5 Tips for an Effective Financial Aid Appeal
Is the award letter from your favorite college not what you’d hoped? Enough to wonder if it’s even possible without taking on an enormous loan?
Don’t panic! You DO have the power to up the amount by thousands by opting for a financial aid appeal.
At this point, you’ve tallied the net amounts for your top picks. You roughly know what you’ll owe. What you don’t expect (sometimes) is the amount colleges offer.
A financial change often means you’re entitled to appeal. This is only if it wasn’t already factored in your application or FAFSA submission.
Maybe the numbers crunched into the FAFSA weren’t 100% accurate, or your scholastic achievements amped up later in the year. If so, it’s crucial to not only write an effective appeal letter with explicit details, but also to follow up swiftly… and with finesse.
Below we’ve highlighted five go-to tips when setting out to appeal your award package:
Figure out your eligibility.
Offers are just that: Offers calculated by colleges based on financial need and circumstances. They aren’t necessarily set in stone.
If you do plan on appealing, however, keep in mind colleges generally only reassess with three circumstances:
– Financial (income, debt, family size, etc.)
– Class rank/accomplishments
– A superior offer from a comparable school.
These must have occurred after you submitted all application-related forms. If any of these apply, then it’s time to appeal!
Mark the deadline.
Before you think about drafting up your financial aid appeal letter, add a reminder (or three!) of the last day to send out your commitment deposit: May 1st. This means you’ll need to insert some cushion time between sending off your letter and the beginning of May.
Of course, the earlier the better. Emailing your appeal letter in early or mid-April guarantees enough processing time on their end. You wouldn’t want to lose your chance waiting patiently on their answer.
On top of the date, carefully read their financial aid appeal protocol. One college may want you to follow every step of their process to avoid confusion. They may even disregard your letter if completed incorrectly.
No paper, no proof.
You know the time-frame. You know you’re eligible for reconsideration. Now you need to gather the solid evidence. It all depends on your reason.
For a significant change of income, you may present a few documents. It could be a combination of three recent paystubs, notice of employment termination, retirement notification, and various other supporting papers.
Ask your parents to scrape up any and every form of proof to make your counter-offer air-tight.
Outline your letter, and fill in the blanks.
Any financial aid appeal letter must come from the student, NOT the parent. So why not write it yourself? You should absolutely collaborate with your parents. Ultimately, you do stamp your name at the end.
Your letter’s structure boils down to three elements:
– An intro characterizing your intent to appeal.
– An explanation of the newly developed circumstance.
– A closing statement, reiterating your inquiry to appeal, followed by your name and signature. A polite thank you doesn’t hurt, either.
If you need any ideas on how to outline your letter, plenty of online examples provide guidance.
Own the follow up.
At the end of your letter, pinpoint an exact day and time you’ll call the admissions office to follow up. An in-person appearance always makes a bigger statement, if it’s available to you.
Consider suggesting a face-to-face meeting in your letter. Then call a few days afterward to confirm.
If you decide to take the in-person route, bring along any documents that will seal your claims, such as a copy of the highest offer you received elsewhere.
When in your meeting (or over the phone), steer clear of the term “negotiate”.
Show them genuine enthusiasm for their future role in your higher education career, but don’t shy away from underlining the gap of your parent’s financial state versus their offered amount.
Then drive the point home with either the larger offer at a different college, or your family’s financial change.
Colleges want you to thrive and become part of their community. Admissions officers are no different. They’ll respond positively to a well-constructed appeal, whether they’re able to reformat the offer or not.
If you fit the bill, it’s comes down to how you present your unique situation. Best of luck!
Westface College Planning can help you construct appeal letters and navigate the financial aid process from start to finish. To learn how we can help you call us at 360-818-7728 or sign up for one of our Tackling the Runaway Costs of College Workshops or Webinars.
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