If after decoding your financial aid award letters you discover that one or more of your top choice colleges have not offered enough of a discount to make it affordable for you to attend, then you should ask for additional grants and scholarships.
In financial aid speak this is called requesting a re-evaluation or appealing your financial aid award.
There is no downside to asking for more aid. If they refuse, then you are no worse off than if you didn’t ask.
Q & A
How do we appeal?
Review the award letter and any supplemental material to determine if it contains instructions for filing an appeal. Follow those instructions. If no instructions are provided, fax or email a letter to the director of financial aid c/o the financial aid office. Explain that their school is your first choice but that you need more financial aid in order to attend. Provide documentation wherever possible.
When should we appeal?
Email or fax you appeal letter as soon as possible after you have received all your financial aid offers. You want to give the financial aid office as much time as possible to review your request, but you may have more leverage if you have received a more generous aid package from another college.
How can we increase our chances for a successful appeal?
First of all don’t issue any ultimatums.
Be polite. The month after admission notifications is a very busy and stressful time for college financial aid officers as well. Please and thank you will go a long way.
Be organized. Write a clear, detailed appeal letter and provide documentation wherever possible.
What should we do if we received a better need-based award from another college?
If you receive a more generous need-based offer from another college, then send a copy of the financial aid award letter with your appeal letter. Often times, complex family personal and financial circumstances are initially interpreted differently by different financial aid officers.
Although many schools say that they do not “negotiate” financial aid or match offers from other colleges, many will in fact do so if presented with a letter from a competitor. But it is best if you do not present it as a negotiation or a match. Just inform them that another college has read your situation differently and provide any other information that seems relevant.
Other Considerations When Requesting More Need-Based Grant
Have there been any changes since you completed the financial aid application?
College financial aid officers are allowed to use Professional Judgment to adjust the financial aid formulas on a case by case basis.
Report and document any significant negative change in your family financial circumstances that occurred after the date you completed your financial aid application, such as:
- Loss of employment
- Reduction in pay rate
- Reduction in working hours offered
- Elimination of overtime
- Loss of family business
Are there special circumstances that are not reflected on the standard financial aid forms?
- Report and document non-discretionary expenses such as:
- Unusually large unreimbursed medical costs
- Support to other family members e.g. grandparents, aunts/uncles
- Parent educational expenses that are required as a condition of employment, educational expenses for siblings in graduate school
Requesting More Merit-Based Scholarship
Your chances of receiving additional merit scholarship will depend on a number of factors:
- The number of merit scholarships the school awards each year – Your chances will obviously be much greater at a school that awards merit discounts to 50% of admitted students than at a school that only awards merit discount to 5% of incoming freshman. Review the Merit Scholarships for information about how to determine how many merit scholarships each school awards.
- The strength of your academic profile relative to school academic profile -Standardized test scores and GPA are very important. If you are a strong student relative to the overall admitted student pool, your chances improve at many schools.
- The school yield projections – If the school determines that they might not hit their enrollment target, then they might be more likely to sweeten the deal for some admitted students before they move to the waitlist.