Financial Aid Packages: Three Tips for Parents of Seniors
Colleges and universities are sending out long-awaited financial aid packages. Finally! After all this time, families can actually see what it is going to cost to send their student to college. It can be good news or not so good news. Here are a few tips about how to respond, what to look for, and how to ask questions.
If anything has changed in your family’s financial situation make sure to let the financial aid offices know that immediately. There are times when colleges can adjust financial aid eligibility based on circumstances that did not exist when you filed the FAFSA. Examples that are usually taken seriously include loss of a job, major health expenses, divorce or other event that will significantly impact your earnings for the coming year. Keep in mind that the cost of primary and secondary tuition for younger siblings will very rarely be a circumstance that warrants another look at your student’s financial aid eligibility.
Look at the financial aid package in relation to the total cost of attendance. Now is the time when expenses for travel, books and other miscellaneous items are calculated in the equation. Most colleges will include information about the cost of attendance in the financial aid package. Your student does not have to accept everything that is offered on a financial aid package. If your student does not want to accept student loans but does want to accept grants and work study—that is perfectly fine.
“Negotiating” is a sensitive thing. Colleges and universities are not selling cars! The argument that you are getting more money from University A than from University B usually won’t get you very far. Costs of attendance, academic profile and financial realities can vary greatly from school to school. Do not send a college a copy of another college’s financial aid offer or send a form letter. Admissions and financial aid professionals do not respond well to this and it will usually get you nowhere fast.
I know that we could all stand to get a little more money for college, but I do not advise asking unless it is a real impediment to your student attending the college of his/her choice.
If you do contact a college to ask about additional financial aid/scholarship consideration:
Contact the admissions officer who works with students from your area. They will be an advocate for your student on the “inside” and will be your best resource.
As long as it is true, let the college know that their school is your student’s first choice, but it is still a little out of reach financially. Simply ask if there are any additional scholarships, grants or other financial aid that might be available.
Let your student do the talking! I know that when issues of money come up it can be really scary to trust them to take care of things. However, when a student takes the initiative to be engaged it always impresses college admissions folks.