Can I negotiate my financial aid?

Colleges determine financial aid packages for admitted students based on the results of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and in some cases the College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS Profile). If your financial aid offer is lower than what you were expecting, requesting more financial aid – read, ask politely, is an option. Financial aid packages can be flexible, so don’t discount the college based on their initial financial aid award.

Should I ask for more?

First, we need to think about why you are asking for more financial aid. Is the answer because you don’t want to pay what the college is asking? Not wanting to pay is not a reason to ask for more. Typically, when your FAFSA results indicate that there is enough financial resource to pay…and you just don’t want to – do not ask for more.

However, if you can demonstrate that your family’s financial situation has changed for the worse, typically due to death, divorce, loss of job, medical bills, or other unseen financial burdens; you may have good reason to ask the college to reconsider your financial aid award with the addition of this new information. Do know that if you ask for more, you will be asked for documentation to prove your financial burden.

Should you negotiate for better Financial Aid?

How to ask for more – Do’s

  • File a financial aid appeal.
    • Contact the college to ask how to submit an appeal. They will instruct you on what information is needed, and what paperwork to submit. The process of an appeal could take several weeks.
    • Keep the letter short and to the point. Include all requested documentation.
  • Let them know what you can afford.
    • This is typically included in your appeal letter. Tell them honestly, what you believe you can pay, per year, in college expenses.
  • How much do you need to make this college affordable?
    • Keep your appeal within a reasonable amount. Most colleges will view $1,000 – $5,000 as a reasonable request. Telling a college what you need simplifies things. They know exactly what you need, and if they have the funding, they will try to meet your request.
  • Let them know if you received a better offer from another college.
    • If another college offered you additional aid, use that offer letter as part of your appeal. Let the school know they are your first choice and affordability is the only thing holding you from attending. Caution: many colleges will not compare financial aid packages or match other financial aid offers.
  • Hold off on submitting your enrollment deposit until the financial appeal results are in.
    • You will lose all leverage if you have already enrolled in the freshman class.

Don’t’s: Things to avoid when requesting additional aid

  • Do not skip asking for more financial aid.
    • The biggest pitfall is NOT asking for more aid. There is no harm in requesting a review of your financial aid package and submitting an appeal for additional funding.
  • Do not be demanding
    • If you feel you ‘deserve’ more aid, or other colleges treated you more generously, your appeal is likely to be denied. Remember that a college does not have to increase your financial aid award, but being polite and patient will help you succeed.
  • Do not use the words ‘negotiate’ or ‘bargain’.
  • Do not ask for an appeal based on academic merit.
    • The quality of the student does not relate to more financial aid. Good grades and test scores prove the student can do the work, but do not impact eligibility for need-based financial aid.
  • Do not overestimate the amount of aid you need. Colleges will see through this tactic and deny your appeal.
  • Do not expect the college to cover your entire financial need – unless that college explicitly states that they meet ‘full-demonstrated need’.

To Pay or not to Pay?

Colleges are on to you. Enrollment specialists have gathered data and done the math, and people who appeal are more likely to attend than people with aid offers who do not appeal, regardless of whether the school gives the appealers more money. In fact, sometimes the people with rejected appeals enroll at a higher rate than those with winning appeals. You’re not going to appeal to a place that you’re not serious about.

In conclusion, the college financial aid process can be stressful, but by preparing yourself and understanding the requirements and process, you can increase your chances of making college affordable. Make sure to ask for help if you need it—the consultants at Solomon Admissions Consulting are experts in the admissions and financial aid processes and can guide you through all of your questions. Contact us today!

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All of our blog posts are written by Former College Admission Officers who serve as members of our admission consultant team.

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