The Final Step in the Financial Aid Application: Ask for More Money!

One simple letter to a college can result in thousands of dollars in increased aid and years of reduced financial stress, as parents no longer have to struggle to tackle insurmountable college payments. With the stress of saving and paying so much for college under control, these parents - often your top talent and most experienced employees -  can fully engage in their work.

If your employees are parents of high school seniors, they have likely completed their FAFSA forms. And if their kids applied to any private colleges, they may have also completed their CSS/Profiles.  Congratulations to them!  The most difficult part of the financial aid application process is over.  They can now sit back and nervously wait for the money roll in, right? Wrong!

Are your employees leaving thousands of dollars on the table?

While your employees could take this passive approach to the financial aid process, as most families do, and accept whatever aid the colleges offer (or don't offer!) their children, they may very well be leaving thousands of dollars on the table.  I encourage every client I work with at College Coach to remember the final step in the financial aid application process:  Going back to the colleges and asking for more money!

"What?" is the first reaction I normally get from parents.  "I can do that?"

Absolutely! You can and should. Oftentimes, colleges have more flexibility with their financial aid offers than a parent would think.  And what's the secret to getting an increased offer?  Amazingly, in many cases, all a family has to do is ask.

The two categories of additional college financial assistance appeals

At College Coach, we counsel working parents as to how to best approach making requests for additional financial assistance.  These requests tend to fall in one of two categories:  appeals or negotiations.

Appeals

A financial aid appeal is a request for additional assistance based upon special financial circumstances that a family may have.  Perhaps a spouse has experienced a recent job loss, last year's income was artificially inflated by exercising a company stock option, or an employee has excessive non-discretionary expenses, like medical or elder care.  Circumstances like these are not reflected on the FAFSA, and are great reasons to request a reconsideration of a financial aid offer.

Negotiations

Negotiation, in contrast, is not based upon special financial circumstances that a family has, but on how attractive a student your employee's child is to the schools he has applied to and what offers he may have elsewhere.  Remember that the college application process is a two-way street:  While each student is competing with thousands of other students to be accepted to the college of his choice, the colleges are also competing with each other to attract the most qualified candidates to their school.  If an employee's child receives a better scholarship offer at one school than another, I encourage them to share that better offer with the school her child really wants to attend and ask if there's a way to narrow the cost gap to make his attendance more feasible.  If the client's child is a particularly attractive student to the school in question (and College Coach can help them to select the schools where they will be top candidates), the college may be willing to increase its offer in order to lure the student away from the competition.

Empowering employees to proactively tackle financial stress

College Coach can advise your employees as to which of the above methods of requesting additional financial aid may be most successful in their particular circumstances and how to best approach such requests.  Whatever tactic your employees utilize, however, there is no reason not to make the request.  The worst a college will do is say "no," and at that point, a family will need to decide whether that particular college is worth the price of admission to them.

With the right approach to such requests for additional aid, however, your employees are likely to hear a "yes" from one or more colleges, increasing the grant/scholarship assistance (i.e. free money!) offered to their children.  This educational assistance can increase your employees' financial well-being, in turn supporting employee engagement, and engendering high appreciation for the unique benefit that provided them with the insight and expertise necessary to bring an affordable education within reach.

Written by: Shannon Vasconcelos

About the Author

Shannon works with Bright Horizons Education & College Advising corporate clients to deliver college financing workshops and provide personalized counseling to employees. She has over 10 years of experience in student financial assistance, at Boston University and Tufts University, and has also served as an active member of MASFAA’s Early Awareness and Outreach Committee, as a trainer for DOE’s National Training for Counselors and Mentors, and as a volunteer for FAFSA Day Massachusetts.