Appealing your College Award Letter

Many people open their college award letter and are excited about what the future holds.  But others look at their award letter and immediately feel the enormous pressure of financial burden.  However, your college award letter may not be the final offer from the college of your choice.  You may be able to appeal your award letter.  When you appeal your college award letter you are asking that specific college to consider additional circumstances that hinder your ability to pay for college.  In essence, you are asking them to adjust their initial award and offer you additional gift aid.  But not all appeal letters are written equally.  In fact, Time recently wrote an article about some of the “all too common” mistakes seen in appeal letters.  Here are a couple of questions to ask when drafting your appeal letter.

Appealing your College Award Letter:  When?

Appealing your college award letter may result in additional gift aid!

The question most often asked is when.  When should we appeal an award letter or under what circumstances should we appeal the award letter?  There are many good reason to appeal your award letter.  From time to time, there are special circumstances that may have changed one’s income in the previous year, or may affect one’s income in the current year.  These special circumstance would warrant an appeal.  Here is a list of some special circumstance that may occur:

  • Loss or decrease in income
  • High Medical Bills
  • One-time High income distribution
  • Divorce/ change in marital status
  • Loss of a parent

Along with tehese special circumstance that involve particular financial changes, there may be other special circumstances that can be made know.  There may be more than on family living in the home.  There may be more than on family members attending college at the same time.  You may even want to use an appeal letter to leverage one college’s financial offerings against another.

Appealing your College Award Letter:  How?

Most people appeal their college award in writing via email or fax.  Some go the extra step and hand delivering the letter.  However you choose to deliver your letter, here are a couple of tips to help your college appeal letter get more attention.

Be Specific!  You have been working with a specific advisor, so address the letter to their attention.  Give specific information regarding your special circumstances.  Be specific in what you are asking.  For instance, if you need an additional $3000.00, then ask specifically for that $3000.oo in gift aid.  If you ask for that amount, then you will need to be specific with your reasons why you need that amount.

Provide Documentation!  When you appeal your award letter make sure you provide ample documentation.  This may include financial documentation, copy of unexpected medical bills, etc.  Your documentation will give proof to your need.  Let the appeals team see exactly why you need additional financial consideration

Follow-up with a call!  Once you have submitted the appeal letter, follow-up with a phone call.  This will allow you to make sure the college has all the information you provided, and you can ask how long it will take to get an answer to your appeal.  A phone call will also afford the college the opportunity to ask any additional information they may need.

Appealing your College Award Letter:  Let us help!

Appealing your college award letter can gain you additional gift aid.  But you need to be careful.  You need to make sure you understand your award letter and understand the grounds for appealing your award letter.  You must also be able to articulate your need and provide documentation regarding your need.  A well written, well documentation appeal letter could save you thousands of dollars in college expenses.

One of the services included in our college packages is profession help in drafting your appeal letters.  Call our offices today to schedule a free college planning consultation and see how we can help you prepare for the college years and beyond!

 

Evaluating your College Award Letter

Once a student is accepted into a particular college, they should receive a college award letter around the beginning of April.  This award letter will be the first glimpse at the financial offerings from the colleges where you have been accepted.  But don’t worry, there may be some room for negotiation.  Once you receive this important letter and have a good understanding of what the letters says, you need to evaluate your college award letters.  Here are three tools for you to use while evaluating your college award letter.

Evaluating Your College Award Letter: College Data

The first tool you use when evaluating your college award letter is the college data available.  This may take a little investigating, but it could yield a significant amount of additional gift aid if you choose to appeal your award letter.  The type of information you are searching to find includes: the academic award scale, the average gift aid awarded by the particular college, percentage of need met, etc.  You are looking for the facts regarding what the average student receives in scholarships and grants.  So as much information as you can find will be beneficial.  Here are two very useful resources to check the college data: collegedata.com and collegeboard.org

Once you have gathered as much information as you can find, compare what you have found with what you have been offered.  Is your offering in line with what the average student will receive?  Are your scholarships on par with your peers?  Are there any scholarships or grants that you think you should have received?  When you find discrepancies in your award letter and the information you have found, you may have good grounds to appeal your award letter.

