Why Reaching Out to a College Planning Advisor with Financial Aid Appeals is a Good Idea
By Joe Messinger, CFP®
March 19, 2021
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, a college planning advisor can help you start the financial aid appeals process. You will likely be quite overwhelmed, so our advice is to reach out to a college planning advisor who has experience in breaking it into small, manageable, and actionable steps to get you through the process in one piece.
Let’s get started.
A College Planning Advisor will get to your ‘why’
Advisors will work with you and get on the same page as to why you want to appeal in the first place. Below are a few questions they will 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. An advisor will examine the offers and help determine if you have a case for an appeal and will start to formulate a game plan.
A College Planning Advisor will help you understand your options
As part of a comprehensive college plan, an advisor can help you navigate the appeals process if it makes sense for the college you want to get into. They have experience with different colleges and universities and can tell you if they’ll budge on aid or not, or even if it’s worth a try.
An advisor will be able to guide you when an appeal letter would be appropriate. They’ll look at if there are:
- Multiple offers: If the student has been accepted to a variety of colleges and has received a larger aid package, they can help you reach out to the other schools and see if they will match it.
- More than one child attending college: Families with more than one student enrolling in college might have a better chance for more financial aid.
- 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 you, you would be eligible to appeal your aid package.
- An error on your original document: If an error was made, your advisor can help guide you to 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 you in the long run. The important thing here is that you know that this is an option for you and an advisor can clearly walk you through the process.
A College Planning Advisor can help set-up a timeline
Once you know that you want to start the appeals process, your advisor will help you 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 you must send in an appeal letter as soon as possible. This can be done as you are working to analyze the offer letters. As soon as you and your advisor both see a discrepancy, you can start walking through options for appeals.
- Call ahead: Each school’s appeals process will look slightly different. Your advisor can help you contact the right department and 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: Your advisor can help you put together the right documents to try to appeal based on your child’s merit. In this case, you want to make sure you attach your student’s transcripts, honor societies, merit-based awards, etc. The more information you can provide to support your claim, the better chance you’ll have.
Each college or university has its own timelines for hearing back and varies based on each institution, but most appeals will be responded to within 4-6 weeks.
A College Planning Advisor can provide a blueprint for writing the letter
Once you work with an advisor to devise a strategy, they can help you 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
- 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 help to get you through the financial aid appeals process. By being proactive about your aid package, you can save thousands of dollars, and it may even allow you to take on one less loan.
Proactive college planning is all about leveraging available resources to improve your financial outlook. This is where a college planning advisor can really help you get the best price at the college your student would like to attend.