Leverage your offer to garner a better award.

Financial Aid: Negotiating Awards

Written By: Sam Feeney | January 13, 2023

Time to Read 3 Minutes


Don’t settle for less!  Three strategies for appealing your financial aid award


If you’re like most parents, you think you deserve a pat on the back (or a stiff drink!) for completing the FAFSA and maybe even the CSS Profile as part of your child’s college application process.  And you’re right!  Those financial aid applications can be overwhelming and confusing.  Congrats on crossing that burdensome task off your list, and if you haven't, check out why you should complete it


But you’re not done yet.  The most important part of the financial aid process is appealing your financial aid award.  The financial aid award package is given to every student following acceptance and includes grants, scholarships, and loans for financial reasons, merit reasons, or both.  In some cases, the financial aid award package will only include student and parent loans, colloquially referred to as “self-help.”


While you may not have known it, you have the right as a consumer to negotiate with your child’s prospective colleges about your price to pay.  (We share much more about the mindset of this approach in our ebook, Hire Education.)  If you’re interested in paying less for college, you need to include the financial aid award appeal in your strategy. 


What is the financial aid award appeal?


The financial aid award appeal is simply that; politely and strategically asking for more money in grants and scholarships (not loans!) from the colleges that have given your child award packages.  If you have the right leverage, you’re more likely to receive an increased award from the college your child wants to attend. 


There are three main reasons college will entertain a family’s request for more money for college: 

  1. Financial: A change in your financial situation
  2. Merit: An increase in your child’s meritoriousness
  3. Competition: A better award from a competing school


If your family’s financial situation has changed since filing the financial aid applications, many colleges will ask you to complete additional forms and request certain financial documents like your most recent tax return and pay stubs.  If your ability to pay for college has decreased, you may be able to get more grants and scholarships from your child’s schools. 


Merit aid is awarded to students who excel in academics, athletics, and activities, but a college application largely recognizes accomplishments in those areas through the end of junior year.  If your child has improved in any of these areas—especially if an award has already been given for them—you have a strong argument to request more money to reflect an increased meritoriousness.


While many schools won’t admit it, the competition between colleges for certain students is fierce and only gets more so as May 1 approaches.  One of the surest ways to increase your child’s financial aid award is to provide an award from a competing—or like—college, one that regularly challenges your child’s top school for students.  Colleges are non-profit organizations, but they all have budgets and bottom lines, so they would prefer to get your child for less than they originally offered than not get them at all.  Note: Knowing this before you apply to college can be an advantage to savvy families.  Reach out to the Real Frequency team to learn more about strategic college selection!


If you’re a parent who wants your child to attend a top-notch school but would rather not pay full price, the financial aid award appeal is an essential part of your strategy.  Learn more about financial aid strategies and all the other steps in the college process by visiting RealFrequency.com.


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