Evaluating Your College Award Letter: Leveraging Multiple College Award Letters

Most students do not apply to just one college.  In fact, if you are only applying to one college, this alone my be a reason to apply to a few more.  All you are doing here is looking at the college award letters from the colleges where you applied and seeing how they stack up against one another.  If one college gives a greater scholarship and grant package make a note of that.  But let’s say that the best awards are offered from your third college choice.  You  may be able to use one award letter as leverage to appeal.  This technique works best when the colleges are in direct competition for students.

Evaluating Your College Award Letter: Your Family Financial Situation

Finally, you need to evaluate your award letter in light of your family financial situation.  This is arguably the  most important evaluation.  How does the award letter work within you current financial picture?  Say for instance you have saved $35,0000.00 for your entire college expense.  Once you have evaluated your college award letter you find that your total cost of attendance is about $16,000.  You know that you have two years completely paid, but you also know that you have almost two years completely unpaid.  You will have to decide if you are willing to take out a loan to cover the cost or choose a more affordable college.  Each award letter will be different.  You will need to decide what is important to you.  This is why you need to evaluate each award letter in light of your financial situation.

Once you have evaluated your award letter, the next step will be to consider sending an appeal.  But as you can see, you are not ready to appeal until you have thoroughly evaluated your award letter.  One of the features that our company offers is an evaluation tool that will help in this process.  Call our offices to today if you are interested in learning more.

Understand Your College Award Letter

The college acceptance letter is one of the most joyous letters that a student can receive from their respective college.  But it is arguably not the most important letter. The College Award letter is always mentioned as one of the most important letters received by the aspiring scholar.  Why is it so important?  Simply stated, just because you have been accepted into the college of you dreams does not mean that you will be able to attend the college of your dreams.  The college award letter offers the first glimpse at whether of not you can afford the college you want to attend.  According to FinAid.org, “This letter spell out the details of you financial package.”  So before you make your final college decision, here are some truths you need to know to Understand Your College Award Letter

Understand Your College Award Letter: Know the Differences in Cost of Attendance.

The most important piece of information you need to find on the award letter is the cost of attendance (COA).  The COA may or may not be clearly stated on the award letter.  Even if it is stated it still may be a little different for every student.  It includes items such as: tuition, fees, room, board, books, transportation, and personal expenses.  Many colleges are including this in the award letter, but if it is not included, you will need to figure out this cost with a little research on the school’s financial aid web page.

Knowing the student’s COA is vital to understanding their award letter.  Once the student has figured out their total COA, they are ready to move to the next important part of the award letter which is understanding their college need.

Understand Your College Award Letter: Know the Difference between COA and need.

You now know the COA, but that is not the only number you need to know.  The second number you need to know is your need.  Your need is the COA minus your expected family contribution (EFC).  For instance, the college of your dreams COA is 32,000 and your EFC is 17,000.  Your college need is 15,000.  This is why we always say that the EFC is the “minimum” you can expect to pay for your annual college expense.  You will have to pay the EFC, plus some, if not all, of the need.  It is this need where colleges are often willing to offer some scholarships and grants.  More often than not, this need area is covered by college loans.

Understand Your College Award Letter: Know the Differences in Awards.

There are only two types of awards noted on the college award letter: gift aid and self-help aid.  The difference between the two types is that one has to be be paid back and the other does not.  You are probably more familiar with the words scholarships and grants.  The aid from grants and scholarships is gift aid.  They will not need to be paid back.  This aid may be granted for excellence in academics or sports.  But it can also be grants given by the university to the student for various other reasons.  The Pell Grant also falls into this category of aid.  This aid is usually awarded on the grounds of financial need.

But that is not the only kind of aid marked on the award letter.  There is also self-help aid.  This aid refers to loans and work study.  The federally funded Federal Direct loan (formerly known as Stafford loan) both subsidized and unsubsidized will need to be repaid.  Another form of loan that may or may not be listed on the award letter is the parent plus loan, which again will need to be repaid.

It is important to understand your college award letter and know what type of awards you will be receiving.  This will help you as you evaluate each college award letter and ultimately make the decision on which college to attend.  Soon you will be preparing for your first day of classes.