Time is of the essence to appeal an unappealing financial aid offer. Because few families now play the multiple deposit game to keep their options open past May 1st, a wealth of financial aid offered will now revert back to the coffers of an untold number of colleges where an untold number of students will not be attending!
Additionally, surely not every accepted student who received a financial aid package with $1,000's in need-based scholarships, grants, subsidized loans, and/or Federal Work-Study awards will be attending as well. For those students who lost out on a college scholarship essay, and especially those students who have substantial unmet need, you are advised to contact the Financial Aid Administrator (head financial aid officer) or whomever send out the award letter to appeal it. You can appeal 1 offer; you can negotiate multiple offers. More on that in another post.
It certainly makes perfect sense, because millions of dollars in financial aid offered at 100s of schools will not be realized since many of those who received it simply won't be attending that school. And it gets even better as time goes on, because as each semester ends, a number of students who got beaucoup bucks either drop out, flunk out, transfer, or lose their need based and/or merit scholarships due to academic deficiencies, and the number increases!
What follows is the actual text of a letter I recently wrote and the student signed, which prompted the college to send the family their Reevaluation Form which I reviewed and is now in process:
Office of Financial Aid
Attn: Eileen O'leary, Director of Student Financial Assistance
320 Washington St.
Easton, MA 02357
Dear Director O'leary:
It is my sincere desire to enroll in the fall, and I wish to thank you for my Stonehill Presidential Scholarship! However, as a maximum Pell recipient, I would appreciate the same in an SEOG, and as the responsibility to pay for my education rests solely upon my broad shoulders, a $3,500 - $4,000 Federal Work-Study would be greatly appreciated as well. Thanking you in advance for coming to my aid.
123456 - Student ID#
Here are some of my criteria for a student's appeal letter, so use whatever fits:
• Be sure to send it Priority Mail with Signature confirmation; Express Mail is not recommended
• Since there are now many students who received various types of need-based and merit aid who won't be attending, more will obviously be available
• There will surely be additional aid available for the 2nd semester, etc.
• Your parents 2015 income and/or assets will be substantially less than in 2014
• The death of a parent, sibling, divorce, job loss, business slowdown, or excessive health bills caused a financial crisis
• Every Pell Grant recipient qualifies for a Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) up to $4,000 each year
• Any Federal Work-Study award less than $4,500 should be appealed
• Ask for a Perkins Loan, $5,500 max, ($0 interest for 4 years 9 months) if one isn't offered
• Students whose families have an adjusted gross income of $175,000 or less can qualify for a subsidized Stafford Loan ($0 interest for 4 years 6 months)
• Students from the South attending northern schools should request a winter clothing allowance, but don't specify the amount
• Research the school's travel allowance allocation, and if it's unrealistic, simply ask for a reasonable increase
• If the student will be traveling cross country, politely ask for something that makes sense, but whatever you're asking for, don't ask for "money", ask for help
• If the student received a state specific scholarship, ask for something their state offers, but of lesser value or as a last resort, a modest "credit at the bookstore."
My prescription for success entails having the student write a compelling letter, but only to the individual who signed/sent the award letter. If the sender isn't named, seek out the Financial Aid Administrator or the Director and mail it to his/her attention. Avoid emails, as they're too impersonal, unless that's the only way to contact someone.
Once an appeal letter has been sent, and a phone call asking to speak with the student is received, be sure to ask, "Who's calling?" If it's someone from the college, the student is NOT there, so ask to take a message! This is of the utmost importance, as it's too easy for the caller to simply say, "We received an appeal letter, but unfortunately no additional aid is available. Is there anything else he/she was interested in?" I know of several instances when a call was received on a Saturday night! They win, you lose!
This blog post is part of the 'College 101' blog series, curated by the editors of HuffPost Financial Education to provide parents with the best advice for financing their children's college educations. To see all the other posts in the series, click here.