By now, you’ve made your final college decision, but you may still have questions about how to pay that tuition bill once it’s time. Fortunately, there are options for students and families who may not be able to afford the education that they once thought possible.
Financial aid administrators are able to change their initial financial aid
offer through an appeals or professional judgment process. Though these appeals are typically reserved for extreme cases, students can sometimes even negotiate their scholarship offers.
1. Assess your circumstances.
If your family has fallen under financial hardships, the school does not expect you to pay with your existing financial aid package. These special circumstances include, but aren’t limited to, job loss, unexpected medical bills or a parent’s death. Additionally, though the FAFSA attempts to provide a complete picture of your financial obligations, it doesn’t take into account conditions like disabled siblings or parents that require medical or occupational therapy, which also fall under the realm of a possible appeal to your financial aid package.
At this time, you can also “negotiate” your scholarships
or merit aid. If you feel you deserve more or were given more scholarship money from a similar institution, you can always use that as leverage to make a case for more scholarship dollars. However, treat this particular request with care and tact. Don’t use the term “negotiate;” simply ask financial aid officers if anything can be done to further compensate your merit achievements.
2. Contact the financial aid office at your institution.
Whether you’ve just made your final college decision or you’re about to pack up for the dorms, it’s never too late to appeal your financial aid decision. You can even request an appeal in the middle of the school year.
Contact the financial aid office via phone call or letter; do not email. This is a personal plea for an appeal so you need to make it as personable as possible. If you write a letter, detail the circumstances and provide evidence to go along with your claims. However, if you call into the office, it may be best to set up an appointment either over the phone or in-person to discuss the change in finances at length.
3. Be prepared, open and willing to compromise.
When you have conversations with financial aid officers about the change in financial circumstances, provide documentation, like unemployment benefits or medical bills. You’re making a case for a new financial aid package
, and you need to prove that you need it.
Finally, financial aid officers are helpful, knowledgeable staff at universities who work hard to ensure that paying for school is as feasible as possible for all students. You’ll get a lot further in your appeals if you see the financial aid officer as a partner and not an adversary. If you are open and appreciative of their help, financial aid administrators are more likely to do everything possible to make paying for school easier for you and your family.