A step-by-step guide to negotiating a better financial aid package

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You did everything you were supposed to do. You filed your FAFSA® on time. You didn’t miss a single deadline. You even spent time every weekend applying for scholarships. But, despite all your efforts, you still don’t have enough money to cover tuition.

What do you do now? Attend community college? Forego your college dreams?

No, of course not!! Now, it’s time to negotiate.

Did you know you could negotiate or appeal for more financial aid from your college? Here’s how!

How do you know if you can negotiate for more aid?

First, you’ll want to figure out which category fits you best. I’ll outline them for you below.

Major Life Changes

Has your life drastically changed in the past two years? If you fit into this category, you’ll be able to appeal for more aid based on your change in financial circumstances.

  • Have you or your parents gotten divorced?
  • Have you or your parents become unemployed or taken a pay cut?
  • Have you or either of your parents gotten married?
  • Has an immediate family member, like a sibling or parent, passed away?
  • Have you or your parents given birth or adopted a child?
  • Have you, or anyone who lives with you, been hospitalized or injured which resulted in medical bills totaling over $10,000?
  • Have you been affected by a natural disaster?

Accolades and Accomplishments

For students with stellar grades, you’ll be able to negotiate for more aid based on merit. It helps if you’re an active volunteer at your school or in your community, too!

Multiple Offers

If you applied to another school and they offered you a better aid package, you can use that to negotiate for more aid. Schools will compete for your attendance!

So, if the college you want to attend sees that another school is willing to offer you more money – they’re very likely to match or even exceed the competing offer!

Writing Your Appeal

Now that you know what category you fit into, it’s time to write your appeal.

The word “appeal” makes this process sound more intimidating than it actually is. An appeal is just a letter that explains your situation and why you need or deserve additional financial aid.

Not a great writer? Don’t worry! The financial aid office isn’t going to throw away your request if your grammar isn’t perfect or you missed a punctuation mark. All you have to do is tell your story – plain and simple.

If you need a little help getting started, click the link below for an easy to follow template.

Aid Appeal Letter Template

Find Your Proof

Regardless of your claim, you’re going to need to send proof of your circumstances along with your letter.

In cases where your financial situation has changed, you might want to share W2’s showing the change in income. If you’ve had a baby or have a new sibling, they might want a birth announcement or copy of the birth certificate.

For merit-based claims, reach out to a teacher or coach and ask for a letter of recommendation.

Call your financial aid office for more information on documents to share with them on the appeal.

If you’re unable to call the financial aid office, just leave a note at the bottom of your appeal, stating that you’re willing to share any documents they need upon request.

Submit Your Appeal

Now that you’ve written your letter, it’s time to get it submitted. Just follow the steps below:

  1. Call your financial aid office and ask who you should email your letter to. More often than not, it’s the general financial aid email address.
  2. Look your letter over one last time to make sure it looks great
  3. Use your name and student ID number as the subject for the email
  4. In the closing of your email, ask for confirmation that they received your letter.

What Happens Next?

After your appeal has been submitted, the waiting period begins. Unfortunately, you won’t hear back immediately, and it may take a few weeks for them to make a decision. But don’t lose hope.

Keep an eye on your email and student portal for any updates. And make sure you’re following up with the financial aid office – you’ll want to make sure they have everything they need from you.

Plus, a couple of phone calls will ensure they don’t forget about you and continue working on your case.

Decision Time

If your school decides to grant you additional aid, congratulations! Make sure you log in to your student portal and accept the additional funds.

Should the school decides not to grant you additional aid, unfortunately, there’s not much you can do. Submitting a second appeal will not sway them to change their decision.