As financial aid award letters arrive, some students and families might be disappointment. The amount of financial aid offered might not be enough to attend the school you have been dreaming of attending. So, what do you do? Can you negotiate your financial aid? Students and families can do whatever they want. However, before contacting the admission or financial aid offices, make sure you follow these tips from someone who worked very closely with financial aid.
There are two things to remember when negotiating your financial aid:
- Don’t treat it as a negotiation. Most financial aid offices are not in the business of negotiating. When they sent your financial aid award letter, it was calculated the way they calculate all financial aid awards. Just because you think you should receive more financial aid does not mean they will give you more. In the eyes of the financial aid officer’s eyes, your award letter is fair.
- Don’t have a bad attitude. No one likes working with someone with a bad attitude. Having a bad attitude will not help your case. In fact, it can actually hurt your chances of getting more aid. When someone goes in being gracious and respectful, they will be more likely to want to look into your case and possibly help you out a bit.
Is there a way to get more financial aid? There is no guarantee the financial aid office will increase your financial aid, but there are strategies you can use when trying to increase your aid.
People are more likely to help friendly, nice, and polite people. Going in and accusing the person on the phone that they did something wrong will only make the person defensive. Threatening that you or your child will not attend the college unless financial aid is increased may have them thinking, “good riddance.”
Show Your Interest
Let the college know you are very interested in attending the college. If the college knows you are highly likely to enroll if more aid is awarded, they may be able to help. Many colleges, especially schools with higher acceptance rates, don’t always meet their enrollment goals. Awarding a little more aid to a student who really wants to attend could help the institution meet their enrollment goal.
Does It Seem Wrong?
After reviewing the financial aid opportunities at the college, did you receive the scholarships you were expecting? For example, if the college offers merit awards, did you receive the award you think you deserve? If something is missing, it is okay to ask if a mistake was made. It is possible there was a data entry error. However, it is important to go in with information instead of accusing them of making a mistake. A good way to approach it is to say something such as, “I have a 3.5 GPA and your website says students with a 3.5 GPA will receive a merit award. However, my award letter didn’t have a merit scholarship.” By approaching the subject like this, the admission or financial aid officer will be more likely to look into your records and fix the mistake (if there is a mistake).
More Aid Offered Elsewhere
Colleges have different formulas when awarding financial aid. So, it is quite possible other colleges will award much more financial aid. However, you can’t go into the conversation saying something like, “College A, B. and C gave me so much more financial aid. If you don’t give me as much financial aid, I won’t be attending your college.” Instead, you can contact the financial aid office and explain the different aid offered at the other colleges and you’re a little confused by their offer because it is so much lower. By hearing the numbers in this way, the financial aid officer may want to look to see if they made a mistake when calculating your aid.
There is no need to negotiate financial aid if your circumstances have changed. You can contact any or all of the financial aid offices to explain things have changed since the figures were given on the FAFSA. For example, if family income has decreased, share the information with the financial aid officer. Financial aid offices have procedures for students who have special circumstances and will recalculate aid if the student and family can provide proof of the special circumstances. Colleges deal with special circumstances differently, so contact the college to learn of the procedures and what you will need to submit to be considered.
Have a Number in Mind
Maybe everything was calculated correctly on your financial aid award, but it just wasn’t enough. If you know how much more would be needed, share that with the college. For example, “My daughter really wants to attend, but we’re $1,000 short. Is there anything we can do?” You never know if they will be able to help unless you ask.
Don’t Ask For Too Much
If you still need a big amount of financial aid to attend the college, unfortunately it might not happen. You can always ask the colleges your questions, but they may not be able to help if you need a huge increase in your financial aid.
Have all of your information prepared before contacting the admission or financial aid office. Know your GPA, test scores, EFC, etc. Lay out your reasons for why you think your financial aid should be increased. Confidence can really help when negotiating or discussing financial aid and your need for an increase.
Financial aid will play a huge role in the decision process for many students. If not enough aid is offered, students may not be able to attend the college they really want to attend. It is okay to ask for more aid from the college, but it is important to do it in a way that does not feel like negotiating. Instead, be nice, share your concerns about paying for college, and be prepared to answer questions.