April brings that time of year for taxes and sorting out financial aid offers. In the financial aid process, the question is: Are all financial aid packages written in stone, or can they be appealed for more money?
The answer is YES, you can appeal, but with caveats. What is definitely true is half or more of families that appeal financial aid offers do get more money, and that includes families earning an annual income of $100,000 or more. Colleges want enrollment; they are in business. And, they know if a family appeals the financial aid package, the more likely their student is to enroll.
So when can you appeal—every time? Not exactly. There are three circumstance when a financial aid appeals will be most appealing.
1. For change in your financial status: If you have lost your job, your income has been reduced, you have had health care expenses, you have credit problems, or you have suffered a disaster, your financial pictures has changed and is worthy of new consideration.
2. Because you think there has been a mistake. Everyone can make a mistake, including financial aid offices. It is not unseemly to ask for a review of your application if you truly think there has been something missed or overlooked.
3. You have a better offer from another school but want to go to this particular college. This usually happens with merit aid, aid given for a student’s achievements and not based on need formulas. Students who are very competitive, whom many schools want, are attracted by these grants and scholarships. It is not uncommon for schools that want a student to match another school’s offer. (Be aware that some colleges have a policy of never matching another’s school’s offer.)
When you appeal there are some DO NOTs:
• Do not call it bargaining or negotiation. You are not in the drivers’ seat, and you need to be humble in this request.
• Do not include pet health costs as your example of financial hardship, nor the cost of food, etc. Don’t try to game them.
• Do not have an attitude that you’re entitled because another school has offered you a better financial aid package. Different schools have different needs and different resources.
Here are some Dos:
• Do write your appeal out.
• Do document your appeal.
• Do use the words: reconsider, review, or reassess.
• Do have the student applicant make the appeal. This shows confidence, know-how, and commitment.
It does not hurt to ask. The worse answer could be No. You have a chance to improve your financial offers; why not take it?