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“I’m worried my financial aid package won’t be sufficient for me and my family to cover my college costs. How can I negotiate with schools to increase my package, and what other sources of aid are available to students, even if they require some more work from me?” – Matthew H., Richmond, VA
What to Do When Financial Circumstances Change Marjorie Donnamarie Hehn, Director of College Guidance, Canterbury School of Florida
First, breathe. You may be feeling panicked, but college financial aid offices are prepared to deal with this situation. Make sure that you file required financial aid forms as soon as possible. Then, when you or your parents call to update your present situation, the financial aid staff may direct you to gather any or all of the following documents that will prove unemployment: letter from former employer, copy of last pay stub, unemployment benefits statement. You may also need to file a special circumstances form so that your financial aid is recalculated.
Your Relationship with Your Financial Aid Office Matters Monica Inzer, VP & Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid, Hamilton College
Just as all colleges aren’t equal, all financial aid policies aren’t the same. Resources will vary, as will financial aid packages and how colleges respond to economic hardship cases. But don’t panic. In many cases, particularly at places that promise to meet 100% demonstrated need, colleges will be there for families like yours. Call the financial aid officers at the colleges where you applied; explain your situation. Usually, you’ll find them to be very sympathetic and willing to talk you through their policies and your options. And if that isn’t the case, well, that might make your college decision easier.
Personal Situations Do Change -- You Need to Advocate for Yourself Edward Devine, Mainland Director of Admissions, Hawaii Pacific University
The FAFSA is a snapshot of your family's financial situation from the year prior to your enrollment in college. Loss of income, loss of job and changes in family situations may occur after you have filed the FAFSA. The family contribution estimated from the FAFSA data is a snapshot and starting point for colleges to award aid. You can, however, take the opportunity to make the process personal by informing the financial aid officers of these special circumstances. This is not an appeal, but rather an update, usually sent by letter, to make the school aware of a change in your family’s ability to pay for college.
Make the Most of Your Financial Aid Appeal with These Tips Craig Meister, President, Tactical College Consulting
Generally, the more selective the college, the less likely there will be room to negotiate your financial aid package with its financial aid office. Even then, colleges will refer to this process as an appeal, not a negotiation, and they are most likely to come up with new numbers because of a recent change to your family’s financial status, such as a loss of income, high medical expenses, or divorce. Your appeal is more likely to be successful if it includes information not previously submitted and information that is verifiable by a neutral third party. Many colleges also require that you include a special conditions form, tax return, and letter of appeal as part of any request for reconsideration.
Increased Grant Awards: Ask and You May (Possibly) Receive Joan Casey, President, Educational Advocates College Consulting Corp.
Sit down with your parents and determine how much more in grant money (not loans) you will need in order to realistically consider your college of choice. Then contact the financial aid office and ask if they would be willing to increase their award by that dollar amount. If a work-study grant was not initially part of your package, you should ask them to include it. For scholarships, start with your guidance counselor to find out if there are any school or community grants available, and then visit scholarship search sites to identify additional sources of funding.
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