How To Negotiate A Better Financial Aid Package For College


It is quite true that college can come as quite a shock. Often the financial aid package or scholarship that the college is able to offer can be the deciding factor and a student’s decision whether or not to attend a certain school.

However, before you start crossing colleges off of your short list because of the huge fees, have you actually tried asking for more monetary help? Kate McCauley did just this by appealing the financial aid package for her son, and ended up being awarded an additional $5,000 for her trouble in grants and adjusted loans. Her son David is now studying at Fordham University which is located in New York.

Kate explained that whatever financial aid package she looked at, unless fully subsidized it was worth talking to someone about what was being offered. Fordham were offering David a really good package therefore Kate knew how serious they were about having her some as a student.


When McCauley went to appeal she was quick to tell Fordham that it was her son’s first choice and also that her own job situation was about to change. Having an uncle that attended Fordham Kate had a letter from him on her son’s behalf and although there is no proof of whether this played any part in the final outcome of the appeal is not known but any additional information is worth submitting.

When David finishes his studies at Fordham University he will leave owing about $20,000 after graduation and will have attended one of the top 100 private schools so things do not really get much better than this.

The College Board reports that there are over $126 billion in grants, study at work funds, loans and tax benefits that are awarded from the federal government last year to assist undergraduates to pay for college, and approximately 75% of students pay for their college education with the help of these financial benefits.

Although the financial aid packages are usually made up from the information that is submitted on the student’s application in conjunction with other information the student provides, there is a lot more room for manoeuvre that you might think, however it is vital that you appeal within the allotted timescale which is the time between when you receive your award letter and May 1st which is the decision day deadline.

It is important to remember that there is an etiquette to negotiating a better financial package. The financial aid officers are used to dealing with two types of disappointed parents, those who make a reasonable case as to why the need more help and those that scream and shout out of sheer frustration. There is a far greater chance of the financial aid officers to negotiate if you keep any discussions civil and courteous.

It is best to approach the situation by asking the officer to help you understand how the figure was reached and then explain why you may not think that this is correct. Colleges can revise awards if there are special circumstances such as the loss of income, serious illness, sibling’s tuition costs and care cost for other family members. The majority of the negotiation involves giving additional or updated the information that was originally submitted.

One really good way to approach negotiation of a better financial package is to present the preferred college with a better offer from another establishment, as this can be really influential and if the college really wants a student you will be amazed at how the school can find further funds to either match or top the other offer.

When you begin negotiating bear in mind the following top tips:

  • Be polite
  • Have a realistic figure in mind that you would be able to afford
  • If it is near the deadline request an extension
  • Parents should do the negotiating and not the students

If after all of this you still feel that the financial package is not fair there is a chance that you may be able to formally appeal to the college, this does usually mean more form filling and rest assured that this will not jeopardize any future financial aid.