What happens when you receive a scholarship award – but it’s still not enough to cover the gap between what you have saved and the cost to attend a specific college or university?

Many families accept the scholarship award they’re given and move on. They make up the difference in the cost of attendance with student loans, or they look for other, less expensive schools. 

However, there is another option available to you!  Students and their families can appeal their scholarship award with colleges that they’ve been accepted to. Let’s talk about how you can ask for more scholarship funds, and help lower the cost of college for your college-bound student. 

The Three Types of Colleges When It Comes to Scholarships

When it comes to asking for more scholarship money, there seem to be three different types of colleges:

  1. Colleges that do not accept requests for more financial aid.
  2. Colleges that have a very defined “appeals” process that you must follow.
  3. Colleges that will consider any type of requests for more financial aid.

How will you know which type a specific school falls under? I would suggest first checking for details on the school’s admissions and financial aid pages. If you don’t find anything that clues you in on which type of school you are dealing with, a call to the admissions counselor or financial aid department should clear things up.

Let’s look at each type in more detail.

Colleges That Don’t Accept Requests for More Financial Aid

There are some schools that make it clear on their websites that they will not accept any requests for more financial aid – even if you think you have a good case to increase the scholarship amount your student was awarded.

What should you do if you find out one or more of your student’s top choices falls into this category? 

First, determine if you can settle for the amount of aid awarded. If not, you basically have until May 1 (Decision Day) for your student to apply for private scholarships to make up the difference. Just keep in mind that many private scholarships are for one year only, so your student may need to continue to apply for scholarships each year. Otherwise, it may be best to move on from this school and focus on schools that are more affordable.

Colleges With a Defined Financial Aid “Appeal” Process

Once you find out what this process is, you are ready to craft an appeal. Many schools say they will only take appeals due to changes in financial circumstances or hardships. Don’t let this discourage you. All you can do is ask and try to be convincing about why their current offer creates a “hardship” for you. The worst they can do is say No.

Most schools require a letter or the completion of a standard form for the financial aid appeal process.

Here’s a link to a great article with tips and sample letters.

Who should write the appeal letter? Generally, the student should take the lead on all contact with the school. However, as in some of the examples given in the article, it may be more appropriate for a parent to go into details on the family financial situation. Colleges do expect to get appeals like this from parents and it is perfectly fine for the parent to make this sort of contact.

Colleges That Will Consider Any Type of Request for More Financial Aid

These may be the easiest schools to work with because they may be up for negotiating on your scholarship award amount. Because these schools don’t shut down the option for more money and don’t have a rigid appeals process, they appear more flexible and willing to consider any requests for additional aid (whether that’s actually the case or not).

These schools would be most open to a situation where you are looking for more scholarship money because other schools have offered more. The best way to begin this type of appeal is through a phone conversation with or in person. Do not start off with an email asking for more money. “This is my son/daughter’s top school and we really want to make it work, but X College and Y College have offered more merit aid and therefore their net prices are much lower. Is there any way you would be willing to offer more merit aid?” would be an ideal introduction to your specific case.

Follow that with an explanation of why it would be a hardship for you to pay the higher price. For example, list out your monthly expenses and how much cash flow you have left over to put towards college payments, talk about saving for your other kid’s college funds, talk about needing to focus on retirement savings, etc. And discuss any financial changes or challenges that you were not facing when you first applied to the school.

Schools are not required to increase your merit scholarship amount, but it doesn’t hurt to reach out and ask the question. Be open about your finances, be humble about your inability to make their offer work, and be grateful for what they offer you; whether it increases or not. Remember, college is still a business that must be profitable to survive, so if they can’t offer more money, it isn’t personal. And if they do offer you more money, congratulations! It was definitely worth the ask.


Check out our webinar about appealing to colleges for more money. Matt and Peg walk you through our platform and the best way to tackle financial aid appeals.

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