Total Pageviews

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Financial Aid Awards - Evaluate, Consider, and, maybe, Appeal


It is essential to understand the net cost at each school. Unfortunately, it is often the case that financial awards are incomplete so additional research is often needed. First, what is the COA, the total cost to attend for one year? This includes tuition, fees, room, board, books, personal expenses, and transportation to and from campus. Each college has an official COA. Your personal cost of attendance will vary. To normalize the COAs, adjust them so the same amount is included for books and personal expenses at every school.  For your own calculations, adjusting the transportation allocation will give your family a more accurate idea of your actual net costs. Keep in mind, however, the official COA is the one which come into play should you appeal the award offer.

COA – Grants – Scholarships – Tuition Reductions = Net Cost

COA – Grants -Scholarships - Tuition Reductions – Work Study – Student Loans = Current Out of Pocket Cost

Do not subtract parent loans.


After having calculated the net cost, can you afford it? Remember that this is the cost for only one student for only one year. How many children do you have? What is the graduation rate at each school? (How likely is your child to graduate in four years?) is one site where you can research 4-year graduation rates. Be aware that some programs, like architecture, are 5-year programs. Engineering or other schools which have many students participating in cooperative education or internship programs which delay graduation beyond four years may also have high graduation rates. If your student’s college  is of this type, take this into consideration as you consider award offers.

Note which scholarships are renewable. These will be renewed as long as the student takes enough credits each term and maintains a specified GPA. (These can be great motivators to keep your student using top study skills once on campus, too! For many, losing their scholarship means losing their ability to continue attending that college.) Once lost, these types of scholarships cannot be re-qualified for. Scholarship award letters and notices specify whether a scholarship is renewable and, if it is, for how many terms.


Circumstances that warrant an appeal letter:

1.     Change in family size. Should a family member die or move away, parents’ divorce, or a new child (or more!) arrive, it is important to notify the financial aid office immediately as you have likely grounds for an appeal. Such a change in circumstance may result in additional expenses, a loss of income, and other significant changes in the family.
2.     Loss of job or income.  One of the most powerful reason to appeal a financial aid award is that there has been a significant loss of income since the filing of the FAFSA or CSS PROFILE form. If this is due to a circumstance beyond the family’s control, this circumstance is one which enables financial aid officers to adjust the student’s aid package. The financial aid office will want to know the date of the change and the circumstances. They also will want to know the amount the earnings have been reduced and any reasonable estimate of how long it might be until a new position is procured or the income is restored. Whenever possible, provide documentation of your statements.
3.     Significant non-discretionary additional expenses.  A serious injury or illness in the family, or needing to move an elderly family member into your home, or a natural disaster that results in damage to your home, vehicle(s), or family members are all events which can be grounds for an appeal. Document your expenses as best you can.
4.     Better offer from a similar school. Some schools will adjust their offer in the event your student has received a more generous aid offer from a competing institution. It is important that the schools be similar to the one you will be appeal. Enclose a copy of the competitor school’s award letter with your appeal letter.  This sort of appeal can be even more effective the later in the season it is, as colleges scramble to fill their classes. At the same time, very popular schools tend to fill their class early so being prompt will be more beneficial in those cases.

Important Guidelines for Writing a Financial Aid Appeal Letter.

Should you determine that an appeal might be helpful, check each school’s financial aid page on the website to see if instructions about how to appeal are listed. Some schools have a form they required to be completed.  Most schools, however, do not have appeal instructions online. In those cases, give the office a call and ask how they would prefer you present your appeal.

1.     It is perfectly acceptable for parents, rather than the student to communicate directly with the financial aid office. This is not the case with the admissions office. However, it is fairly common for the financial aid office to require your student to sign a FERPA waiver giving them permission to speak with you.
2.     However, it is ideal, especially if this school is your child’s first choice school, for him or her to write a note to attach to your letter saying that this is his/her first choice school and that s/he has asked his/her parents to appeal for more financial aid to enable him or her to attend that school. Have the student include a statement that s/he will attend the school, if the finances can be worked out.
3.     In all communication, clearly identify the student by legal name, date of birth, high school, whether a first year or transfer applicant, and the application round (early decision, early action, regular decision). Clearly identify yourself and your relationship with the student.
4.     I encourage you to express some sort of happiness or gratitude that your child was accepted into the college and express gratitude for any grants and/or scholarships which have already been offered.
5.     Early in your letter, identify it as a letter of appeal.  Ask them to review their offer of financial aid in light of the information you are providing in your letter.
6.     State your information concisely.  Let your appeal be based on clearly stated numbers, dates, and events beyond your control.  Proofread your letter to ensure that the situation(s) you are describing are presented in a way that someone completely unfamiliar with them can understand them and that how they affect your ability to pay for college is evident.
7.     If possible, make it clear what you are asking for.  If you need the grant to be raised to $10,000 in order to make your child’s attendance at that school affordable, state this clearly.  If this amount makes the net cost at your child’s top choice school the same as a rival school, state that clearly as well. Reiterate your child’s comment and state that you’ll agree to their attending this school if your appeal is approved.
8.     If you can visit the aid office, mention in your letter that you would like to arrange a meeting as soon as possible after they have had a chance to review your appeal.  Otherwise, let them know that you will be following up in a few days by phone.  It is easiest to say no to someone in a letter, more challenging by phone, and even more difficult in person.  When you meet, be courteous and that them for their time.
9.     Finally, be sure to thank them for taking the time to review your case.  Explain that your family’s finances play a significant role in determining which college your child can attend. If this school is the first choice school, be sure to state that as well.  And express your hope that they can make it possible for him or her to attend.

For assistance with evaluating, negotiating, and appealing your financial aid award, please contact Katherine at

No comments:

Post a Comment