When you get the financial aid letter from the school, you may be disappointed at what you see. Perhaps your student didn’t get what you expected, or maybe there have been changes that affected the financial picture.
You may wonder if the school will reconsider your award, given the new information that you have. The good news is that you can appeal your financial aid award for a variety of reasons. Read on to discover exactly what to do!
Why You Can Appeal Your Student’s Financial Aid Award
Unfortunately, just being upset with how much your child was awarded isn’t a good reason to appeal. You have to have specific circumstances that apply to your family.
The reasons that you can appeal include:
- A reduction in income
- An addition to the family
- Job loss
- Natural disaster
- Private tuition for other children
- Care for an elderly parent
- Changes in the number of dependents in the family
- Increase in childcare expenses
- Unusual events or one-time income that inflated previous years’ incomes
You may also choose to appeal your award if your student will have unusual expenses that makes the school’s cost of attendance inaccurate for you. You won’t be able to change the SAR, but you can appeal directly to the school to change your expected financial contribution (EFC). This will make you eligible for more federal and school aid.
Steps in Appealing a Financial Aid Award
It’s important to know that the school’s financial aid officer has the authority to make changes in your award and EFC. Consider these steps as you look for additional considerations.
What Do You Need?
The first step is to figure out what you can afford and how much more you actually need. You can determine the net cost, which is the total cost of attendance after you remove grants and scholarships. Look at your family budget to see how much you can contribute. Show the school that you plan to help, but that you need a little more assistance.
Collect Your Data
You’ll need to research the school’s financial aid policies, so you can know what to ask for. If they don’t offer merit aid, don’t ask for it. Find out how much of student need is usually met and use that to make your argument. Next, document your financial situation, especially showing where the differences are between the FAFSA and reality. Don’t be embarrassed – you may save thousands just by being honest about your family’s situation.
Make Your Appeal – On Time
Be sure to make your appeal before the commit deadline, and before you send your commitment or deposit for your student’s schooling. When you hold back your deposit, you have additional leverage. When you appeal, write a personal letter explaining your situation. Ask for a “professional judgment” review. Let the college know if this is the school your student really wants, and why. Ask for a follow-up meeting to drive home how much this matters.
Ask About Aid for Sophomore and Future Years
As you move through the appeals process, be sure to ask what your student can do to position themselves well for sophomore and future years’ aid. Is a certain GPA more likely to get more? Are there scholarships they can apply for?
This not only shows your family’s commitment to the school, but it can also give you valuable information about paying for school as your student progresses. You can also ask about having additional children in school, especially if they want to attend the same institution.
Final Thoughts on Crafting Your Financial Aid Appeal Letter
You can appeal financial aid for a number of reasons. Primarily, the financial aid office will want to know what they didn’t already see on FAFSA and other forms. You have to show that those documents did not provide the whole picture.
Paying for college can be a major challenge, but when you show a school that you’re making a good faith effort and just need more help, you can make a strong case for more financial aid.
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By Debbie Schwartz, founder of Road2College, the go-to site offering families unbiased and transparent information to help parents and students become educated consumers of higher ed.