As the financial aid train continues on its journey from FAFSA submission to Student Aid Report (SAR) receipt and onward to your choice colleges, there is one thing that students and families should know: financial aid isn’t a done deal. What do we mean by this? Well, when you get financial aid award letters from your college or other choice schools (if entering college for the first time), they will quote you what loans, grants and scholarships you may receive, and in what amounts. If you’re satisfied, sign the paper and mail it back, accepting the award. However, many people don’t realize that they can say, “That’s pretty good, but try again” to each school if necessary. Various circumstances necessitate that a student get more financial aid money. If this becomes the case, serious discussions must be had with the school to explain why.
Various colleges have appeal or re-evaluation processes for families to follow in order to acquire more aid due to need or merit. If calling the school works best, parents should handle the over-the-phone discussion, being more learned in financial information than their kids, and speak to financial aid administrators. Before making this call, however, check to see that you meet the qualifications for aid appeal, which often include:
- Family Finances. Has your family suffered a financial blow since you submitted your financial aid application? Dad lost his job? Mom’s sick and medical bills are high? Parents should explain these and other circumstances to financial aid personnel, followed by a request for additional aid money. If proof of financial hardship is needed, don’t be offended. Just send them any documentation that will help your cause.
- Comparison to Similar Others. While we don’t always want to actively compare ourselves to other people as a means of getting what we want, it does help in this case. Students, past or present, who face money troubles or are similarly deserving, occasionally get more financial aid. If you can pinpoint situations like this where the student got what was needed, make a case for your own family and say “Why not me?” Of course, you may want to be more diplomatic than this in your wording, but the main objective is to seek aid awards closer to what these others got.
- Less Favored Schools Offer More. For new students, the goal is to a) get accepted to their first choice school and b) be able to afford it. Sometimes their top pick doesn’t give much financial aid (or any), but other schools that have accepted the student offer generous awards. If this is the case, let choice one know that they are preferred over others and ask if anything can be done to adjust the award.
Alternatively, students may wish to write their appeal to the financial aid office. The medium isn’t a huge deal—snail mail or email work equally well. The importance here is to justify your reasoning for the request. In either case, parent/telephone or student/letter, the request must be handled in the right way. Arguing won’t get you anywhere, so approach the situation logically and calmly.
The old adage, “You never know unless you ask” is absolutely true. Affording college is a difficult thing for the vast majority of students. Sometimes college aid awards are more than fair, but when they are not, students and their families needn’t be afraid to seek better solutions.