Negotiation is an art. 

Lawyers negotiate contracts, deals, and settlements on behalf of their clients, real estate agents negotiate housing prices for hopeful homeowners, business professionals negotiate the price of products and services to keep their doors open. Negotiation is a major player in nearly every aspect of modern society, so why do people think that college funding is exempt from this? 

We’ll let you in on a little secret: it isn’t. 

The price of college isn’t set in stone and neither is the financial aid that you received in the mail. If you feel that something needs to be altered, you and your student can start the financial aid appeals process. This can be overwhelming, so our advice is to break the process into small, manageable, and actionable steps to get them through it in one piece.

Let’s get started.

Your Why

Before you can help your college-bound child with an appeal letter, you first have to be on the same page as to why you want to appeal in the first place. Below are a few questions to ask:

  • What were your initial expectations for financial aid?
  • How far off is the aid package from those expectations?
  • Will an appeal letter help you get where you need to be financially?

There are many reasons for writing appeals but the main one is that the aid package was smaller than expected, throwing a wrench into your financial plan for college. If after you examine the offers and think they have a case for an appeal start to formulate a game plan.

Know Your Options

When might an appeal letter be appropriate? If you have:

  • Multiple offers: If the student has been accepted to a variety of colleges and has received a larger aid package, you can help them reach out to the other schools and see if they will match it.
  • Exceptional merit: Students with high GPAs, involvement in honor societies, and other volunteer activities could be eligible for more aid on the grounds of being an excellent addition to the campus/university. 
  • Unforeseen incident: While more broad, this could be anything from a loss of income to increased medical bills, to the death of a parent, or any other natural disaster. Should this befall your client, they would be eligible to appeal their aid package.
  • An error on their original document: If an error was made, you can help clients write an appeal to correct that error.   

As you can see, several scenarios warrant writing and sending in a financial aid appeal letter. This is an important step in the college planning process and one that can be extremely beneficial to both you and your child in the long run. 

Set Up a Timeline

Once you know that you want to start the appeals process, you will need to create a timeline for writing and sending in the letter. There are a few key points to keep in mind. 

  • The earlier the better: Schools don’t have a well of financial aid that they can dip into to fulfill every request, so your client must send in an appeal letter as soon as possible. This can be done as you are working with them to analyze the offer letters. As soon as you both see a discrepancy, start walking through options for appeals.  
  • Call ahead: Each school’s appeals process will look slightly different. Call the Financial Aid Office to make sure you have the right email or physical address to send the letter as well as the correct contact information. 
  • Don’t forget about supporting documents: Are you trying to appeal based on your child’s merit? In this case, you want to make sure you attach transcripts, honor societies, merit-based awards, etc. The more information you can provide to support your client’s claim, the better chance you’ll have.

Timelines for hearing back vary based on each institution, but most appeals will be responded to within 4-6 weeks. 

A Blueprint For Writing the Letter

Once you devise a strategy, you will need to make your case in the appeals letter. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Keep it short and sweet
  • Be honest and authentic
  • Provide adequate supporting documentation
  • Have a clear ask (list the exact amount your client is looking for)
  • Ensure the writing is clear, concise, and grammatically correct.

Financial aid is a crucial component of your college plan. To maximize it, you might need to navigate the financial aid appeals process as smoothly as you can. By being proactive about your aid package, you can help save your child thousands of dollars, and may even allow them to take on one less loan. 

Proactive college planning is all about leveraging available resources to improve your financial outlook. At College Aid Pro, we know that college planning can be complex. But our system is designed to help you walk through it one step at a time. 

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