Written by Karen Rile
Published: April 4, 2014 at 1:48 AM [UTC]
March may be the longest month, but April is the cruelest. After the excitement of learning that he’s been accepted to his first choice conservatory, your student receives his financial aid award letter, and poof! The dream is extinguished.
On one hand, there is what you believe you can afford; on the other hand, there is what the financial aid office expects your family to pay. If the gulf seems unnavigable, you can ask the financial aid office to reconsider your student’s award. But before you sit down to draft your appeal, stop a moment to reflect on your situation.
If your household has a very high EFC, and if this is your oldest and first child attending college, and if you do not have outstanding medical or other extraordinary expenses, then perhaps you are merely in the same boat as hundreds of thousands of other Americans caught in the higher education price trap. It’s a rotten place to be, but it is unlikely that your request will be granted. That’s why, back in September, your student picked a financial safety school. It’s time to re-evaluate how important it is for your child to attend this expensive program, and, if so, to think creatively for ways to finance it. See: How Do You Pay For It?, The Cost of Attendance, and How Do You Pay For It (Reprise).
On the other hand, if you believe that the reality of your family’s financial circumstances might have been unclear or that important factors could have been overlooked during the initial application, or if you situation has changed, then you should not hesitate to request a second look. The goal of the financial aid office is to make it possible for your student to attend; they won’t punish your child or rescind his aid just because you asked. Your job now is to produce a convincing narrative, backed up with documentation, that explains why your family needs more help. Here are some tips to get started:
But meanwhile I prepared a comprehensive appeal, outlining our family’s education-related debt, which I hand-delivered to the financial aid office (probably not necessary, but it was important enough to my daughter that I made the 200-mile trip.) I met with a financial aid director—so that she would have a face to put with the letter, and would understand the depth of our sincerity. My daughter asked the faculty to advocate for her. And we produced scholarship offers from the other schools. At the end of April, my daughter’s appeal was granted and her merit scholarship tripled. It’s still below our family’s “need” as determined by FAFSA, but suddenly what was impossible became possible. Was it worth the hours of preparation and advocating? Two years later she’s thriving at that school—I think so.
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Click here for a reference page to all of Karen Rile's series: A Parents' Guide to Conservatory Auditions
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