Decision Day for most colleges is right around May 1, although some have made allowances due to COVD restrictions. This means that high school seniors have very little time left to make their final choice about which college they will attend in the fall.
If your student was accepted to a great college, one thing that could be holding you back from making your final choice is that the financial aid offer they made is lower than what you hoped to receive. You might be wondering if there is anything you can do about it, even at this late timeframe. Honestly, your chances get much narrower as we get closer to Decision Day, but there are a few cases where you might be able to appeal a financial aid award, such as:
- Other colleges made substantially higher offers.
- Your student made exceptional progress since filing the financial aid application, and you think a higher merit-based award might be in order. This might apply in the case of an academic achievement award, outstanding grades in challenging courses, or a higher standardized test score.
- Your family’s financial situation has changed dramatically since filing the financial aid application, and you think a higher need-based award might be in order. This might apply in the case of job loss, divorce, high medical bills, death, or natural disaster.
- Certain household expenses were not reflected in your financial aid application. This might apply in the case of an ongoing elder care situation, K-12 private tuition for siblings, or another family member entering college.
You may be able to file an appeal or request a second review of the offer in these cases, but time is of the essence. Check the paperwork or the college’s website to determine if there are specific procedures to follow for appeals. In most cases, you can call or email the admissions office and explain what changed since submitting your financial aid application. Keep these guidelines in mind when appealing financial aid:
- Be polite and respectful. Yelling, swearing, or bullying seldom yield positive results.
- Be prepared to provide documentation to back up your claims. Keep copies of all documentation you provide.
- You can check once to be sure they have received all necessary information, but don’t contact them every day. Colleges are swamped with requests from other students.
- Always check your portal or email for further communication from the college. If additional information is requested, provide it as soon as possible while your case is still fresh in their mind.
It is still possible that the college may decline to change its mind on your offer. You will then have to decide whether you want to accept another offer, or try to find alternative ways to make up the financial gap at this college. If student loans are a part of this picture, CFAA offers a limited number of Zoom student loan appointments in April and May of each year.
The challenge now is that time is running short, but you definitely don’t want to make a rash decision that could negatively affect your financial situation. Try to find a quiet few hours to sit and really just run the numbers before making that final determination. You can put together a worksheet to compare expenses for each choice and income potential. Discuss with your student the need to address this choice as a family, and make sure everyone has a say in deciding which financial aid offer makes the most sense. If you still have questions, please contact CFAA as soon as possible for further direction.
Remember that CFAA helps with every step of the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to comparing financial aid offers and making the best choice based on your family’s unique financial circumstances. Juniors can set up a CFAA new client free strategy session or a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college. To get the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.