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Spring is the season when high school seniors and their families find out if their awards package at their chosen college or university is enough-or not. A happy time can become stressful when financial aid and award letters arrive with evident shortfalls. It doesn’t have to be that way, and most families don’t realize that they can appeal the award. Whether you have an athlete looking for more money to participate in a sport at a specific university or a student in need of more financial aid, you can always ask for more.

Remember that financial aid determines by an income/needs-based formula used by the financial aid office and that a ‘financial award’ is determined by the admissions office. These are two different monetary benefits, and some students receive both.

An appeal for more money is not the same as negotiating to buy a car or a house, and you need to have your documentation in order. The burden of proof is on you to show the college why they should reconsider. Whether it is more financial aid or more money for your athlete to participate in a sport, parents should start by contacting both the financial aid and the admissions office by writing an appeal letter. You need to explain why financial aid or award should be reconsidered. Secondly, don’t ask for a specific amount and thank them for the award that was received. Remember, you can’t go ‘backward’ on the amount that granted.

Financial Aid is based on two years of federal and state tax returns to prove parental income during the period the student was a sophomore and junior. In some instances, the student’s income will also need to be included if they made above a certain threshold (consult your tax specialist for more information).

Particular circumstances occurring during the last two years that differentiates the student from other students can change the award amount:

  • Death of a parent
  • Divorce or separation of parents
  • Job loss or decrease in parental income
  • The student has special needs or a health issue
  • End of child support previously included in parental income
  • A change in the student’s marital status
  • Catastrophic loss from a natural disaster

When can you appeal an award? At any time when the above occurs, or you feel there was an error or feel your student should receive more. An appeal will be for one year only and you will need to appeal additional years if necessary.

If your child has received multiple offers to participate in a sport or for academics at other colleges, use the better offer to make your case for more money. If your child receives financial aid and has better offer based on a lower cost to attend, ask for the college to make up the difference. Colleges have scholarships or grant monies they may use to entice your child to attend their college versus the competition.

If you have any questions regarding college awards, financial aid, or making up the cost difference by using your investments, feel free to reach out anytime.