Financial Aid Negotiation: How To Get More Financial Aid

So your student has been accepted into college. As a parent, you’re now able to let out a big sigh of relief!

Or are you?

Now that the student has been accepted, the daunting task of how to pay for college becomes the next issue to tackle. You’re left sorting through award letters, loan options and potentially additional financial aid forms required by the schools.

While it feels like the acceptance is the end of the college process, it actually signals the start of another round of opportunity. The ball is now in the family’s court. Think of it like the job application process. You’ve submitted the resume, gone through interviews and have been awarded with a job offer (acceptance). If you’re lucky, you’ve now got several job offers to choose from. Now is your time to negotiate salary (financial aid) and decide on which company (school) offers the best package.

Here are a few tips on navigating the negotiation process.

Don’t Commit Earlier Than Necessary

While you and your student may have already made up your minds on which school they will be attending, you don’t need to make this known prior to the school’s deadline. In most cases, this is May 1st. Until then, you have the ability to negotiate with the schools, potentially using other financial aid offers as leverage. I recommend not depositing and committing to a school before you’ve received financial award letters from all schools that have offered acceptance.

In an effort to fill their student quota, some schools will continue to hand out awards to families that haven’t committed. This is a tactic used to entice acceptance and fill out freshman classes, but it’s usually not something that’s offered if you’ve already committed and submitted your deposit.

Appeal, Appeal, Appeal

Unless your student has received an award that completely pays for their education, I recommend that families go through the appeal process. This is essentially asking for the school to review the award to see if there is opportunity for additional aid to be extended.

Get Everyone Involved

Common sense would tell you that if you want additional financial aid you should speak with the financial aid office. While that’s one of the offices I recommend families speak with, it’s not the only one.

Admissions is the office that is being evaluated on the ability, or inability, to fill out a freshman class. Each year a target number is set, and the office has significant incentive to meet their number. In order to do so, they may become more willing to extend additional aid closer to decision day.

While the financial aid office usually oversees need-based awards (grants determined by financial need), the admissions office can have sway when it comes to merit-based scholarships for incoming freshman. They also have more of an incentive to get your student to come to their school. For those reasons, families should reach out to their financial aid counselor AND admissions counselor in order to request additional award.

Recap

After receiving acceptance and initial award letters, there is still opportunity for additional financial aid. Don’t commit too early, make sure to go through the process of requesting additional aid, and get both the financial aid and admissions offices involved.

In addition to these tips, I provide families I serve with step-by-step instructions specific to their schools on how to negotiate additional aid. I’d be happy to discuss these services with you and see how I can be a resource for your family.

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