Right now many students are getting responses to their college applications as well as financial aid offers. In the current economic context, comparing financial aid packages is a critical aspect of making decisions on where to attend.
Official awards are not necessarily the final word on what a school might be willing to provide to an accepted student beyond standard and automatic awards like federal grants. This week’s Chronicle of Higher Education (April 29, 2011) features a great piece on appealing aid awards. Here is a summary of suggestions, both my own and from the article:
- Anyone has the right to appeal, and you SHOULD appeal if there has been a material change in your circumstances since filing the FAFSA or CSS Profile, such as job loss or reduction, unexpected medical expenses, etc.
- If you feel your situation doesn’t readily fit the aid-calculation formula used by the college, by all means explain in detail why this isn’t the case. For example, if the college’s formula utilizes home equity, and home values are skewed in your area, this could be reason for another look.
- The above types of circumstances may be even more likely to tip the balance if your child is a strong applicant and possesses traits that are of interest to the college.
- Make sure you’ve taken the trouble to get your facts straight. Don’t base the appeal on federal financial aid methodology if the school uses it’s own, for example.
- DON’T approach financial aid as you would buying a home or a car, where you dicker and try and beat the system, especially if you actually can afford to pay. Appeals committees will be irritated and feel you are wasting their time. Remember, this is an appeal, not a negotiation.
- DO be polite and observe the niceties of correspondence with the institution, as in addressing letters to the full name and title of the person who signed the award letter.
- Finally, remember that the classic way of approaching getting the best deal (since merit aid appeared on the scene some 20 years ago) is to compare the relative costs of attendance contrasted with offers of aid from several institutions. For most families this will rank high as a deciding factor.
Best of Luck!