After working on your essays, applications, and letters of recommendation for months, you finally get an acceptance letter from the school of your dreams. Congratulations!
But what if the amount of financial aid you get is less than you expected? You might be able to ask for more help, depending on your situation. In fact, The Princeton Review said that about one-third of financial aid appeals were successful, which was reported by CNBC.
Having this information will help you learn how to negotiate a financial aid offer and give you the best chance of getting more help.
How to figure out how much financial aid you really need
For the 2020-2021 school year, the College Board said that the average amount of aid that undergraduates got from grants, federal loans, tax credits, and work-study programs was $14,800. Since the average total cost of attending a four-year public school for in-state students was $22,690, you might need more help than your college gives you at first.
Look at the financial aid offers you’ve already been given before you file an appeal. Each college’s award letter will look different, so it might not be clear right away which school has the best package. Follow these steps to make things easy:
Check the “net price.” This is the total cost of going to college after the grants and scholarships you get are taken into account.
Take away other things. From the net cost, take away any other resources you may have, such as money from an education savings account or a gift from your grandparents.
Think about how much money you need. The rest is what you’ll have to pay for yourself. You can do this by using your savings, getting a job, or applying for student loans.
You might find that making a spreadsheet helps you stay on top of things. You can use it to compare the financial aid packages and total net prices of each school. Or, you can use The Hechinger Report’s Offer Letter Decoder, a free tool that breaks down financial aid offers to help you decide.
Once you know what kind of aid you can get and how much you’ll have to pay, you can start talking with the schools you’re interested in. Remember that it’s important to be honest. If you only got half-scholarships, it will be hard to get a school to pay for your whole education. But you might be able to talk your way into a better deal.
How to Ask for More Money from Colleges
Financial aid doesn’t have to be hard to negotiate, though. In three easy steps, you can start the appeals process:
1. Prepare Your Argument
If your situation has changed in a big way, financial aid reps will usually change the amount of aid they are giving you. For example, you may be eligible for more help if your family’s income went down, if a parent died, or if the number of people living in your home went up.
Be as clear as possible when telling people about these changes. Explain what happened, when it happened, and how it affected your finances. For example, someone might say, “My mother lost her job during the pandemic. She made 60% of our family’s income. So, we had to take money from our savings to pay our mortgage. We have put away $10,000 less for my education than we did before.”
2. Gather the paperwork
If you want to change your financial aid offer, you may be asked to show proof of how your life has changed. For example, you may be asked to show a copy of a statement for unemployment or a notice of termination if the person who is helping you lost their job. You might be asked for a death certificate if a parent has died. By getting these documents together ahead of time, you can speed up the process.
3. Call the Office of Financial Aid
Contact the office of financial aid and ask what you need to do to request an appeal. Some schools will ask you to send them a letter, while others will give you their own forms to fill out.
Follow the school’s instructions and make sure to turn in everything by the deadline given.
4. Write a Compelling Letter
If you have to write a letter as part of your appeal, be polite and clear about what happened. Tell them how much you want to go to that college, but that you won’t be able to afford the full cost of attendance with the aid you already have.
5. Explore Alternatives
Some appeals for financial aid are successful, but yours could be turned down. Don’t get down if that happens. There are other ways to pay for your schooling:
Look for grants and scholarships. You might be able to get scholarships and grants from companies or non-profit groups. You can look for jobs or scholarships on Scholarships.com or CareerOneStop.com.
Apply for government help. Some states have their own programs for grants, loans, and work-study. Talk to your state’s education agency to find out what kind of help you can get.
Consider private student loans. With a private student loan from College Ave, you can borrow up to the total cost of attendance minus any other aid. Plus, you can pay back your loan over up to 15 years.
If the financial aid you’re getting doesn’t cover the full cost of college, you need to know how to negotiate. By getting ready ahead of time, you can increase your chances of getting more help.