You open up an award letter from ABC University, your first-choice school. You are excited because you really want to attend, but it is very expensive. After reading the award letter you quickly realize that the funding you need to pay for this school is not quite enough. This is a bummer as you have your sights set on this institution, but it appears financial barriers are preventing attendance.
Welcome to what I call "The Middle Class Squeeze," where the children of employed parents earning moderate wages are out of financial aid eligibility but left without enough extra income to afford paying for college.
As one student so eloquently put it in a recent NYTimes.com article, "I realize that any acceptance is not a thing to be joyfully celebrated if it does not come with generous scholarships."
Remember, scholarships and need-based grants are not the same: One of the biggest misconceptions that
families have is the assumption that funding will be made available to their student based on anecdotal observations and the idea that the kid will get an athletic scholarship or "something." This is a result of a lack of financial aid knowledge.
In order to qualify for need-based grants, the family must meet a low threshold of household income. In order to qualify for scholarship funding, the student needs some exceptional qualities. If, after filing the FAFSA, it is revealed that no or little need-based funding is available, the next step is to try and maximize scholarship funding to pay the rest of the bill. Here are some tips on merit-based scholarship appeals.
Or perhaps an additional area of note was achieved after formal admission, like being recognized as an Eagle Scout. It is important to bring these things to the attention of your school so there is some kind of compelling reason to increase the funding. Just saying "I need more money" puts you on the same line as everyone else trying to go to college. To a college admin you need more money just like everyone else, what makes you different?
Create a simple page that has some pictures and info about the student that communicates real life and meaning. This brings a human element that does not easily come across in written appeals. The appeal will carry much more weight when the school is reminded what this scholarship goes toward: the improvement of a student's quality of life. It is even more impactful when the student can do this through a well-presented, homemade website.
There will be a vice president-, director-, or assistant director-level employee that will have the last say on the approval of scholarships. You will want to meet or speak with them directly if at all possible to get to the source of funding opportunities.
The worst case scenario is dealing with a dead-end counselor. If it appears the counselor is not attentive to your needs, forward an e-mail to management about your situation and pay attention to the response. If management is equally unresponsive to your needs, dump the school. This scholarship request is the difference between attending and not attending. Don't waste your time talking to the wrong people or dealing with the wrong school.
Families that successfully appeal for more funding appear very comfortable dealing with administrators, even if they are internally harboring great apprehension. Get off on the right foot by establishing guidelines for timelines; how long do appeals take to be reviewed and responded to? About what percentage of appeals like this are approved? Who should I be following up with in regards to the appeal? Who is their supervisor?
Pro tip: If one college responds by awarding more funding, copy that award letter and attach it to the appeal sent to other schools. This proves that the student is in demand and colleges are competing for him/her.
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