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If the Financial Aid Package Does Not Fit, A Request for More Aid You Should Submit

Mark Kantrowitz

July 05, 2010

I’m 16 years old and I’m the valedictorian of my senior graduating class in New York City. This year was a very difficult one finding the right college to go; fortunately I did find the perfect college. The problem is that the college left me with an unmet need of almost $13,000 when my Student Aid Report from the FAFSA said that my family could only contribute $200. Are there any grants or scholarships that I can still surely get? I live with my grandmother and she is going crazy with all this. I really want to go away from home to this college. Studying in city and staying at home will be a total mess, for my grandmother works as a babysitter even at night trying to get money for me and my brother. The noise of the kids and of all the people that go to my home won’t let me concentrate. Also, I have to share the room with her and my brother and that makes everything really difficult. — Carmen R.

Congratulations on being your high school’s valedictorian! I am always very impressed by a student who succeeds academically despite economic hardship. You should be proud of your accomplishment.

You may have your heart set on this college, but the unfortunate reality is that you cannot afford it. It is one of the most expensive colleges in the country. With $13,000 in unmet need you would end up accumulating too much debt by the time you graduated.

Colleges that practice gapping — failing to meet a prospective student’s full demonstrated financial need — fail to fulfill their non-profit mission. It does not do any good to admit a student only to deny them the financial aid they need to attend. What makes the practice even more shameful is when the colleges offer merit-based aid to students who do not have financial need.

Frankly, it is surprising that this college would leave you with so much unmet need. You should ask the college for a professional judgment review to appeal your financial aid package, as the college may have overlooked important aspects of your financial situation.

When you registered with Fastweb it matched your personal background profile with all of the available scholarships for which you are eligible. As new scholarships are added to the database, you should receive email telling you about them if you qualify. Check the “Bulk Email” folder in your email to make sure the new scholarship notifications aren’t being filtered. Also make sure you answered all of the optional questions in the personal profile, as students who answer only the required questions match half as many scholarships. Unfortunately, it is a bit late to be seeking private scholarships for the fall.

Don’t forget about the Hope Scholarship tax credit, which can provide up to $2,500 through your federal income tax return for amounts paid to pay for college. You should file a return even if you don’t have a tax liability, as the Hope Scholarship tax credit is partially refundable this year (up to $1,000). It isn’t a lot of money, but every penny helps.

If the college does not substantially increase your financial aid package after your appeal, you will probably be better off attending a less expensive college that is closer to home so you can save on room and board. Since your grandmother’s home is noisy, you may find it easier to study in the college library, which should be much quieter.


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