College Experts: Negotiating Your Financial Aid Package

“I’m worried that my financial aid package won’t be sufficient for me and my family to cover my
college costs. How can I negotiate with schools to increase my package, and what other sources of
aid are available to students, even if they require some more work from me?” – Matthew H., Richmond, VA

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Don’t despair! You’re not alone
Contact the financial aid offices at the colleges where you’ve been admitted and tell your story. You
will need to document (provide proof of) your parents’ changed circumstances and perhaps write a
statement or complete a form. With this information, the colleges will reassess and revise your
financial aid award. You should receive more need-based financial aid. Other options: strong
students might apply to private liberal arts colleges with strong merit scholarship programs and need
based aid. Or consider a low cost local school to keep your borrowing down. – Ruth Vedvik – Principal, Hardwick Day Inc.
Contact each school’s financial aid office immediately
If you have completed your financial aid applications and your family’s situation changes, it is
important that you inform each school’s financial aid office. Colleges want to know your current
financial circumstances but it is up to the applicant to keep them informed of any changes. Call each
office to ask how they would like you to communicate the information. Typically they will request a
detailed letter and documentation of the change. – Kathryn Favaro – Independent College Admissions Counselor, Favaro College Counseling
Communicate with the aid offices to explain your special circumstances
While you cannot be certain if you will receive additional aid, schools cannot respond to situations
they do not know about. Because your family circumstances have changed dramatically your
resources will be different. Most aid offices will ask you to put your request in writing and provide as
much specific information as possible. Do not wait to contact the aid offices “hoping” things will work
out. Hope is not a plan and most institutional aid budgets are limited. The sooner you make schools
aware of your situation the more likely it is that you will receive some assistance. – Jacqueline Murphy – Director of Admissions, Saint Michael’s College
When financial circumstances change, students can ask for a re-evaluation
“Negotiating” financial aid packages rarely works and may annoy the person who could be helpful. Aid
is usually governed by set policies. If circumstances have changed, financial aid officers are usually
willing to listen and may increase your award. Be sure to provide details and documentation. Even if your circumstances have not changed, you can still ask the financial aid officer for advice about other
resources that may be available and work opportunities. This is what they do and they have the most
up-to-date information. When weighing borrowing money versus working, remember that loans have
to be paid back. – Marilyn Emerson – Founder, College Planning Services
Financial aid counselors can assist if your family income changes
Do not despair. Many financial aid offices will work with you to consider your family’s change in
circumstances. I encourage you to make calls to the financial aid offices at the schools you are
considering. Explain your situation and ask the counselors to detail the process for submitting
revisions to their institutions. Using the new information you provide, the school may calculate a
revised Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Your total financial aid package may then be adjusted
based on the new EFC. – Suzanne Petrusch – VP for Enrollment Management, St. Mary’s University
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