How To Negotiate With Your College’s Financial Aid Office

  1. File a financial aid appeal.
  2. Let the college know upfront how much you can afford.
  3. Let them know upfront how much more you need to attend.
  4. Tell the school if you had an exceptionally good senior year.
  5. Show them better offer letters that you have received.
  6. Don’t be demanding.

Colleges determine financial aid packages for accepted students based on the information submitted through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. You’ll likely receive this package (if you are offered one) with your acceptance letter. If your offer is lower than you were expecting, you need to know how to negotiate financial aid. Financial aid packages are not inflexible, so don’t rule out the college yet.

If money is the only reason holding you back from attending a particular school, you should try to negotiate with financial aid offices. You could be rewarded with a far more generous package. 

These tips will help you successfully negotiate with college financial aid offices:

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1. File a Financial Aid Appeal

In some cases, you could be eligible for a financial aid appeal, especially if your financial circumstances have recently changed. You would possibly be eligible for an approval if:

  • your or your family’s income has changed.
  • a parent has died.
  • you or your parents recently experienced a change in expenses, unexpected or not.

Colleges have very specific protocols and forms for these appeals, so it’s important to talk to the financial aid office about the process. You will likely need several pieces of documentation or proof to send along with your letter. This process can take several weeks.

2. Let Them Know Upfront How Much You Can Afford

It’s tempting to make your financial situation look desperate, but that may very well backfire. All colleges have a limited budget that they can work around. If your needs exceed what they can offer by a very large margin, they may not decide it is not worth taking the discussion any further.

However, if you are negotiating for a reasonable amount, you have a better chance of getting the additional financial aid that you need.


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3. Let Them Know Upfront How Much More You Need To Attend

Do your calculations before your appointment or call with the financial aid office and determine how much additional aid you need to be able to attend that college. When you give the financial aid office a specific number, you are more likely to receive it, especially if that number is reasonable.

Telling the college how much you need, simplifies things for them. There’s no need to go back and forth with unnecessary discussions. They know exactly how much you need to attend their college and if they have the funds, they’d be happy to offer it to you.

4. Did Exceptionally Well In Senior Year? Tell Them About It

Most colleges go out of their way to reward academic achievements. If you performed exceptionally well during your senior year and have the transcripts to prove it, it’s worth bragging about your accomplishments to the financial aid office. Support this with a well-written personal statement and an additional teacher letter of recommendation to boost your chances of success.

5. Did You Receive A Better Offer From Another College? Show Them The Offer Letter

If another college offered you a more generous financial aid package, use that offer letter as part of your negotiation. Let the school know that they are your first choice and the only thing hold you back from attending their school is the money. Most schools will work towards approving your request if they know you will definitely attend.

6. Don’t Be Demanding

If you go into the financial aid office demanding a better package, because ‘you deserve it’ or because ‘other colleges were much more generous’, you can be sure your request will be denied outright. A polite and thoughtful approach will go much further than a demand.

Besides, the college does not have to increase your financial aid package. You’ll make the most headway with your negotiations by being polite, patient, and respectful with the person or persons you are dealing with.

Are you confused by the financial aid package you received from a college? Or not quite sure how it stacks up to the other offers you have in hand? Our Financial Aid comparison tool breaks down your letters into easy to read and easy to digest information.


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