How to Negotiate Your Financial Aid Package

Colleges and universities don’t like to use the term “negotiating” when it relates to families trying to get a better deal on their financial aid award.

But the fact is that there is a bit of negotiating that goes on in an effort to secure a student’s enrollment deposit. Whether it’s increasing the aid award or offering more merit money, a college will only respond to a request for more money if the family reaches out to them.

Before you write off an institution due to their financial aid award, here’s what you need to know:

1. Re-evaluation

Most institutions will offer a process called re-evaluation. Re-evaluation occurs when a family receives a financial aid award that they believe is not realistic based on their current financial situation. There is typically a form that the family can fill out that will ask them specific questions. Submitting the re-evaluation form will enable the Financial Aid Office to take another look at the student’s award and see if anything can change.

Just because you fill out the re-evaluation form doesn’t mean you will get more aid, but it’s the only way you can. Contact the Financial Aid Office immediately upon receiving your award. Re-evaluation can take several days to a week to complete.

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2. Contact Your Admissions Officer

Admissions and Financial Aid are often two different entities at the institution. While the two offices should be working in close concert with each other about admitted students, they don’t always collaborate when it comes to a student who is having difficulty with their financial aid award. Your admissions officer is the person who read your application and played a role in your admissions decision. Contact them directly to let them know what’s going on.

If you really want to enroll but the financial aid award is not generous enough, you want the admissions officer to know. Having the admissions officer on your side can’t hurt. They could contact the Financial Aid Office and get more information for you, and, on rare occasion, they can work with the Dean of Admissions to increase your merit aid.

3. Better Offers

If you received a better financial aid award from a comparison institution, the Financial Aid Office may be willing to re-consider their calculation of your need. When you submit your re-evaluation form, also include any awards from other institutions that were more generous with financial aid.

If you are concerned about your financial aid award, request a re-evaluation form from the Financial Aid Office. Let your admissions officer know that financial aid is the rate-limiting step in you enrolling. Send in better financial aid offers to give the institution a sense of the offers you received. Colleges hate to lose students because of financial aid reasons. Something can’t be done all the time, but you won’t know if your package could be enhanced unless you reach out to the Admissions and Financial Aid Offices well before your enrollment deposit is due.


For more insider advice from Sara, download our companion video Negotiating Your Financial Aid Package, plus 6 more videos about #GettingIn—FOR FREE!

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