Your admissions application was accepted. You filed your FAFSA and other financial aid information. Your student aid report and award letter just arrived. But their offer falls short of your expectations. What should you do now?
There are several steps you should consider before giving up. First you should review your FAFSA for possible errors. Next you should appeal your financial award. Finally you should weigh your options along with competing offers and then make an educated decision about your future.
Review your FAFSA: If the colleges award looks substantially less than other colleges that you applied to, you need to check with the college to see that they received the correct numbers. It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally the financial aid department transposes some numbers or makes a mistake. If it appears that they have the correct numbers, then they may just be offering an inferior financial aid package. If their offer has very little scholarship, grant and other FREE financial aid, but lots of loans, then you will want proceed to the next step.
Appeal your Financial Award: Writing an appeal letter to the financial aid department can be a great way to ask the school for less loans and more high quality aid. You will need to contact them directly and then put your appeal request in writing. Be sure to let them know why this is your first choice college and provide documentation for any specific items that you would like to bring to their attention. You can ask them to use their professional judgment to enhance your offer. Remember that an appeal has very little downside, but tremendous upside potential. Just make sure that you make your appeal in the right way.
Weigh all your options: Your appeal was received, reviewed and your offer was modified. Now you need to sit down and compare all of your options. Look at the net cost that you will incur for each of the top three colleges on your list. Look at the amount of money it will cost you each semester, each year and add them up over the four years of attendance. Compare your student loans and scholarship opportunities and make sure that you have a true financial picture for each college.
Make an educated decision: Now its time to see if you are willing to pay more for your first choice college… and how much more if the numbers are substantially different. It may be worth a little extra to attend your favorite college, but if the difference is significant and your next choices offer a comparable quality education for less money, you need to weigh the pros and cons of each school and decide where your best value is being offered.
Summary: All to often, students and parents don’t sit down and crunch the numbers before they make their decision. Emotional decisions may be easy to make, but they might be costly over the four years of college as well as the following ten to fifteen years of student loans.
I have found that for most students, if they decide to attend any one of their top three colleges, they will rapidly fall in love with the school that they choose. It is the college life, campus activities, faculty and other students that will make their experience enjoyable and successful. Not surprisingly, every college has a great selection of all of these options and each student adjusts in their own way, no matter where they attend college.
If you would like to discover additional information about this topic, as well as other strategies for maximizing financial aid and reduce college expenses, you can download our FREE College Cost Savings Kit by clicking here.
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