February though May is the busiest time for college financial aid offices. First, they have to do the packaging, determining what and how much aid goes to admitted students, and then they have to navigate the aid appeals or second reviews. Yes, there is a chance for students and their parents to “negotiate” a better financial aid package than what has been awarded.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you are appealing to a college’s financial aid office.
–Make sure you check out the exact appeals process. Time is limited for both an appeal and for acceptance decisions. Don’t slow yourself down. Check on the website for details about the process and in the printed materials that come with the financial aid award.
–Don’t only judge the package by the bottom out-of-pocket costs. Check to see whether the aid is coming in grant or loan form. Remember, grants do not have to be paid back but loans do, costing the student more in the long run.
–Merit aid can differ greatly among colleges. This aid is warded based on student standing which is determined by SAT scores, academic record, and accomplishments. Merit aid is an area that can be negotiated by demonstrating a higher package from one school compared to another. It may be wise to have offers from several admitting colleges to compare and contrast for negotiation leverage.
–Keep in mind colleges are not out to low ball you. They are walking a fine line getting those students who really need more money to attend. They are not offering packages that will immediately move them on to another school. At the same time, colleges do have budgets and do not want to lose a net tuition income. Be reasonable in your request for a review.
–Remember that if an aid package can not be negotiated upward, there are other options. Sometimes monthly payment plans can be arranged or parent loans may be suggested to augment a student’s aid.
Collegebasics thinks it would be helpful for you to read at least two of its articles, “What Financial Aid Officers Can’t or Won’t Tell You” and “9 Financial Aid Questions to Ask Before Choosing a College.”