for an onslaught of financial aid appeals this year. A new financial aid tool, SwiftStudent, is a free online service for anyone who wants to submit an appeal letter directly to their college’s financial aid office. Access their website formswift.com/swiftstudent for detailed instructions on how to submit a letter of appeal and to view sample appeal letters that address a wide variety of financial circumstances.
To learn more about Financial Aid,
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