5 Things You Must Know before Appealing

Are you the parent of a senior or transfer student agonizing over financial aid award letters? If you are, you’re not alone. This is an exciting, yet terrifying time of year. As student finally have a list of acceptances to choose from, parents finally have a financial aid award package to understand cost. You may know you have “the secret stuff” to get in, but can you pay for it?
If you have received a financial aid award with which you’re unhappy, consider appeals. But first… read through these points:
5 Things You Need to Know about Appeals

1. Know your EFC: Before you can determine whether you’ve received a good award or a bad award, you need to know your family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is generated after you complete the FAFSA and is what the government thinks you can afford to pay for college on a yearly basis. That said, if your EFC is $20,000 and the school’s cost is $60,000, ideally you would receive $40,000 in need-based assistance.

Unfortunately there are a lot of colleges that fail to include an EFC with the award letter, so before you appeal you need to know how much of the gap the school has covered. If you’re receiving 80-90% of aid to cover your need-based allowance, you may want to hold off on appealing. That’s a good award.

3. Be specific. Financial aid officers are immune to your speeches about your child being a superstar. Be realistic and tell the school a number–the number you need. You might want to also provide documentation regarding extenuating circumstances (divorce, medical bills, unemployment, deaths, etc.).

2. Keep your cool. You need to talk to the financial aid department with a clear head. They know how much their school costs (don’t tell them it is expensive), they don’t care about crying (they’ve gotten it all before), and they are inundated with calls this time of year (don’t think you’re alone). Treat them with respect and be straightforward: why you’re calling, what aid package you received, what aid you need, and why you need more than what was offered.

4. Try leverage. If your student received better offers from other schools, but he/she really wants to go to the school with the less than stellar aid package, try telling the financial aid office that. If you explain that you are getting, for example, $5,000 more in scholarships at School B, but your child would attend School A if you could get $3,000 more… it might help.

5. Know when appeals are not an option. If you think you deserve merit-based scholarships or need-based scholarships (when you don’t have a need) be careful. First, not all schools offer merit-based scholarships. Do your research. Second, for the schools that do offer merit-based scholarships there are typically GPA and test score thresholds (sometimes by department)–have that information handy. Last if you got scholarships and grants without much need, and you appeal… it is audit time. You could potentially lose what you’ve received. Don’t be greedy.


If you have questions about appeals, call us. College Planning Experts can help! (661) 295-9946.

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